(Illustration by Hannah Agosta Illustration, based on a photo by Jessie Fox)
How to Give is a biweekly column by local philanthropy wizard Lansie Sylvia. In it, Lansie answers readers’ questions about millennials, philanthropy and engaging the next generation of givers. To ask her a question, tweet @FancyLansie.
THIS WEEK’S FIRST QUESTION:
My husband and I are in the position to make a substantial gift to a small rock music nonprofit that we’ve been supporting on and off for about three years. My husband would like their new music fellowship to be named after his late mother. The problem is that the nonprofit hasn’t offered to name anything after anyone — they just asked us for a big gift as part of their new capital/endowment campaign but didn’t specify what type of recognition we would get. Is it rude for us to ask them to name the fellowship after my late mother-in-law, or was it rude for the nonprofit not to offer us any naming rights? Are we selfish for wanting recognition in the first place?
You are not selfish for wanting recognition for doing a noble and awesome thing. If that were the case, we’d all be considered selfish brats for hoping our significant other recognizes when we do the dishes, or wanting a celebratory fist bump when we knock a work assignment out of the park.
Recognition adds to your feeling of accomplishment, which is critical enough to your wellbeing to be included on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We all want to know that we matter, and a shortcut to knowing that is for people to tell us that.
It’s weird that during a capital campaign the nonprofit wouldn’t already have a list of naming opportunities and the donation sizes associated with them. You’ve mentioned that this is a small nonprofit, so perhaps this is their first big capital campaign or their development team doesn’t have as much experience asking for money within this type of circumstance. Either way, it doesn’t sound like the nonprofit was being intentionally rude.
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Charitable gift giving can always be an evolving conversation. You’ve started talking about what this gift could look like, so keep it going! It is completely within reason to tell the nonprofit that you’re really excited to be part of the campaign and that you’d like your gift to be recognized in memory of your mother-in-law and ask what types of options are available for that.
If there’s s specific reason that your husband wants the fellowship to be the recognition vehicle, lead with that. If the nonprofit hasn’t considered their list of naming opportunities or attached prices to them yet, you might as well ask for what you want and combine it with giving to the level that is most meaningful to you. Win-win!
Good luck and rock on!
THIS WEEK’S SECOND QUESTION:
I’m super into this nonprofit that I volunteer for and donate to, and I’d really like to get some of my friends involved, but I feel guilty asking them for their time or money. I’ve invited them to events at the nonprofit using Facebook, but not too many take me up on it. How can I show them how awesome this organization is?
I love how much you love this organization and the enthusiasm you have for getting more people involved! All nonprofits should be so lucky as to have supporters like you. But Facebook invites are not the way to go … mostly because no one takes their Facebook invites seriously anymore.
There are just so many, and they’re always for DJ nights or Quizzo nights or Nerd Night nights, and it’s just a lot. Many people have just stopped paying attention to them. The irony is that Facebook events are actually a really well-designed way to get a lot of information out to people at one time — location, RSVP, who else is going — so my recommendation is threefold.
Firstly, if you’re going to use Facebook to invite people to events, always follow up that invitation with a personalized text to the people that you really want to attend and whom you think have the best chance at being inspired by the nonprofit.
If you’re feeling gutsy, give them a call and explain in detail why you think they’d be interested. You need to show them that you care about them as an individual and that they are special, not just a face next to a name next to an “invite” button.
Or you can couple the already established event with a little shindig of your own. Host pre-event drinks at your place, or have people over for a light bite, and make a specific pitch to them as to why you’ve invited them to the event. Be honest, be brief, but be brave. Take your knife, clink the side of your glass, and say something along the lines of:
Hey – I want to thank you all for coming over and for supporting [NAME OF ORG] by playing mini-golf/going to a documentary screening/having happy hour in a museum lobby/etc. I’ve been volunteering with them for X months, and I really, really love them because [HEARTFELT REASON.] I hope you will too, but if they’re not your cup of tea, that’s totally okay. If you are interested in learning more, you can always text or email me with questions or maybe we can volunteer together. Cool. Thanks!
My final suggestion is to go old-school and stage a “front porch fundraiser.” Back in the day, ladies would organize social hours where they’d invite all of their friends over to their porch, pour some delicious lemonade and have a community member pitch them a new project that needed funding.
Local organizations like Philly Stake and PhilaSoup have brought this tradition back into vogue. To do this yourself, you’d want to coordinate with the nonprofit and have some of the staff or program participants attend a small gathering in your home. You invite six to 10 people and make it clear from the outset what you’re doing: “I’m inviting you over to learn more about this organization I love that I think you’ll love, too. I really hope you can join us.”
You serve light bites and cocktails, your guests mingle with the nonprofit’s staff, and if you’re feeling bold, you can end the evening with a pitch – either asking for a small donation or asking people to sign up for a volunteer event.
If you love this organization, you need to be their bullhorn. You need to be loud! Clicking “invite” on Facebook is literally the least you can do … and you don’t sound like a “least you can do” kind of person!
People respond to personalization and passion, so if you really want to get your friends involved, you need to connect with them in the real world on a human, emotional level. Do this, and I’m confident you’ll find an ally to go change the world with in no time.
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