The Pack Ass and the Wild Ass

A wild ass who was wandering came across a pack-ass lying in the sun stretched out and enjoying himself. He went up to him and said ‘How lucky you are. Your sleek coat shows how well you live. I am jealous’. A little while later the wild ass saw him again, only this time he was carrying a heavy load and being beaten with a big stick. ‘I don’t feel jealous anymore’ said the wild ass ‘for I can see that you pay dear for your comforts.’ I suppose we can summarise this as saying that – advantages that are dearly bought are doubtful blessings.

I was speaking to a businessman recently who had spent all his life in top jobs with very high salaries. He was sharing with me that he paid a high price for this, his marriage dissolved and now a debilitating disease. As major gift executives we can look at our donors who are highly successful and think ‘wow, they have it all’ and in some ways feel quite overwhelmed by their success. However it is helpful to remember that wealthy individuals in the main are looking for something deeper than materialism and often relish the opportunity of making a difference in the world, perhaps through your organisation.

I have worked with some executives who have encouraged their donor to give a major gift for the first time. Although the donor was hesitant in the early discussions, after having made the commitment they admitted that giving the significant gift was very fulfilling, if not life changing. Even science backs this up. Research by social psychologist Liz Dunn and her colleagues appearing in the journal Science showed that people’s sense of happiness is greater when they spend relatively more on others than on themselves. In one survey of over 600 U.S. citizens, Dunn and colleagues found that spending money on others predicted greater happiness whereas spending money on oneself did not.

Next time you feel a bit overwhelmed with your donor’s wealth and position remember that you are offering something different – greater happiness and life enrichment and be inspired by Winston Churchill’s words ‘We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give’.

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

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