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The mathematical impossibility of universal Delight Redux

Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, author, public speaker, and marketing genius. His blog, which is the only one I read everyday, is perhaps the world’s most popular written by an individual.

The following is an example of Seth’s wisdom, which I find not only relevant in regard to the many presentations I facilitate for the donors of the charities with whom I work, but at just about anytime I’m dealing with a large group of people.


“If you’re hyper-aware of what others are thinking, if you’re looking for criticism, the unhappy audience member and the guy who didn’t get the joke, you will always find what you’re seeking. For it to be any other way, you’d either have to be invisible or performing for a totally homogeneous audience.  Unanimity is impossible … invisible is an option, of course. You can lay low, not speak up and make no difference to anyone. That’s sort of like dividing by zero, though. You’ll get no criticism, but no delight either. As for finding a homogeneous audience, good luck with that. The one thing that’s true of all people is that they are different from one another. What delights one enrages the other. Part of the deal.

Complaints are a good thing. Complaints indicate emotion. They show that your reader cares enough to voice his or her views. Few or no complaints usually mean you haven’t tried hard enough, haven’t pushed your reader’s comfort zones, and likely haven’t got your message across. Lots of complaints mean that your donors really care about your cause, that you have got through to them and pulled on their emotions. You’ll generally notice a direct link between lots of noise and grievance and the volume of income raised. The key of course is managing complaints properly, and responding promptly and fully to answer your donor’s concerns. There will always be a surplus of people eager to criticize, nitpick or recommend caution. Your job, at least right now, is to reinforce the power of the yes. Unanimity is impossible unless you are willing to be invisible.”

“The more effective the fundraising campaign, the more complaints it will generate.”
Brook’s 5th Law of Fundraising

Or, put another way....

“The only way to avoid pissing people off is to do nothing important.”
Oliver  Emberton

JULY 2021

Donated by anonymous?

Both Matthew the Apostle and Maimonides, a 12th century Jewish rabbi and philosopher, encouraged Christians and Jews to maintain the dignity of the poor by giving anonymously. Maimonides even went so far as to conceive of an eight-level hierarchy of giving (tzedakah) where the second highest form of giving was to give anonymously. As an aside, the highest level is obtained when the gift results in the recipient becoming self sufficient. The idea of “anonymous giving” is taken to ridiculous and humorous extremes with this wonderful  “Curb Your Enthusiasm” clip.

My own thoughts on giving have evolved over the years. Initially, I agreed that giving anonymously was the highest and best form of philanthropy. I then came to feel that if it takes a hospital wing to be named after the donor to separate him or her from the dollars in their wallet … then so be it! Now I feel a more nuanced perspective is appropriate. Specifically, often giving publicly serves as a strong positive example to others, especially when coupled with a dollar-for-dollar matching program. For more on this topic I highly recommend Ben Carlson’s post, The Best Time to Give Back.

“When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”

Matthew the Apostle (6:3)

JUNE 2021

Canada’s greatest impact donation

Thankfully, it looks like Covid-19 is now under control in this country. I believe most of us would agree that this is because of one primary reason … vaccines. Given that vaccine hesitancy was identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019, I thought the article linked below by Malcolm Burrows was both timely and fascinating. Malcolm is the head of Philanthropic Advisory Services with Scotia Wealth Management and one of the most insightful minds in Canada when it comes to the topic of philanthropy.

I would agree with Malcolm that a forgotten $75,000 donation made in 1915 could have been the most impactful gift ever made in this country. For the full story on why it is often better to give with a live hand versus a dead one, please click the below link.

Canada’s Greatest Impact Donation – All About Estates

Watch this great 10 minute video “The Side Effects of Vaccines – How High is the Risk?”

“Vaccines are the tugboats of preventative health.”

William Foege

MAY 2021

Your success circles

I have a wise friend who showed me how he helps individuals with career counselling. Taking the “less is more” approach he simply draws three intersecting circles and labels each one, “what you love”, “what pays well”, and finally, “what you’re good at”. He then suggests that one should strive to find the activity where the three circles intersect. I have read many, many books on career planning and nothing comes close to my friend’s profound insight.

Recently I came across a similar idea that expands on this theme. I invite you to take a few moments to reflect on how this illustration not only provides clarity regarding career counselling … but in many aspects of life as well – including philanthropy!


“There could be no definition of a successful life hat does not include service to others.”

President George H. W. Bush

APRIL 2021

The godfather of good

A number of years ago I was facilitating a presentation for the donors of the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy. Standing at the back of the room was a gentleman I immediately recognized … the Godfather of Good! One of the true heroes of the Canadian conservation movement for 50 years, hence his aptly coined nickname. On that day David Love was acting as an “emissary” for the Nature Conservancy of Canada to determine if the NCC should hire me as a planned giving consultant with The Donor Motivation Program®. Today, from that chance meeting many years ago, I am proud to call David both a friend and a mentor.

Today is Earth Day and what better way to celebrate than to highlight David’s new book, also launching today,  “Green Green: Reflections on 51 Years of Raising Money for Nature”. David’s book shares insights gained from his over five decades of raising funds for the environmental sector. If you are invested (and want to see more investment) in safeguarding Canada’s natural spaces, then this book is for you!


David and his wife, Ann, have also been steadfast supporters of Birds Canada through their “Lovebirds” annual Great Canadian Birdathon campaign. In addition to picking up David’s new book packed with its tips, ideas and insights, if you wish to thank an individual who has done so much for the Canadian environmental sector, I encourage you to join me and honouring David and the Love family’s lifelong dedication to birds with a donation to their campaign.

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”

Mandy Hale

MARCH 2021

Making a difference through will power

Many of us are familiar with the fact that only 50% of Canadians have a Will. Perhaps more surprisingly though, only 5% of us have included charity in our estate plans. This is most unfortunate. Not only is your Will a legal conduit through which to distribute your assets. It is also a reflection of your values and an incredibly powerful catalyst for making a positive impact on those causes that are deeply meaningful to you. This is the reason The Donor Motivation Program® has become a sponsor of The Canadian Association of Gift Planners (CAGP) Will Power campaign.

It is our experience that after meeting with hundreds of donors, it usually takes time to reflect on our mortality and how we wish to be remembered. Unfortunately, there are a number of common misunderstandings that stop many of us from including charity in our estate plans – misunderstandings such as, “I can not support both my loved ones and my favourite causes”, or “I need to be wealthy to make a gift to charity through my Will”. These feelings are understandable but do not reflect the estate planning reality that it is in fact possible to embrace the “and” while rejecting the “or” when giving through your Will.

We encourage you to seek out a trusted philanthropic adviser to show you how you too can make much more of a difference than you realize!

“There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

David M. Eagleman


Touch the heart and move the mind


The image above was created by Hugh MacLeod, one of my favourite bloggers as I find him to be both philosopher and artist.

For those of us who work in the nonprofit world, MacLeod’s work reminds us that what really matters to our donors derives 80% from their emotions and 20% from their intellect.

For those of us who do not work in the nonprofit world, MacLeod’s work reminds us that what really matters to everybody else derives 80% from their emotions and 20% from their intellect.

“Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.”

Vincent Van Gogh



Is it possible to hold the view that the state of the world is perpetually getting worse but, in actual fact, things are really getting better? I would answer with a resounding “yes”! Echoing Professor Deidre McCloskey’s comment, “For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear the world is going to hell”, I feel my perspective is very much in the minority.

For those of us who work in the nonprofit sector, or as a donor contributing to it, whether we believe the world is going to hell or not, in the end what we can probably all agree on is that each one of us is trying to make our planet a better place.

As we look forward to a much improved 2021, I thought you might appreciate “99 Good News Stories From 2020 You Probably Didn’t Hear About”. As the author suggests, the reason you didn’t hear about them is, quite simply, good news does not sell advertisements or generate clicks. I believe this is all the more reason to highlight them. From big wins for conservation and global health, to peace, safety and human rights, these are 99 good news stories from last year that are the very embodiment of the word … “hope”!


Thank you, and all the best for 2021!

“Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.”

Franklin P. Adams

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