What Exactly Are
The New Megadonor Archetypes?

Hundreds of people around the world—in greater numbers every year—feel moved to make seven, eight and nine-figure gifts to nonprofits and universities. Others pour their assets into donor-advised funds, deferring the ultimate decision about how to accomplish the impact they want. And all would-be donors observe and take cues from these visible examples. Among fundraisers, the need to understand and appeal to high-net-worth individuals feels acute.

Best practices say: listen to donors.

We wholeheartedly agree.

And we got to thinking: Are we listening hard enough? Can we do more to anticipate the path a donor conversation might take? Can we—and the nonprofits we serve—be even better equipped to tell the wide variety of stories donors want to hear?

Deep Listening

We spent 18 months tuning in and paying close attention to what donors are saying outside of the classic one-on-one meetings with gift officers. We started with a deep analysis of the nuanced motivations described by 150+ billionaire households who have made the Giving Pledge—and who’ve posted public statements detailing how and why they give. Their first-person statements amount to over 70,000 words. We added to that analysis our own observations of high-net-worth donors affiliated with our nonprofit partners, and for whom we’ve customized communications strategies over the years. And we augmented that analysis with research on estimated net worth, birth year, gender, marital status, industry, and country of residence and of birth.

Deep Understanding

The upshot: people with significant resources to give are like all of us, in some ways—eager for the world to understand who they are and what they stand for.

Their stories are varied and unique, but common threads emerged that led us to identify five Megadonor Archetypes: the Closer, the Enthusiast, the Strategist, the Explorer, and the World-Builder, each with its own worldview and motivational hot buttons. We’ve built archetype profiles around each of these, aggregating and amplifying their defining characteristics.

As practiced fundraisers know, any individual donor can’t be put into a tidy box—nor would we want that. But we do believe that when you approach donor communications with an understanding of this diverse family of giving styles, you can speed up responsiveness and streamline internal planning conversations.

Getting inspiring stories across—to all donors—is a calling for Lipman Hearne. We know the instinct to make a difference is shared well beyond the very wealthy. In helping raise more than $31 billion over the past decades, we’ve found that people of all walks of life have philanthropic impulses and are continually learning from the examples of others. We believe that by deepening our understanding of megadonor motivations, we deepen our understanding of all donors.

Call Peter Barber for questions on your philanthropy project +1‑312‑356‑8000 or email us