How does the assumption that our donors are intentionally hoarding wealth in a donor-advised fund help any of us accomplish our goals? And, perhaps more importantly, how does such negative spin help anyone make sense of why these tools have become so popular in the last several decades? While the critics want us to focus on changing legislation and trying to coerce generosity with additional rules and regulations, I say we ought to learn how to have more meaningful relationships with our donors. Will changing the rules necessarily improve our bottom-line or just make our jobs even harder than they already are?
My conversation today with Lisa and Stephen centered around what Princeton sociologist Viviana Zelizer in her book, The Social Meaning of Money, refers to as earmarking. Zelizer explains that human beings have always made a habit of earmarking monies that align with particular types of relationships. I asked Lisa and Stephen to wrestle with whether giving our donors the benefit of the doubt and applying Zelizer’s logic might help some of us see the use of donor-advised funds through a more optimistic lens. What Lisa and Stephen see is not an affluent donor who wants to hoard money. Rather, they see a donor who is increasingly deliberate and purposeful and whose giving is directed towards organizations that take the donor’s decision-making process as seriously as they do.
As always, we are grateful to our friends at CueBack for their continued support of The Fundraising Talent Podcast.