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Love Your Donors In A Philanthropic-Psychology (PhilPsych™) Way

What three words do you use to describe yourself as a person? Kind? Caring? Compassionate? It’s interesting that these words are consistently among the top 10 words people use to describe themselves as a person, Jen Shang, co-founder and co-director for the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, explained at our March Learn 365 event.

The title of the event and this blog? It’s a mouthful, for sure. What the heck does “love your donors in a philanthropic-psychology way” even mean? For more than 30 years, the institute has studied fundraisers, donors, and the relationship between the two. It all starts with a basic understanding of two root words – philanthropy and psychology. Turns out, it all starts with the Greeks.

The word philanthropy comes from two Greek words -philein, meaning to love, and anthropos, meaning humankind. Philanthropy is love of humankind.

Psychology also comes from two Greek words – psyche, meaning the mind, soul or spirit, and logos, which means study. Put them together and you get the study of one’s psyche or soul.

Put them together and you get Philanthropic Psychology, or the study of how people love humankind/people.

The Institute studies how we love ourselves and how we love others and what it all means for a human’s desire to give and why they do it.

We learned how to better love our donors by uncovering their most important identities using the data they give us. Then, we learned how we can help our donors build their own sense of wellbeing by understanding what impact their giving has on their well-being. Finally, we learned how to use the information donors share with us to better engage them in our work.

​Shang summarized the Institute’s finding in these six take-home messages:

      1. It is important to identify the differences between fundraising copy that focuses on money instead of the person.

      2. Moral identity is important to donors.

      3. Moral identity is unique and personal.

      4. Understand the positive impact focusing on the person can have on fundraising results.

      5. It’s never just about the money.

      6. When you have the right tools, you can better connect with your donors.

Shang encourages anyone who fundraises to always approach it with a person-centered approach. Fundraisers should aim to become a channel for their donors’ voices to have a place to share how they feel – to share how they care and how they aim to be kind and compassionate. In crafting messages that speaks to a donor’s moral identity of being caring, kind and compassionate, we can better engage and grow our relationships with them.

Curious to learn more? You can watch the presentation here, and register for Part Two of the series, Donor Retention Meets Philanthropic Psychology, presented by Adrian Sargeant with the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy on April 27, 9 – 10 a.m. via Zoom™.

Have any questions?

Get In Touch With The Colorado Gives 365 Team

Revisit the “Love Your Donors In A Philanthropic-Psychology (PhilPsych™) Way” Learn 365 webinar:


Author: Cindy Matthews

Nonprofit Success Manager

Jordan Brown
Nonprofit Success Manager
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