by Guest Editor Tom Ahern Oh, man, did Dale Carnegie have it right. The following statement from Dale Carnegie, a disciple of Carl Jung and philosopher William James, changed my life. He wrote, “You’ll have more fun and success when you stop trying to get what you want, and start helping other people get what they want.” A sundial needs a gnomon to point the way. I need a saying. This saying worked for me. Changed my life. Changed my business. Changed my marriage. Bunch of stuff. Let’s look at the marketing of charitable bequests, under the light of Dale Carnegie’s advice. What does a charity want from me? My bequest. Yes, it’s that simple . . . and emotionally dead. “. . . and start helping other people get what they want,” Carnegie whispers. So what do we want, Simone (my partner) and I? We want to have fun. We want to experience the joy of knowing we’ll be helping people. We want to feel important . . . because everyone does. We want to feel respected . . . because everyone does. We want to feel part of a “tribe of peers.” I.e., a group of people with outlooks similar to ours. We want to get into a fight and someday win. That’s all. And pretty much every fundraiser I’ve ever met thinks bequests are about something else, primarily the survival of the organization. If you’re ineffective, we don’t care if you survive. The Compton group in the UK, veterans of more than 1,000 successful capital campaigns, say that people do not give to need, they give to opportunity. Anyone seeking bequests has to sell opportunities. Simone Joyaux, my esteemed wife, attributes her fierce belief in social justice to her father, a smart and sarcastic Frenchman with a wide-open, internationalist attitude. He loved to party and taught Existentialism at a university. We’ve already honored Georges Joyaux with an endowed scholarship at Michigan State University. What if some other foundation offered us a meaningful opportunity to honor Georges some other way? Well, we’d certainly consider it, trust me. Repeating Carnegie’s main point: It’s not what you want that matters. It’s what the donor wants. The relationship with your prospects and customers has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with their personal interests (e.g., Simone’s belief in social justice) and emotional makeup. Luckily, much of that is predictable. Everybody likes to be flattered, for instance. No matter how they object (“flattery will get you nowhere, mister”), people truly, fundamentally, psychologically can’t resist. Flattery feels good. It builds self-esteem. When you habitually speak in a donor-centric manner (“Thanks to your help . . . ”), you automatically and without interruption flatter your prospect. Also: Humans are altruistic by nature. This is not a sentiment; it’s neuroscience. There is a pleasure center in the brain (it’s visible on MRIs) that fires up when someone writes a check to charity, or drops a fiver in a Salvation Army bucket, or even thinks about being generous. “That good feeling you get by writing a check to your favorite charity could be your brain patting itself on the back,” the Chicago Tribune told its readers on June 15, 2007. “Reporting in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, a team of economists and psychologists at the University of Oregon have found that . . . donating money to charity activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure.” Finally, this from Nick Fellers, Co-founder of the international fundraising training firm For Impact: “Ask any seasoned ‘fundraiser’ or ‘development officer’ who has actually been out making visits and presentation and Asks . . . and they will all tell you the same thing: The joy and happiness of the ‘giver’ provided them an amazing sense of satisfaction and success. Being the matchmaker between an investor/benefactor and a great cause is a calling like no other. If we don’t ask . . . if we don’t share the story . . . if we don’t present the opportunity . . . we are actually eliminating the chance for these people to feel really, really good/happy!” Takeaway: A fundraiser’s job is to make a donor happy. Not in the conventional way: smiles and pleasantries. But in the literal way: emotionally, psychologically. If you persuade your prospects that they can change the world, save a life, and such, then they will be happy. They will feel happy. And the money becomes just a means to that end. The debate in the donor’s mind is not about the money. They can always afford it. “Nobody’s giving you their last dime,” Neil Steinberg, head of The Rhode Island Foundation, insists. The debate in the donor’s mind is merely: Is this gift worth the trouble? Reprinted with permission from the Ahern E-Newsletter: About Donor Communications. Copyright © 2010 by Tom Ahern.