“Sometimes everything feels too polished,” said Ms. Choy. “If you can make your advertising as human as possible, it would work better. It shouldn’t be about putting someone on a pedestal. “
As a donor herself, she and her husband Bernhard Krieg have experienced some of the same problems. Some of their problems had to do with following up the organization. Sometimes, Ms. Choy said, the couple were not thanked for their gift, or they were thanked too much. In one case, her husband had to call multiple times to get a tax document for a donation. And they faced the same overly broad questions identified as a problem in their report.
“People are really looking for more than one transaction,” said Michael Wagner, co-founder of Omnia Family Wealth, which manages $ 2 billion for 60 families. “It’s about building a partnership that is based on a relationship. It used to be okay for people to just give the money and be done with it, but that’s no longer the case. “
One factor is that donors have increasingly turned to so-called impact investments – investments that do good while aiming to generate a return. And donors are looking for similar ways to measure the effectiveness of their gifts.
Tyson Voelkel, the president and executive director of the $ 2.2 billion Texas A&M Foundation, said he reached out to a large donor and his wife this spring when a significant number of the university’s students were struggling to get in staying in school because their parents lost their jobs during the pandemic. Mr Voelkel explained to the donor, who runs a large company, that it might cost as little as $ 1,000 to keep a student in school. Eventually, on condition of anonymity, the donor gave $ 500,000.
“In the year before that phone conversation, I listened and asked what you really wanted to do with financing,” said Voelkel. “Traditional programs didn’t motivate them, but that was it. In the same conversation I found out that they would be interested in doing more of this effective and quickly needed funding. “
Mr. Voelkel’s approach did not lead with a dollar amount, but with a specific need and story to support him. He did not ask for a specific size donation in return for an endowed chair for a professor or a building. And in this case, the donor passed on while the need existed. He himself chose to attend A&M over other universities because they offered $ 500 more scholarships.