Table of Contents
“Pros and Cons of Giving Publicly vs. Giving Anonymously”
by the Kirsch Foundation (reprinted with
Reprinted with permission from
the Steven and Michele Kirsch Foundation
What are the pros and cons of giving anonymously
-- from your point of view and the charitable recipient's
point of view?
From a donor's point of view
Arguments in favor of anonymity:
You don't want your name associated with
controversial cause, either for reasons
of personal safety or because the association might offend
other people in your life.
You are making an unusually large gift
and cannot afford to be perceived as rich. This "
concern is legitimate if you are able to make just one
large gift, typically because of a windfall. You may not
want to raise expectations (or hackles) elsewhere.
don't want to be overwhelmed
by requests. Toward the end of his life, the author James
A. Michener gave $5 million to the libraries at the University
of Northern Colorado, with the stipulation that the gift
and his name not be revealed until he died. He had been
inundated with requests when he had previously made sizable,
You use anonymity as a
You may not want it to be known
that you have "deep pockets" if you become engaged
in litigation as a result of an auto accident or business
credit given to those
performing the services
rather than to those
providing the funding. This only works if all donors operate
the same way; otherwise you simply give more visibility
to the smaller group of donors who like recognition.
You may want to
fend off even
benign forms of attention
, especially if you
are a public figure. An actress whose name is well known
regularly escapes to a small town whose name is not because
she treasures the privacy it provides. She does her local
giving through middlemen, an arrangement that spares her
endless chitchat with the grateful.
hidden personal facts
to stay hidden
. For example, you may not want
estranged family members to know your current financial
Arguments in favor of making
your charitable gifts known:
Your gift may
encourage other individuals
to the organizations in which you
believe by publicly acknowledging your support of the
get the recognition you deserve
for being a philanthropist.
If you are a Board member,
it's important that you publicly support the entity, both
with your time and your financial resources or others
might question your commitment. More to the point, they
might question the financial and administrative stability
of the organization.
By publicly acknowledging that you engage
in charitable giving, you
inspire others to engage
They might not give to your charities,
but you are setting a good example in your community or
If you are dedicated to a particular cause
or geographic area and willing to support more than one
organization working on that cause, open acknowledgment
of your gift will bring you to the attention of similar
organizations. You will
minimize the amount of
time you have to spend finding worthy charities to support!
From the Charitable Recipient's Point
Reasons why a charity wants you to
be public about your gifts:
Being associated with a "name"
can be very positive in terms of other fundraising
"Jim" (author James A. Michener) had been inundated
with requests when some of his other gifts became known,"
said Gary Pitkin, the University of Northern Colorado's
dean of libraries. "But he also knew that his name
would help us raise funds." Two new, significant
gifts to the libraries followed the announcement of the
Publicizing gifts, especially sizable
ones, is much easier to do if the organization can name
the donor(s). The
press wants the personal angle;
it makes the story much more compelling.
Charities are always looking for individuals
who might become committed to their cause. They often
review the annual reports and newsletters of other similar
nonprofit organizations to identify potential donors.
If most donors were "anonymous," many charities
would have significantly lower fundraising results than
they currently do.
Charities know that giving stimulates
more giving. They want you to
"stand up and
" so that it becomes the norm
for everyone to make charitable gifts.
It's extra work for organizations to make
sure that they keep your name off every publication, including
annual reports, since the vast majority of donors want
to be acknowledged publicly. Of course they'll do this
for you, but don't you want your charitable gift to be
most efficiently used to deliver services or conduct research?
Reasons why a charity might want you
to remain anonymous:
*A Note from the Editor of More Than Money Journal:
We know of some reasons an organization may in fact prefer
an anonymous gift or may prefer delaying publicity about
the giver's identity until a later date:
If you are a controversial figure
in the community, your name associated with a funding
drive could conceivably hurt an organization's chances
of enlisting other funders to its aid.
An organization may sometimes prefer
that you remain anonymous because sometimes "the
mystery is more powerful than the facts." For
example, a woman donated anonymously to begin a fund
in honor of a public figure who had died. The organization
announced the anonymous gift, not specifying the amount.
The public perception was that the gift was larger
than it actually was and theories abounded about who
had made the donation. This produced a great deal
of publicity, which attracted many more donations
to the fund.
An organization may sometimes
be concerned that a large gift that meets or exceeds
the stated goal of its funding drive could convince
other potential donors that the need is already met,
when in fact the organization could still use donations.
The organization may want to postpone the announcement
of your support, even if it wishes to eventually make
your name public.