Do you deal with really rich people in your fundraising job?

Is it sometimes hard to understand how to connect with them?

Are you responsible for building the relationship and asking them for more money than you will make in 10 years?

How can you get in touch with what a rich person wants?

What their deepest fears and desires are?

What motivates them? I mean, if they have all of the money they could ever need, what would motivate them?

Let’s think about our major donors for a second.

So often, we are caught in the basic struggle simply to survive, and we think of our major donors with a little awe and fear-they must be better than me, they have more money! Even if this is not true, there’s something there, either in our culture or in our heads, that says, “Pay respect to the money they command.”

I’ve been reading a book called Money and The Meaning of Life by Jacob Needleman.

Here’s my previous post about how you can have respect, even if you don’t have lots of money

Needleman gets into an argument with a very wealthy man who is taking his class on Money and the Meaning of Life. And Needleman comes to understand what money can and cannot buy. He writes,


Jacob Needleman

Jacob Needleman

” I looked at his face, and it was the face of a man compelled to hide from his own inner contradictions, who had found the means to escape from every prompting of conscience except for one piercing, agonizing cry from somewhere far back in his mind. A man who had to prove the world was against him, even to the point of killing himself, if necessary. It was the face of a man who could not see even for a moment his own contradictions, who needed pity in order to prove-to prove what? A man who heard the call of conscience for a terrifying split second and who had at all costs to close it down.

There are certain alcoholics who have a certain compelling beauty, charm and creativity that compels us to love them but who at the same time are deeply and irrevocably frightened, weak, and childishly incapable of seeing or listening either to another or to themselves in the midst of the difficulties and responsibilities that life brings to all of us. That, after all, is the spiritual definition of neurosis-the constitutional inability to see oneself. Spiritually posited, neurosis has nothing to do with how one behaves or suffers, it is primarily the failure of the capacity to attend to the truth about oneself.

Needleman claims that there are shockingly few problems of life that cannot be solved by a finite amount of money. 

Right now you can probably think of all of the money that would pay off your credit card, or your student loan, or allow you a down payment on a house, or even to get that dress you admired in a catalogue. Your problems, such as they are represented by these things, can be solved by a certain amount of money.

But there’s another side, what money can’t buy.


The point he makes is that money can buy almost anything we want-the problem being that we tend to want only the things that money can buy.

Money can solve almost any problem, but the solution never lasts. Money can be a reconciling influence, harmonizing conflicting forces-but from the outside , rather than from within the individual.

Money can be good, he claims, because it allows us to live, eat, drink, protect ourselves, and accomplish certain aims. But used wrongly, money prevents relationship, prevents exchange between certain essential elements of the whole life. As a drug, money can simply substitute an external reconciliation for an internal confrontation of forces.

Money can solve problems where what is needed is the experiencing of questions.

Like technology-and money is a form of technology-money is good at solving problems; it’s bad at opening questions. Like technology, money is used wrongly when it converts inner questions that should be lived into problems to be solved. Money fixes things, but not every difficulty in life should be fixed. There are certain difficulties that need to be experienced, the confrontation of basic forces within yourself. If you are prevented from doing this, you will not develop will.

There’s a CPA in this book, who says, “To know what money is for and what it isn’t for is like knowing how to live! A lot of wealthy people use money to soften all the edges of life, to avoid working through difficulties. It’s like cotton batting. But not only wealthy people.  There ARE situations where money really is the answer.

Needleman answers, “This is true. AND money was created to maintain a relationship between man’s spiritual needs and his material needs. What I’m trying to say that money is intrinsically a principle of reconciliation, of the harmonization of disparate elements. No wonder Hermes was both the god of commerce and the god of communication between man and the immortals, the god of borders, the god of exchanges.”

Consider that as a fundraiser or executive director, you are helping people create meaning with their money.

This is why Lynne Twist, in The Soul of Money, talks about how fundraising is a sacred act, a way for us to help people create meaning in their lives. This is something that no fancy watch or car can do for them. this is something they have to create, in their minds, or it’s something that you can help them create, if they let you.

Consider that you are attending to their spiritual needs, while using the medium of money.

Consider that you might be the embodiment of the god, Hermes.

Here are some questions for you from the book.

What kind of resolution does money bring to a life problem?

When does dealing with a personal problem by means of money mask what needs to be directly faced?


More posts about Major Donors:

Listening to Senior Major donors

Who is a major donor?

Why major gifts fundraising is like hosting a dinner party