It’s always good to see major companies using the advantage of their positions for good. Most recently, Microsoft has joined these philanthropic ranks with the aptly named multicolored doorMicrosoft Philanthropies. The company sees the democratization of technology as an inherently good thing, yet realizes that many societies are left out of this collective advancement for the following reasons:


Even though most of the world is benefiting from technological connectivity, a large number of people have been excluded from this because of poverty. Low income and quality of life prevents many people from acquiring mass-produced technology that is supposed to make life safer, healthier, and easier.

Lack of STEM Related Stem Education

How can we expect people to get involved with technological innovation and development when the educational opportunities aren’t even there. The old proverb “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” has never been more true in this day in age. People shouldn’t have to wait to receive new technology— they should be right there developing them with everyone else.

Physical Non-accessibility

For many people with disabilities, they may be prevented from using certain technologies. Microsoft Philanthropies hopes to work to create opportunities for people who may have been excluded from these life-changing experiences.

Geographical Non-accessibility

In a similar vein, many regions of the world lack connectivity to certain technologies. The lack of proper infrastructure could but a dent in internet usage, and satellite concentrations could exclude entire regions from mobile connectivity.

Microsoft Philanthropies hopes to combat these issues by encouraging employees and creative partners to strive towards inclusion, education, and charitable activity.

The best philanthropists cultivate great relationships with those donating money to their cause. Next week, the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy is hosting a seminar titled, The Art of Cause Marketing and Mastering Donor Relationships. Wes Wasson, voted “Top Executive Leader in Silicon Valley,” will address the importance of marketing in philanthropy campaigns to connect donors to the cause.

The Sanford Institute of Philanthropy’s mission strives to engage current and emerging nonprofit leaders and private sector executives to improve their organizations and contribute to the overall public good by earning secondary degrees and certificates. The speakers at the seminar will offer strategies for applying marketing strategies to strengthen donor relations, a topic that is particularly applicable to the this mission. When donors contribute large sums of money, they shouldn’t feel like they have just paid a bill. Donating is more than the money they give. It’s the chance to the participate in something that matters.

Wasson states, “Great cause marketing must inspire people with the possibility that they can be part of something far bigger than themselves.”

What are some ways to effectively market your cause and maintain a positive relationship with your donors? I recently found some helpful tips from Sandy Reese in Get Fully Funded. She emphasizes a few key bulletpoints:

  • FocusStay focused on the ‘why.’ Remember the reason you first got involved with the cause in the first place. Don’t let anything distract you from this vision. Keep this goal with you as you articulate your requests from donors.
  • You’re on the same team. Avoid thinking of yourself as the boss with your donors pitching in once and while. You have to work together to achieve the same goal.
  • It’s all about your intention. If you remember your original vision, you are then coming from a place of honesty and respect and you’ll avoid an attitude of “strong-arming.” You cause is important, the money to fund changes within your cause, so therefore, asking is important.
  • Empathize and communicate. You’re not taking anything away from people when you ask, rather, you’re giving them to chance to participate in the work of your cause.

These tactics contribute to success in both the private and non-profit philanthropic sectors. Wes Wasson, who is speaking next week at the Sanford seminar, is a top executive leader because he dedicates time to donor relations. In the business of philanthropy, the best strategy is to include your donors in your vision, because their success is your success.  For more on this topic, check out this article here.

I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of developing real relationships when fundraising. Without an emotional connection to your prospective donor it will be very hard to get them to commit financially in a serious way.

I recently came across a fantastic article that addressed how to negotiate with someone, as learned by hostage negotiators. It makes sense to seek out guidance from professionals who make it their business to negotiate, especially when their success and failure means the difference between life and death.

The article discusses 5 steps that are required in all negotiations:

Active Listening: Listen to their side and make them aware you’re listening.

Empathy: You get an understanding of where they’re coming from and how they feel.

Rapport: Empathy is what you feel. Rapport is when they feel it back. They start to trust you.

Influence: Now that they trust you, you’ve earned the right to work on problem solving with them and recommend a course of action.

Behavioral Change: They act. (And maybe come out with their hands up.)

Jonah Halper - chart

When you look at these steps, you may be thinking “no big deal”. They seem to be common sense, and something that should be easy to put into practice. The problem is, when most people negotiate they try to remove their emotions either out of a perceived strategy for success, or as a defense mechanism in case of failure. Removing one’s emotions means that you end up starting at step 4, and hoping to influence and change the other person’s behavior. This will undoubtedly end in failure.

The application to relationship based fundraising is pretty apparent. In the words of Chris Voss, FBI International Hostage Negotiator…

…business negotiations try to pretend that emotions don’t exist. What’s your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, or ‘BATNA’? That’s to try to be completely unemotional and rational, which is a fiction about negotiation. Human beings are incapable of being rational, regardless… So instead of pretending emotions don’t exist in negotiations, hostage negotiators have actually designed an approach that takes emotions fully into account and uses them to influence situations, which is the reality of the way all negotiations go…

We need to remember that fundraising is deeply rooted in the business of humans, and humans are inherently irrational. This isn’t something to avoid. It is something to exploit in healthy and positive ways. Fundraising requires an emotional connection, and all the data and charts in the world won’t let you go to the stage of influence without the first three steps of active listening, empathy and rapport.

Jonah Halper recently came across the article by Sean Parker discussing the phenomenon of tech moguls who are making millions and at the same time are trying to make the world a better place. Sean explains:
Jonah Halper - Sean Parker“So while philanthropists like to talk about impact, they seldom have the tools to measure it. This has led to a world in which the primary currency of exchange is recognition and reputation, not effectiveness. These incentives lead most philanthropists to favor “safe” gifts to well-established institutions, resulting in a never-ending competition to name buildings at major universities, medical centers, performing arts centers and other such public places….”
Hackers have shown themselves to be less interested in this conventional form of philanthropy. Instead, they want to know that they are having an impact that can be measured and felt. This is where the hackers’ ability to spot problem that are solvable gives them a decisive advantage. It’s easy to find problems—we see them everywhere we look—but it is something else entirely to find “hackable” problems. Those are the ones that have viable solutions.”
Sean Parker is touching on a very important issue but is oversimplifying the contrast between legacy charities and start up organizations that are a reflection of the tech industry and it’s players.
Are there organizations that lack transparent? Yes. Are there organizations that are not making a big enough dent in the problem? Sure. But it isn’t fair or accurate to paint traditional organizations with such broad strokes.
The truth is we are trying to compare to very different approaches to the same challenges that often mirror the difference between a “business owner” and an “entrepreneur”.
Melanie Spring wrote in what she estimates as the difference between these two definitions:

Small-business owners have a great idea.
Entrepreneurs have big ideas.

Small-business owners hold steady.
Entrepreneurs love risk.

Small-business owners think about the things they need to finish this week.
Entrepreneurs are thinking ahead six months.

Small-businesses owners are sentimental with their businesses.
Entrepreneurs focus on scaling.

As you can see, not every company is cut from the same cloth. Both business owners and entrepreneurs can be viable and make a difference – but both can be doing great work.
Those in tech industries who adopt the hacker culture need to understand that the philanthropy world is also equally disparate and equally important. And most importantly, both models can learn from each other – how to reduce risk but how to scale, and how to have a big or great idea and consider both short term and long-term goals.

As a casual redditor, I tend to learn some fascinating tidbits on human nature and the world. This post stood out for me. In a nutshell, the poster was asking why historically Native Americans and Africans were so far behind in technological advances, while European and Asian nations have grown by leaps and bounds. The answer was truly eye opening.

Jonah Halper Growth-chartThe first step towards civilization is the move from nomadic hunter-gatherer to rooted agrarian society. Several conditions are necessary for this transition to occur: 1) access to high protein vegetation that endures storage; 2) a climate dry enough to allow storage; 3) access to animals docile enough for domestication and versatile enough to survive captivity. Control of crops and livestock leads to food surpluses. Surplus frees people up to specialize in activities other than sustenance and supports population growth. The combination of specialization and population growth leads to the accumulation of social and technologic innovations which build on each other. Large societies develop ruling classes and supporting bureaucracies, which in turn lead to the organization of nation-states and empires.[2]

In short, when a people can get past the immediate needs of survival, they can focus on specializations that can impact long term development and growth. When I thought about how this impacts philanthropy and organizational growth, I think the comparison is readily apparent.

Many institutions have their financial eggs in only a few baskets. They get funding from only minimal sources, but those sources help them stay afloat. However, this does not allow them to grow long term. They are constantly putting out fires because they do not have a wide base of support and are always in “hunter/gatherer mode”. They haven’t created silos to store their sources of funding.

Whenever working with our clients, we make sure to echo the importance of being proactive, and to find ways to create systems and a wider base of financial support. This will allow the organization time to step back and see how they can grow their mission and vision from being hunter/gatherers and become an empire!

What are you passionate about? The term “passion” is almost always inextricably tied to philanthropy. You give your money and time because of your passion and dedication to the cause.

The word “passion” has a very interesting etymology. The word comes from Middle English, which inherited it from Old French, and adapted from late Latin []. The word in its original Latin form was ‘pati’, to ‘suffer.’ Suffering is a peculiar way to describe activities you care deeply about. If I am suffering an experience, how is this synonymous with love of that activity? If an experience causes suffering wouldn’t I avoid it permanently?

Passion - Jonah HalperThe definition of passion goes deeper than describing a strong love for an experience. It means that your beliefs and desires are so intertwined with the experience, that you are willing to suffer for it. Any other person would give up when things get tough (and they at times do) but because of your dedication to the cause you are willing to suffer through it. You are willing to suffer FOR it.

Successful fundraising doesn’t happen easily, or over night. It requires you to break your teeth on identifying, meeting and courting new people and you can’t do this if you are sitting on the couch. Dating and fundraising is about putting yourself out there. Unless you are meeting new people and connecting over common interests, then there is no chance of having any success meeting and inspiring the right people. When you have a mission that you believe in, this becomes much easier. You are charged by something greater than yourself and this sense of duty motivates you to make those calls and connections, even when your nerves make it difficult to pick up the phone.

Passion gives you the motivation you need and it helps you remember that you are not asking a prospect to give YOU money. You are asking them to give money to support something important. Something great. Something you believe in to the extent where you are willing to suffer for it.

In the nonprofit world your mission is YOU.

It isn’t just a cute and concise paragraph appearing on your organization’s letterhead. It represents what you are in the business of doing, and what will not waver from, or change, during the life of your cause. It guides all of your decisions and keeps you focused on your customers.

Before you can seek out supporters for your cause, you need to have a clear idea of your mission. Your ability to BELIEVE in a mission is how you demonstrate confidence. Having a clear and concise mission is key to your ability to educate and inspire prospective donors.

If confidence is sexy in the dating world, then confidence in your cause’s mission is the key ingredient to attract supporters. Potential donors will find you sexy! From my experience, the number one compliment a fundraiser gets on the job is not “You could sell ice cubes to Eskimos” or “You are a smooth talker”. The way to gauge if you are confidently “selling” your cause is if you are told by an admirer that, “I see you are passionate about your work” or “I see you believe in the cause”.


Our goal here isn’t to come up with a mission statement for your letterhead but rather go-to language for you to use in conversation when introducing your cause to others. Kevin Starr, CEO of the Mulago Foundation and the Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program [SOURCE] likes extreme brevity for mission statements in the form of 8 word statements, so this seems like a good application to come up with a brief and succinct mission statement.

According to Starr, this 8 word mission statement should be made up of a VERB, TARGET POPULATION, and an OUTCOME that implies something to measure. Also, the statement is about “what” and not “how”. Starr acknowledges the tendency for people to jump into the “how” of making the world a better place because it is what drives their passion, but we first need to determine what change is taking place before exploring how it is being changed.

Here are a few great examples:
Wounded Warrior Project: To honor and empower wounded warriors.
Livestrong: To inspire and empower people affected by cancer.
The Humane Society: Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty.


Jonah Halper - Wounder Warrior ProjectJonah Halper - The Humane SocietyJonah Halper - LiveStrong