Philanthropic Facilitation and the Art of Matchmaking

As Carlo Robustelli, V.P. of College Advancement at Dickinson College explains, “We’re not miracle workers, we’re matchmakers.” Carlo is trying to help his colleagues outside of the field understand that philanthropic facilitators don’t wow people into philanthropic submission, they build philanthropic partnerships. That requires multi-faceted matchmaking skills, some of which are enumerated below.

Carlo’s depiction also teaches organizational leaders that they need to provide advancement with the material that will allow them to be effective matchmakers including:

  • Major gift-worthy ideas (not just strategic pillars)
  • A willingness of institutional representatives to interact with prospective donors and answer pointed questions
  • An understanding that stewarding gifts is everyone’s business especially the recipients of them

When the conditions are right, matchmaking advancement officers can be wondrously effective. Some examples include:

  • A colleague representing a symphony orchestra in New Zealand saying to a donor who offered to endow the first violin, “I think you would get along better with the second violin.” And they got along famously.
  • Matching the back story of a donor to the back story of a doer within the organization. Example: Matching a donor interested in supporting cardiovascular research because her athletic father died in his thirties from a heart attack with a cardiovascular researcher who got into the field for a very similar reason. People give to people, particularly to personally dedicated people.
  • Many of us who realized, despite our best efforts, that we weren’t clicking with a prospective donor so we found a colleague who did. True professionalism (and why performance metrics must acknowledge teamwork).
  • Finding the phrases, images, and demonstrations that resonate most deeply with donors’ experiences and values.

When you think about it, very sophisticated matchmaking is miraculous – but I better not get into that. It will soon be expected without the attendant institutional attitudes and obligations.

7 Ways the Best Philanthropic Facilitators Act as Matchmakers
  1. Matching specific organizational assets and ambitions to donors’ most pronounced philanthropic passions
  2. Matching their process for developing support with donors’ decision-making patterns and rhythms
  3. Matching their communication style to that of the donor
  4. Taking themselves out of the equation if they believe someone else in the organization would be a better match for a particular donor
  5. Matching a donor to the person in the organization who will make the best use of the gift and build a relationship with the donor
  6. Matching donor relations plans to donors’ varying needs to belong, believe, and better
  7. Matching donors with other “kindred spirit” donors


Jim Langley is the president of Langley Innovations. Langley Innovations provides a range of services to its clients to help them understand the cultural underpinnings of philanthropy and the psychology of donors and, with that knowledge, to develop the most effective strategies and tactics to build broader and more lasting communities of support. Jim has authored numerous books including his most recent book, The Future of Fundraising: Adapting to New Philanthropic Realities, published by Academic Impressions in 2020. 

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