On the Money

Glorya Kaufman just gave millions to USC to build a dance school.  That’s wonderful.  But actually, that is not the real story.  The real story is that UCLA lost not just this gift (to build a dance school at that university), but probably also lost a fabulous donor-one who isn’t fabulous just because of the amount of money she can give but because of her passion and vision.  But the amount of money was one reason UCLA lost her. As she said when asked exactly how much the gift to USC was, Kaufman responded, “It puts a number and a value on a gift that’s from the heart.  And that’s not why I do it.  They did that really big at UCLA—it was all about putting a dollar figure on my nose.  And I don’t like that.” Donors don't like that—nor should they.

The focus of philanthropy should always be on the heart.  That is what makes donors want to give.   It is part and parcel of what they want to accomplish.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t talk about money.  It’s an important part of fundraising.  Too often it is the part we neglect to discuss.  But we need to keep it in perspective.

Glorya Kaufman, for example, is a well-known philanthropist.  UCLA has been a recipient of her extraordinary generosity.  Clearly she could give—and help to get—whatever it would take to build her dream.  The important part was to help her articulate her dream and then work with her to ensure that her dream met the University’s needs.

Your donors may not have the capacity of Glorya Kaufman.  But then, their dreams may not be on the order to building a new school within a major university.  How much they can give is the least important factor.  The most important is to find out what it is they hope to help your organization accomplish.

As you work with your donors and prospects and learn about their goals and dreams, you can better show them how their support can, indeed, turn those goals and dreams into reality.  And if your donor is looking for something that would force you to engage in mission drift, your job is to see if you can refocus them on something that would accomplish something that is important to both the donor and your organization.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and build stronger boards.  Learn more at http://janetlevineconsulting.com.  While there, subscribe to her free monthly newsletter