This is apparently my week for picking up on interesting tidbits in The New York Times. The latest, from the March 9, 2008 magazine (in an article called "Watching the Rich Give," by Dave Denison), is this:
Sociologist Paul Schervish, as part of his ongoing studies of wealthy people and what motivates them to give, asked people with a net worth of at least $25 million how much money they'd need to feel extremely secure. The answer: (wait a minute -- what amount would you need?)
$20 million! Last I looked, that's a big load of clams. Even if the person is 40 years old and expects to live another 40 years until age 80, that's $500,000 a year to live on. (I could handle that.)
But I don't mean to beat up on the rich. There's obviously some fundamental psychology at work here. It jibes with what a financial adviser once told me about his clients -- that no matter how rich they are, they say they live "quite simply" (despite the boat, vacation home, regular meals out and such), and can't imagine living on anything less.
So, should we get depressed and give up on raising money from the wealthy -- or from anyone with less than a cool $20 mil in pocket change? I don't think so. It's perfectly obvious that many people with less than that amount give, and even give generously. That should tell us that philanthropic giving isn't just something people do with their spare cash -- "Gosh, I've got an extra million, wonder where I should put it?" -- but something that they consider more akin to a necessity.
It's the job of the fundraiser to show potential donors how their nonprofit's cause is as close to the donor's heart as say, a sick relative or a leak in their own roof. Then you'll find they can give without waiting on that $20 million.