November 30, 2017   |   Jim Langley

The Forensics of Giving

by Jim Langley
Forensics is a fancy term for “investigation.”
The idea of digging into the psychology behind philanthropic giving began during my tenure as Vice President at Georgetown University. I decided to poll alumni about their experiences at the school and their outlook for the future of the school.
I theorized that, once I had a platform of knowledge, I could then work with them more purposefully and gracefully, understanding where they came from and what they hoped to achieve through their affiliation with Georgetown University.
So we ran a simple survey to find out what Georgetown meant to them.
The results were astonishing:

  • 93% polled said they received an excellent or very good education
  • 84% said Georgetown had a profound impact on their lives
  • 17% gave on an annual basis

These stats raised an important question: If so many alumni had such a positive experience, then why were so few giving each year?
I’m not sharing this to tell you about my career. Rather, I want you to view it as a parable for what we can learn about better fundraising and being a more effective philanthropy-seeking and earning organization.
It boiled down to one simple idea: Research.
Where do we stand with those that we serve or the beneficiaries of our services?
The testimony of alumni is how we would base our next steps. Were we serving them as well as we could and how could we improve?
We must always be willing to listen and to think outside of the box about how good a job we’re doing, no matter how distinguished or how accomplished we are.
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