Understanding the type of funder you are—and matching with like-minded nonprofit leaders—is one of the most important building blocks to achieving your funding goals. As nonprofit development consultants, we create funder profiles to help our clients better understand the various types of philanthropists and how to best engage them.
What Type of Philanthropist Are You?
A funder can be one or a combination of types. Take a look at the types described in this section to see what fits you.
Note: Percentages given represent the percentage of the overall funding population that identifies as each type.
Communitarian—Doing Good Makes Sense (26%)
- Believes that doing good in the community makes good business sense
- Thinks that what is good for business contributes to their personal success
- Views philanthropy is an exchange, a better way to get things done than through government
- Has the desire to give rather than feeling like it’s an obligation
- Tends to believe in the institutions they fund and usually wants to establish a long-term relationship; likes to be involved and have some control
- Usually likes recognition and public acknowledgment
Devout—Doing Good Is the Will of a Higher Power (21%)
- Feels it is some higher power’s will to do good; 96% of their giving centers on religious purposes
- Usually has faith in the leadership of the institution; feels it is their moral obligation to give and a higher power’s desire that they help others
- Sees giving as an act of stewardship
- Does not care about recognition
Investor—Doing Good Is Good Business (15%)
- Views philanthropy as a business relationship; is highly motivated to avoid taxes
- Carefully investigates the organizations they fund; looks for measurable returns
- Feels no moral imperative; is skeptical of altruistic people
- Is not actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the organization, yet, attention and respect of this type are very important
- Would never assign an investor to interact with a devout or altruist, or vice versa
Socialite–Doing Good Is Fun (11%)
- Likes to have fun in funding work—the main reason for getting involved; is creative, especially in planning social events
- Sees philanthropy as a social exchange; funds organizations that feel like the right place for this funder type and their family
- Looks for formal recognition and loves to be honored; are influenced by the social implication of their work and contributions
Repayer—Doing Good in Return (10%)
- Does good because the organization has already given them something special; likely have had a life-changing experience with the organization
- Is very focused in their giving
- Sees effectiveness and service delivery as very important
- Sometimes has low involvement in the organization
- Gives on an emotional level; does not look for recognition
Altruist—Doing Good Feels Right (9%)
- Gives because of belief that it’s the right thing to do; is genuinely selfless; almost always focuses on social issues
- Believes wealthy people or organizations have a greater obligation to give; is largely unaffected by others
- Likes to know the leadership of an organization; seeks respect rather than recognition
Dynast—Doing Good Is a Family Tradition (8%)
- Tends to come from affluent families with a tradition of giving; often has a family foundation
- Interestingly, usually see generational differences in the organizations this type of philanthropist supports
- Is the most selective type of philanthropist; does their homework; focuses on the institution’s core mission and implementation
- Looks to experts for advice; works with tax advisors, lawyers, and CPAs
- Believes philanthropy gets things done better than the government
- Supports nontraditional institutions
- Wants minimal recognition
Be Clear About You and Your Funding Goals
Knowing your philanthropic motivations is an easy first step to immediately improving your funding experience. Whether you’re evaluating a potential grant application or a new connection, or reevaluating your outbound messaging and mission overall, help nonprofit leaders optimize your relationship going forward. You’ll attract more of the right funding opportunities and reduce the wrong ones.
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About the Author
Patrick Sampson is the CEO of Cogeo, a consultancy that provides organizational advice and development services to nonprofits to optimize their efficiency and long-term sustainability. A special thanks to Russ Alan Prince and Karen Maru File for authoring, “The Seven Faces of Philanthropy: A New Approach to Cultivating Major Donors.” Some content for this article was derived from concepts presented in the book.