Blog Post – The Secret to Getting More Philanthropic Donations? Gratitude: May 7, 2020

Futurus Group

The Secret to Getting More Philanthropic Donations? Gratitude – By Futurus Group, Inc., May 7, 2020

The business world offers an age-old axiom about why customers choose to do business with someone. One of my favorite versions comes from sales guru Zig Ziglar, who said: “If people like you, they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”

Unfortunately, the world of philanthropy has yet to accept Ziglar’s wisdom. Collectively, our charities, hospitals, and universities often stick to the old-fashioned idea that might be phrased as: “The wealthy give money to charity, so pay attention to the deepest pocketbooks.”

Moving past prevailing beliefs like this is one of the exciting initiatives we are focusing on at our company, Futurus Group. In fact, we are actively flipping the idea on its head that wealth is the most important metric for charitable giving by looking at each person more holistically. We’re bucking trends using an approach filled with academic rigor. It’s based on research, the latest AI tools, and groundbreaking data analysis.

Through our work, we’ve come to the conclusion wealth is actually a flawed predictor for charitable giving. Yet, unfortunately, too many organizations still spend their time chasing large donors, rather than those individuals most likely to give. And although research differs, some have actually found the poor to be more charitable than the rich, whether it is in the form of tithing to their church or contributing to a charity that once helped their own family.

All of this leads to an important question for fundraisers: if you shouldn’t focus on turning the wealthiest people into your donors, who should you target? Answer: those who feel gratitude towards your organization.

To understand this assertion, let’s turn to Psychology Today to better understand what gratitude means. This publication defines it as “an affirmation of the goodness in one’s life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self.”

For the purposes of philanthropy, gratitude should also be considered an end point — the outward expression of a person’s feelings. It turns out when an individual resonates with your mission, believes in your organization, and identifies as part of your group, gratitude is the result.

And our analysis shows time after time, gratitude leads to greater giving.

This means increasing donations doesn’t come down to merely finding more rich people, vainly hoping altruism follows wealth, but instead, instilling gratitude in a higher percentage of the public. Of course, how organizations can go about increasing such feelings can vary greatly. For example, a hospital may wish to connect doctors with patients whose lives they have saved so they can they learn how they might similarly help others.

Cultivating gratitude must also differ based on demographic factors, like age. For instance, an elderly person may place greater emphasis on personal communication and a handwritten letter, both of which are in short supply in our modern world. Also, it’s been shown Millennials prefer experiences over physical possessions.

This leads to another question: how does your organization offer such experiences to donors? If you’re wondering how to bring this about, you’re not alone. Other groups have struggled with developing gratitude until they possessed a clear picture of what drives the feeling amongst their donors and the wider community.

However, at Futurus, we have come to address this challenge by generating an AI-based Gratitude Score for organizations. The way it works is we construct an algorithm containing hundreds of variables assigning a Gratitude Score to individuals associated with the organization, be they past donors, current participants such as patients, or members of the community at large. The higher the Gratitude Score, the more an organization resonates with the individual. Essentially, those possessing a high Gratitude Score may be deemed part of your tribe — and are more likely to contribute gifts to further your operations.

Ultimately, our experience proves gratitude leads to more giving. Likewise, because wealth can factor into the size of a gift but not the decision to donate in the first place, we don’t include its measure in our work. And yet the overwhelming positive results we continue achieving with our philanthropic partners proves our model’s efficacy. We are proud to report our typical client enjoys a 4-5x increase in giving when utilizing our Gratitude Score rather than wealth data alone.

Eager to learn how to obtain these types of ROIs for your group? We would be happy to help by cracking the gratitude code. Contact us at to shift the paradigm by focusing on the donors that most care about your cause .

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