Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Viken Mikaelian CEO

Viken Mikaelian CEO

Majorgifts.com LLC

The True Measure of Wealth

The Worried Fundraiser

Fundraising professionals focus on income as a measure of giving ability. The worried fundraiser thinks this way: “The prospective donor won’t give because she won’t save money by being charitable. I won’t raise enough money to make my annual goals. My charity won’t accomplish its mission, and I’ll lose my job. What am I going to do?”

Here’s what you are going to do:  you are going to focus on net worth instead of income. Net worth is the value of an individual’s entire estate. It’s everything that he or she owns—not just income.  It includes real estate, investment accounts, business assets, insurance contracts, collections, and whatever else of value that a prospective donor may own or have a right to.

Net Worth Is an Untapped Resource

To make the most of net worth, you need a planned giving program.  You need to let prospective donors know that they can give away assets like real estate, investment accounts, collections, and business interests—either during their lifetime or after they pass away.  You can even show them that they can make major gifts and possibly increase their annual cash flow with a charitable remainder trust or gift annuity.

If I had my way, all fundraising programs would focus on accumulated wealth instead of income.  I know that it’s easier to find people who have high incomes.  Fundraisers are always trying to meet with business leaders, technology executives, doctors, engineers, and even lawyers because the conventional wisdom purports that these folks have more money to give because their incomes are higher.  While there is usually a correlation between high income and high net worth, if you only look at income, you will end up missing out on a lot of wealthy people.

The individual income of the top 1% of Americans is just over $400,000.  The net worth of the top 1% of Americans is just over $10,300,000.  Here’s the kicker: that $10,300,000 is unspent!  Household expenses and debts are subtracted before you get to net worth. *


So, how are you going to find these people?

  1. Start by getting to know your donors aged 50 and up.  These individuals have had more time to accumulate wealth. It’s not what you earn that makes you wealthy, it’s what you save that makes you wealthy.
  2. When you are in discussions about major gifts ask questions about assets.  I know that your supervisor wants you ask about cash, but show them the data.  Wealth is in assets.
  3. Read “The Millionaire Next Door” and “The Seven Faces of Philanthropy” to prime your powers of observation and intuition.

Think Transfer of Wealth

Finally, take the long view on charitable giving.  It takes time to find these individuals. Spend your time focusing on net worth rather than income. Philanthropy is built upon the transfer of wealth, not income.

Most people think “how much more money/raise can I get next year.” Think instead “How much can I increase my personal value.” This may sound the same to most, but it is a different paradigm.

By the Numbers

Consider the recruitment opportunities for your organization that these stats indicate:

  • About 63 million Americans (25% of the adult population) volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.
  • These people spend an average of 52 hours/year volunteering.
  • 72% of volunteers are involved with only one organization, while 18.3% are involved with two.

Random interesting stats presented monthly from various sources.