Natalie Portman, and What Inspires Giving

Written on March 10, 2008 at 6:55 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

This week’s New York Times Magazine is “The Money Issue,” but it’s all about philanthropy. And not your grandmother’s philanthropy, either.

Natalie Portman Can Visit the Wren's Nest Anytime ...For Free!

While Natalie Portman (and her philanthropy! …maybe) caught my eye, it was the next article that really piqued my interest: What Makes People Give?

Turns out there isn’t much scientific research on the subject, but it’s exactly what fund raisers like myself want to know.

The article profiles John List, an economics professor who recently studied the relative benefits of matching gifts and challenge grants. And speak of the devil, the Wren’s Nest is in the midst of a challenge grant with a 1:1 match.

New York Times Philanthropy Graph - What Makes People Give?

A matching gift reduces the cost of making a donation. With a, say, 1:1 match, a contribution to the nonprofit of your choice is doubled, through an equal gift from a third party. A challenge grant is a major contribution that is given with the expectation that more money be raised.

Got it?

List’s research concludes that it’s important and lucrative to solicit donors with matching funds, but it’s not nearly as important how much is matched. In theory, a situation where a donor’s money is tripled is no more successful than one where it’s merely doubled.

This affects both you and me directly. How, you ask?

By reading an article like this, I’ve drawn a conclusion or two on how to construct my request for your contributions. When you read my hilarious yet poignant request a few weeks from now, you’ll immediately fork over some of your hard earned dough to help restore the Wren’s Nest.

That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.

Aside from a few standard rules, guessing at the motivations behind giving is much more of an art than a science. Not only does a fund raiser have to identify different motivations for giving, but then s/he must pluck at as many heartstrings with a great story to inspire contributions!

Sound easy? I didn’t think so. That’s why you can help me out (that is, if you’ve made it this far!).

Here’s what I want to know–what inspires you to give to nonprofits?

Do you give for the children because they are our future? Do you give because of the flashy brochures? Does celebrity endorsement from, say, Natalie Portman inspire your giving? Don’t be shy!

11 Comments to Natalie Portman, and What Inspires Giving

  1. chauncey says:

    personally, i am motivated to give when i feel that a) the cause is worthy and b) the money i send will be directed in a useful & productive way. for example, i am moved by the plight of starving children in Africa, but if the organization just has a vague allusion to where the $ might go, i won’t send it.

    in conclusion: have a good cause & be specific about how the $ will be used.

  2. lain says:

    That’s pretty noble, Chauncey.

    Normally when I give money it’s so I can get the people from Kenyon off the phone! I wish I were kidding, but often if I’m badgered enough I’ll probably write you a check so you’ll stop bothering me.

  3. Ronni French says:

    I give because I believe in the mission – because I have an attachment to the organization-or because I see that it is a benefit to the community. Celebrity endorsements don’t mean a lot to me.

    For a small organization struggling to raise money and stay afloat, flashy brochures and materials send the message that money is not spent well.

  4. Jodi says:

    I give because I believe in the cause and/or the person asking me for the donation. And I will annually give to such cause or person when I know my gift is appreciated and well-used. A personal thank you goes a long way with me because then I feel as if I’m more than a just a $ amount and that what I’m giving is indeed recognized as a gift.

  5. Marshall says:

    I give because of a belief that you are on this planet for a small period of time and you should somehow pay for that time if you consider yourself blessed. Also, from a selfish motive maybe these blessings may come back to you. Nothing like playing a little Poker. Who Knows?

  6. […] Speaking of celebrity endorsements, your host for the podcasts is none other than Andrew Young. […]

  7. JWAIII says:

    When I’m thinking of giving to a cause or org, I think of the reasons above – has to mean something to me, have to know the very small amount of money is going to be put to good use, etc. But you know what? I don’t have much money, and realistically speaking I end up not giving. Sometimes, I will give time instead. And I think, “When I am a grown-up, I will give money to some very special places.”

    Until recently. You know what I did recently? I gave money to the Piedmont Park Conservancy. Do you want to know why? Honestly? Because I believe in that park, man, and also … in their membership thing they promised to invite me to one of their big parties. I want to give to a good cause, yes; and I also want to go to an invitation-only spring fling, harvest moon, or Christmas ball, where I will meet a buncha semi-like-minded people. Two birds, one stone. It pushed me over the edge.

  8. Deb says:

    I give mostly for the same reasons already stated: good cause, good organization, good history of the organization using the money wisely.

    As someone who works for a non-profit herself (HFHI), I do know how important it is to give money to the smaller organizations who may not yet have the big name recognition as the big ones, like the one that I work for. I also know how important it is to give money to any non-profit in the bad times as well as good, because when you’re hurtin, so are they.

  9. lain says:

    Y’all are so good! To be honest, I didn’t think that anyone was going to answer that question.

    JWAIII, I think that being invited to fancy-pants parties is very noble. Plus, I also like the Piedmont Park Conservancy. Many of their members just took a field trip here. Maybe you can come next time.

    Deb, great points! The great thing about giving money to smaller organizations is that you know you’re making an immediate difference. If, by chance that organization is the Wren’s Nest, you can pretty much fork over some money and then be like, “Spend it this way!” All I know to say in that situation is “Yes Sir! …ma’am!”

  10. […] And spirituality aside, you can find inner peace with some good old fashioned philanthropy, even if it takes a babe like Natalie Portman to catch your eye; Lain Shakespeare at the Wren’s Nest wants to know what else inspires you to give. […]

  11. Benjy says:

    late the discussion… but after reading your newsletter and then this thread, i realized that most of the monetary giving i do is because someone I know/trust/love is involved with the fundraising. for instance, i support planned parenthood, but never gave money until my friend, meredith, was employed there. another friend worked at an organization in NYC called “Lambda” that provided legal representation during cases involving gay, lesbian, or other gender issues, but i might not have been inclined to give except that i knew someone working there. Lain works at the Wren’s Nest, so even though I despise reading, I might be more inclined to give.

    Kidding, I love reading.


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