Donor Baggage Revisited

I am going to be away for about a week for the holidays. As always, I have prepared some posts to fill in for my absence.

Since we are coming to the end of the year and non-profits are making last minute pushes for donations, I thought a piece I wrote in June 2008 about the baggage donors bring to giving requests might be particularly appropriate.

Particularly the following:

In any case the advice generally focuses on a somewhat formulaic planned approach. Just as dating tips rarely acknowledge that other people have the baggage of past dating experiences which will impact the relationship you are trying to cultivate, I rarely hear/read a similar acknowledgment in connection with fund raising.

One of the anecdotes mentioned in the story was about a wealthy developer who never gave more than $1,000 at a time to Temple. When Fredricks asked why, she discovered that even though he could afford to give more, he harbored fears about running out of money that went back to his childhood.

She recognizes that the people who ask for money like presidents and trustees also have varying degrees of comfort with the subject. “They should be treated the same way donors are—as individuals with different emotions about money—and given simple requests, she said. Instead of giving a reticent board member a list of prospective donors, Fredricks suggested starting out with the names and biographical information of two current donors and then asking the trustee to call them to say thank you.”

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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