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Giving money to charity is second nature in the United States, but in the eyes of Google’s CEO Larry Page, it could be the worst decision Americans could make. Nonprofit organizations have relied on contributions from major donors to fund their mission for hundreds of years. However, we can’t rely on the past to if we’re going to achieve our future fundraising goals through major gifts.

An “inside look” at the mind of today’s mega-donor

I was recently reminded about that fact after hearing about Google Founder Larry Page’s interview with Charlie Rose at TED 2014. In the interview, Charlie asked, “If you had $500M to charity, who would you give to?” Larry responded that when he dies, he would rather give his billions of dollars to Elon Musk (social innovator and founder of Tesla) than to charity.

While many people questioned were flabbergasted that Page would give his money to a for-profit company rather than various nonprofit organizations,  he went onto explain his reason…

Page believes that donating to charity is a very static notion. He explained in the interview that supporting the social innovation would make a more significant long-term impact than if he donated it to charity.

 What does this means for major gift officers?

Larry Page’s opinion doesn’t necessarily represent the thoughts of the major donors that support your organization, but it should definitely cause us to stop and think. We need to be more thoughtful about what actually motivates them to give if we’re going to continue to fund our mission through the support of major donors.

Here are a few practical things you can do to stay connected to the motivations of your major donors:

  • Invest in the relationship. Stewarding major donors is more than just a box to check; it’s the most substantial portion of your fundraising strategy. The only way you can connect the motivations of your major donors to your mission is if you know them.
  •  Value behavioral data just as much as wealth data. Behavioral data gives you the opportunity to connect with every major donor in a way that’s personal and relevant.
  • Show them the tangible impact they are making through their contributions. Today’s major donors not only care about their legacy, they care about long-term impact. They don’t just want their name on a building, they want to know that the support they give is going toward a long-term solution that will change the world.
Will nonprofits miss out on millions of dollars in the future?

The nonprofit world is changing, including the expectations and interests of major donors. Before we fault major donors, we must remember that it’s our job to connect their interests to the mission of our organization. When we develop the habit of constantly engaging major donors and connecting their unique interests with our mission, we have the opportunity to increase our impact for decades. If you want a deeper look at how to engage donors effectively in this changing world of fundraising, don’t miss our resource, “In The Mind of a Donor.”

What are some practical ways you’re staying in-tune to the things that motivate your major donors?