Being a big donor has benefits

I can see why people like having money and they like giving it away.

Recently an alum of our program who works at the foundation office at our university came to talk to our majors as part of a career panel.  She described a typical work month for herself, wining and dining potential big donors.   They also get free tickets to the best seats for sports events or really anything university-related that they want.

In a much smaller way, we’re benefiting from my father donating a sizable sum to the private school that our child attends.  (Recall, the school is having major financial difficulties.)  This school thing is still taking over a major part of our lives… meetings every 1-2 weeks, stress when the head of school does something incredibly stupid, which is often.  (The teachers are still amazing and DC is still flourishing, though ze did get hir first “yellow” dot the other day.)

The thing about being a big donor is that when we have a complaint, they listen.  They listen and they take our suggestions seriously and they’re mostly polite about it.  (The head still has some issues, but she’s generally followed up with conciliation from board members or others.)  It’s kind of weird being a VIP.  We’re definitely being treated differently than before our large donation and promise of more next semester.  I kind of like it, even through my cynicism.

Yet another reason it must be great to be a 1%er.  Sadly we’re not, and this isn’t really our money (and my parents aren’t actually rich… just frugal and very generous when it comes to causes they care about, like education).  Donating isn’t nice just because of the warm glow it gives, but the benefits it can confer on large donors.  You’re someone special.  And it’s nice to be special and important.  For us, the combined benefits of donating may beat out the hassle of travel!  Maybe some day.

Have you ever experienced the benefits of being a big donor?  Any interesting stories about big donors from organizations you’ve worked with?

15 Responses to “Being a big donor has benefits”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    I was noodling around how I could write a post about this topic, but in general, you are right. Like in your case, you don’t even have to be the donor to get special treatment. It’s definitely one of the perks of volunteerism. You get invited to things other people do not and people listen to you more than others. Although I give a small amount of my own money, the bigger thing is I help manage how the money my company distributes. I get tickets to opening galas I helped organize, etc. It’s definitely a way to offset my entertainment costs. A lot of it gets paid for by my company as being the “face” to the community but it also means I get access to decision makers in the school system or visionaries that other people would only dream of having access to, like superintendents, artists, etc. I also get recognized at work with thank you events and get visibility that other people do not, like getting handwritten notes from our CEO, because we do this stuff in addition to our day jobs.

    I really can’t say enough good things about volunteerism. It might sound cliche but you get so much more back than you put in…and it’s not just about money. Sometimes, just giving your time gives you access to people and events you wouldn’t be able to justify otherwise. I live just 3 hours outside of NYC, so there’s a lot of summer theatre here with big stars, etc. Most people who volunteer there get to meet people backstage, they get free tickets to things and generally get to see the ins and outs of what makes a place tick. Ski patrolers, get to have their whole family ski for free, and get lots of free safety training and gear…I can go on and on. I actually don’t know how our community would function without the volume of volunteers that we having contributing to all the nonprofits around here. And you know what…my community rocks because of it. I mean even my hair salon is donating a horse and raising money for an old timey carousel that they want to put into town.

    And if you’re the kind of person that cares about status and prestige..this is also a way to get it without actually having to spend a lot of money doing it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Those are really good points. My sister is forever getting leftover tickets and discounts from helping organize her company’s events. And depending on what kind of volunteering you do, you can make a big impact and benefit from perks. (My volunteering has always been tutoring… so not so much there.)

  2. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I see the perks of big donorship all of the time given my job. You’re right, it must be great to be a 1% but it is downright terrifying to a 99%er to see that kind of kissassery.

    I like Sandy’s points. It’s nice when things that have nothing to do with how many zeros lay behind a number reap some solid benefits.

  3. rented life Says:

    At Private College our department had a very special big donor(BD). In fact, you’ve likely heard the band the big donor is a part of on the radio. BD has zero ego and does fantastic things for the city, not just the college. BD came to tour our departments facilities to make a decision about donating to help us upgrade. The donor office wanted to make a huge fuss but BD threatened to pull out if they did. For BD it wasn’t about that pat on the back, it was about giving back. The tour went off well, hardly anyone knew he was there except our students working the facilities. The students were really touched by the experience and we got the upgrades we needed. BD is now on the board, and doing some good things. That really stuck with me.

  4. Dr. Sneetch Says:

    You are on to something here. I’m not a big donor, but a small (no tiny) but frequent donor. That has its benefits too.

  5. Linda Says:

    I give money to certain charities every year but not enough to be a big donor. I volunteer, too, but I guess not enough to see perks. That’s OK with me, though; I’ll still give and still volunteer.

    The only situation I’ve been in where I’ve felt close to being a 1%er was when I had “status” through an airmiles program. I went to India for a work assignment and got a huge whack of airmiles (both due to the number of miles flown and due to the extra earned in Business Class…flying international Business Class is *so sweet*). For the next year I enjoyed the benefits of that status upgrade: early boarding, better seating (even in coach), and a separate check in and security line. It was awesome. Then I lost the status and had to revert back to being a “normal” flyer.

    Shortly after that I took a long weekend trip with a friend that involved flying this particular airline. My return flight was cancelled and I was moved to another flight by the airline automatically. When I went to the airport to check in, I couldn’t complete a self check-in at the kiosk because my intinerary had changed. Boy did I miss the status perk that day! I had to wait in line for *two hours* to get a boarding pass even though the airline was the one who made the change to my itinerary. GRRR! If the flight I’d been rebooked on had not been delayed, I would have missed it. I was spitting mad and haven’t flown them since.

  6. femmefrugality Says:

    Never thought about it this way before. Probably because I don’t have oodles of money to be giving away haha. But another benefit, if you’re in the US, is that giving small amounts away doesn’t actually increase your tax deductions. I think the magic number’s still $3500+

  7. Spanish Prof Says:

    I don’t donate money in such big numbers to get invited to special stuff. My university gets free tickets in nice sections of the stadium for the baseball team. When they are playing bad enough, somehow they travel down the chain and I end up with those free tickets (probably $60 each). I can get free tickets to my institution basketball games, but I have to be careful: the tickets to the important games are considered a taxable benefit!

    The best perks I’ve gotten so far are invitations to hear feminist speakers that come to the city. I’m in the Gender&Diversity studies committee, so I get first access to them (and very few other people want them, anyway).

  8. feMOMhist Says:

    nothing anymore, but back in the day I worked as a P.A. for a very wealthy woman who gave tons of money to lots of liberal causes and I got all sorts of tickets she didn’t want. One time she also took me to a wonderful panel of female mystery writers, which was TOO FAB

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s crazy how having money attracts free stuff (because people want you to give money or use your influence… perhaps it is more honest to be middle-class and buy your few luxuries). That sounds like a great perk!

      How does one get a job as PA to a very wealthy person? (Aside from winning a reality show…)

  9. Chuckle Monkey Says:

    Here just to make an annoying pedantic comment.
    The second sentence should read “Recently, an alumna…” since she is female, singular (alumni would be masculine plural). ‘Tis all.

  10. Does living frugally mean you should settle for a smaller salary? « Grumpy rumblings of the half-tenured Says:

    […] make a super big salary, you can do a lot more charitable giving, enough that could actually make a real difference on its […]


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