“Psychological Wealth” and Donor Giving

“Psychological Wealth” and Donor Giving

June 11th, 2010

by Kris Kindelsperger

I recently interviewed an individual  for a feasibility study for a major campaign. He explained in some detail how he has evolved from what he described as “economic terror” a year and a half ago, to strong concern a year ago, to cautious optimism this spring. He then said, “What I’m really looking for is comfort, but I’m not seeing that yet.” 

What this man expressed is similar to what we have heard from  a number of donors about their personal financial situations and their perceptions of their ability to make large philanthropic commitments to campaigns and other causes.

In a discussion with a financial services representative the other day, he depicted the current market conditions and the attitudes of individuals as a loss of “psychological wealth”. He went on to say that some individuals did not fare poorly during the downturn, and some portfolios have, in fact, recovered quite nicely. However, many individuals do not have the resources they had before the downturn and wonder if some other type of economic decline could further diminish their wealth. In his mind, an individual’s perception of his or her psychological wealth may have a greater impact on  the willingness to be philanthropic than the shape (or size) of the individual’s  actual portfolio.

We’ve also heard a lot of discussion about the “new normal,” which infers that many ways of measuring economic activity, wealth, and other financial indicators has been reset. From a philanthropic standpoint the question is: Will donors settle into a new normal and make appropriate philanthropic investments based on this new normal, or will the loss of psychological wealth have such a profound impact that philanthropy will suffer even more than it has? What’s your experience today? Have you seen these factors emerge in your donor relations? 

Let Kris know how helpful  Psychological Wealth and Donor Giving is for your organization and share your results by posting in the JGA comments section below.

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