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What are your dominant charitable motivations?

What are your dominant charitable motivations?

| November 20, 2017

Recently I learned more about some of the specific reasons we give from the Minneapolis Foundation.  

Now you don’t have to be in a single category, you might see yourself in several. But narrowing this down this can help identify what is most important to you. The new knowledge can further guide you to endeavors that align closely with your values.

  • Communitarians are individuals who give because of their sense of belonging to a social community.  They give, not out of a sense of obligation, but because they consider nonprofit organizations more effective at delivering services and more attuned with community needs. These people often have a history in, and ties to, their local community. They support cultural, human services, religious and educational organizations.

  • The Devout do good because it is God’s will. They believe that giving is a moral obligation. Everyone needs to take responsibility for creating a better world and should not expect personal recognition for volunteering time, talent or treasure.

  • Investors see philanthropy as “good business.” They are motivated by the personal tax and estate benefits philanthropy represents. They also give in the same way they invest their personal wealth -- looking for non-profit causes and organizations which are business-like and effectively respond to civic needs.

  • Socialites focus on doing good work or charitable giving of money because it can be fun. They are often members of a social class or group for which fundraising includes some form of socializing and entertainment. The authors acknowledge that Socialites are often charitable “at heart.”

  • Repayers do good in return for what they have received in life. This can involve gratitude for medical or educational benefits they’ve received. They think wealthy people have a special responsibility to be philanthropic in their actions and social outlook. Repayers insist on cost-effectiveness and want nonprofit organizations to focus on client needs.

  • Dynasts see philanthropy as a family tradition. Their giving results from childhood socialization by parents or other relatives as to the importance of philanthropy. Philanthropy is part of their self-concept and their rewards from giving include a positive self-identity and strengthened family values. They believe philanthropy is everyone’s responsibility.

  • Altruists tend to focus on social causes and giving that provides a sense of purpose and personal fulfillment. They believe giving promotes spiritual growth (in this case, not religious-based). Giving is a moral imperative and everyone’s responsibility. They see themselves as the true philanthropists, unfettered and untainted by business considerations of personal gain.

I'd love to hear if any of this resonates with you. Personally, the “Repayer” motivation appeals to me because of the desire to pay it forward for being so fortunate in life. It’s easy to forget how easy most of us have it relative to the rest of the world. Most of our lives are so good today by historical standards even the kings of the past would be jealous!

Thanks for taking a look!


Interested in learning more? This is adapted from The Seven Faces of Philanthropy by Russ A. Prince and Karen M. File