Moving Entrepreneurs to Donate

Stuart Burden, Managing Director, Family Engagement & Governance, First Republic Private Wealth Management
December 9, 2022

  • More and more entrepreneurs are becoming philanthropists.
  • Knowing and connecting with entrepreneurs can help you pursue fundraising.
  • Today’s new donors are younger and eager to make meaningful contributions to nonprofits. 

Many creative and innovative individuals in the private sector seek to replicate their success in the philanthropy field. Nonprofit leaders, often struggling to meet budget needs, are eager to engage these prospective contributors. However, doing so requires careful planning and understanding of a different mindset.

With so much need in the community, the question that is often asked is: “How do I craft a message that will break through with younger entrepreneurial donors?”

Shaping a compelling request for support is an often-stressful art. This is especially true if these donors have yet to embrace the practice of trust-based philanthropy and are in a place where they can offer operational support. As more and more entrepreneurs begin the process of becoming philanthropists and start exploring the nonprofit arena, it is important to note what resonates with them.

Understand your audience: the entrepreneur

By definition, an entrepreneur is a visionary and a starter — and someone who is comfortable with a certain level of risk.

Many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs-turned-philanthropists share the following traits: 

  • Entrepreneurs who become grant-makers embrace data, celebrate trial and error and are eager to learn from their mistakes.
  • Many see the world in terms of puzzles to be solved and solutions to be developed. They often project a sense of professional impatience and urgency.
  • Time wasted is a cardinal sin (and those who are perceived as wasting their valuable time are to be shunned).  

It’s important for grant-seekers to understand this entrepreneurial mindset when pitching ideas and pursuing funding.

Connecting with your audience

Given the challenges of attracting support for your program, here are some recommendations to increase the likelihood of connecting your good idea to a potential donor:

Show your data.

Quantify what is measurable and analyze what can be tracked. Have a firm grasp of key metrics that are crucial to your project’s or organization’s success (for instance, clients reached, areas served or units delivered). Trend data is also important. Make sure you frame funding requests in terms of progress toward these outcomes. 

Break down your macro goals into bite-size components. 

Help prospective donors get their arms (and heads) around large challenges. Break down seemingly intractable problems into component parts and clear workstreams. Show donors how their support will make a critical difference — and how the next funder’s contribution will continue advancing the work.

Share stories with data — and data with stories. 

A great story is powerful, especially when coupled with compelling data points. Also, testimonials are memorable. Include illustrative cases in your proposals. Choose your spokespeople and anecdotes with care, ensuring they are strong reflections of your organization’s membership and institution’s values.  

Request financial and non-financial support.

New donors are able be supportive in a variety of ways. Don’t see them as just a wallet. They can offer spaces (homes, offices, clubs, etc.) and co-host events with you. They can also help you identify additional support and assist with outreach to prospects. If your organization would benefit from a tool or new technology, new donors may be able to access those resources pro bono — or as one entrepreneur put it, “low bono.”  

Today’s new donors are entering philanthropy at a younger age than past generations. They carry skill sets and analytical tools developed in different (often technical) arenas. Eager to make meaningful contributions to nonprofit organizations, many are deploying the analytical and due-diligence frameworks that have served them well in the past. Understanding this approach and meeting these potential partners where they are is critical in winning their support. 

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