6 reasons why some donors prefer to stay anonymous

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

In case you’ve ever wondered why some donors prefer to stay anonymous, here are 6 proven reasons why:

  1. They do not want fundraisers from other organizations to ask them for money (this is the #1 reason according to the Center on Philanthropy study conducted in 1991 titled “Survey on Anonymous Giving”)
  2. They have religious reasons for anonymity (this is the #2 reason according to the same survey study mentioned above)
  3. They get pleasure from giving, not from being thanked for their donations
  4. They are humble/shy and simply don’t want notoriety because it makes them uncomfortable
  5. They might even be sort of embarrassed about their level of wealth (especially if they did not earn the money)
  6. They do not want fundraisers from the organization to which they gave to harass them and ask them for more money

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5 responses to “6 reasons why some donors prefer to stay anonymous”

  1. I like what you said about some doners remaining anonymous due to religious reasons. My boss has been wondering why some doners choose not to reveal themselves. I’ll share this information with him for his benefit.

  2. Laura Waller says:

    The religious reason may be related to the teachings of the 12th-century Jewish Rabbi known as Maimonides (Rambam), who described 8 degrees of ascendingly virtuous giving (tzedakah) – the higher levels have anonymity characteristics. https://tinyurl.com/5xcx93xf
    Many donor-clients I’ve had in the past have chosen anonymity based on these teachings. In other cases, some donor-clients have wanted their names inscribed in stone when giving a large gift, also based on religious beliefs. It’s not egotistical, it’s more about being an inspiration to others in perpetuity and creating a symbol of lasting memory.
    Interesting juxtaposition of anonymity and recognition coming from a similar source.

  3. Scott Talbot says:

    Some of our donors will reference Matthew 6:1-4, where Jesus says, “Take care not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, so that they will be praised by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

    I like to remind them of Matthew 5:16, where, in the same conversation, Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

    The first statement speaks to motivation and the warning against giving (or any other good deed) which is done primarily for show and to draw attention to the giver. (“Look at me. I’m an amazing person because I give generously to the poor!”)

    The second statement is about modeling good behavior. It’s about setting an example and encouraging others to do the same.

    I love to follow up with examples of wonderful supporters who have established a scholarship or funded the organization’s work through a unique idea, such as the donation of an airplane or rental property or a gift of business equity. Then I share stories of others who followed suit because they heard that person’s story.

    Sometimes this explanation helps these people to feel a little more comfortable sharing their own story, knowing that it might be an encouragement to someone else.

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