A Must-Read: Steve Meyers on Personalized Philanthropy
Posted on May 28, 2015; Reviewed by Bruce Bigelow

“Should result in bigger and better gifts, in
more engaged donors, and in richer relationships over many years."

Personalized philanthropy is the fundamental principle of Steve Meyers’ new book, Personalized Philanthropy—Crash the Fundraising Matrix (CharityChannel Press).

As he so aptly suggests, just as holistic medicine has moved to treat the entire person over a lifetime, so should holistic philanthropy characterize the new paradigm of charitable fundraising. Steve encourages us to move beyond transactional fundraising, in which we focus on the institutional needs of the moment, to a process in which we engage our donors in building a life plan for their philanthropic aspirations. We should move, he posits, from fundraising as negotiation to fundraising as collaboration, in which the donor is a partner in an on-going, sometimes unpredictable but fully organic process.

Steve presents us with three new ways of thinking about fundraising, all of which should result in bigger and better gifts, in more engaged donors, and in richer relationships over many years.

· First, he suggests a new organizational paradigm, in which all fundraising staff are engaged with donors and the traditional silos of annual fund, major gifts and planned giving, should no longer determine who acts and how we interact with donors. All members of the development staff should see their associations with donors as part of the evolving life-long process; everyone should understand the on-going conversation with the donor; and everyone should be aware enough of the range of giving opportunities (even though the technical aspects of some of those options may remain the purview of experts) to keep the donor conversation going over time.

· Second, he calls us to adopt new processes, especially in the ways we count, report, and acknowledge gift commitments. When Steve and I served together on the PPP Task Force on Counting and Reporting Gifts, we, along with our colleagues from around the country, developed a new perspective on counting that focused on the donor and on building transparency into the reporting process. Steve views this new counting process as so fundamental to his new ways of thinking that he reproduces the entire PPP report as an appendix to his narrative. More and more, this new paradigm has come to characterize fundraising campaigns, and Steve’s continued eloquent focus will move the process still further toward universal acceptance.

· Finally, he gives us a set of three new and quite flexible techniques, his “killer apps." These new ways of thinking about donor commitments allow us as fundraisers to work with donors in new ways, to help donors to realize their long-term objectives even as we work with short-term resource limitations. These “apps" are by no means exhaustive, but they demonstrate in concrete and easy to understand ways how personalized philanthropy can work for the betterment of all.

Steve gives us practical tools and a clear conceptual model. His book is, as a result, both an inspiration and a guidebook. His suggestions build on his own significant experience and his understanding of the new trends in charitable fundraising. Even though my own philosophical approach to fundraising closely mirrors Steve’s, he reminds me of why I find myself drawn to personalized philanthropy and how I can enhance the relationships with donors. We can all learn from his insights, and in the process become more effective fundraisers and build more meaningful relationships with our donors.

About the Author:
Bruce Bigelow is founding partner of Charitable Development Consulting, LLC, and a leader in the gift planning profession for 30+ years. He was a co-founder and president of the Chesapeake Planned Giving Council. He has served as NCPG (now PPP) conference chair and chair of the Research Committee. He has supervised two national gift planning research efforts. Bigelow was chair and chief author of PPP’s Guidelines for Counting and Reporting Charitable Gifts. ­­