For the dozen or so people on the planet who have never heard of Star Trek, what follows makes no sense. For the billions who are familiar with the nearly 50-year old franchise, and especially those who call themselves Trekkers and who are involved with philanthropy, this is for you.
Every Trekker knows the prime directive: non-interference in other cultures to allow organic and independent development. Philanthropy has a prime directive as well: demonstrating our love and concern for our fellow man in as many ways as we can. Our prime directive as development professionals can be distilled to this: making the donor so enthralled and enthusiastic about the real changes philanthropic gifts are creating that he/she becomes part of the mission of the agency – takes a sense of ownership. Some call the process ‘donor satisfaction’ and that only scratches the surface – after all, who wants to be just satisfied when one can be energized? Others call the process ‘donor engagement’, which is a great place to start.
What are some laudable accomplishments made possible through philanthropy?
Earlier this year, the Schiede family donated their book collection, which comprised each of the first six printed editions of the Holy Bible (including the 1455 Gutenberg Bible); early works of Shakespeare, Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert; original letters from Lincoln; and a manuscript of the Magna Carta. Princeton University will make these items available to scholars and the public; the value of this gift was placed at $300 million – the largest gift in the history of Princeton.
You may not have heard of Nathan Straus, but his philanthropic legacy can be found in the dairy aisle: pasteurized milk. While Louis Pasteur discovered that heating milk destroyed many disease-causing germs, it was not widely adopted in the US until Nathan Straus happened on the scene in the late 19th century. Mr. Straus gave the majority of his fortune to see pasteurized milk become the accepted norm for his adopted homeland. Through his generosity, Straus underwrote the delivery of almost 3oo milk stations in over 35 cities. By 1925, these stations provided nearly 25 million bottles of pasteurized milk. Infant mortality plummeted from 125.1 per thousand in 1891 to 15.8 in 1925. His campaign to mandate pasteurization of milk sold commercially in the US has saved millions of lives. (Source: M.D. Cohn, Lehigh University thesis, 1993)
Charities across the country have success stories. While they may not all have the mega-impact like the gifts of the Schiede family or Nathan Straus, they definitely impact local communities and families. As a reminder, your prime directive is to draw that donor’s attention to the good work done by your nonprofit, show the outcomes philanthropy makes possible, and ask the donor to partner with your agency to make these results a reality.