03: Russell James: The Neuroscience of Philanthropy

Dr. Russell James is the Director of Graduate studies in Charitable Financial Planning at Texas Tech University.  He is trained as a lawyer, having graduated cum laude from University of Missouri.  He worked as a Planned Giving Director for Central Christian College, while also building a successful law practice around estate and gift planning.  He later served as President of the same college, with direct supervision over all fundraising activities.

Dr. James received his PhD in Consumer & Family Economics from the University of Missouri, where his dissertation was on charitable giving.  In 2010, he joined the Division of Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University as an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in Charitable Planning.

Dr. James has over 145 publications in academic journals, conference proceedings, books, and professional periodicals. He has been quoted on financial and charitable topics in a variety of media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Bloomberg News, ABC News, U.S. News & World Report, and USA Today, and his financial neuro-imaging research was profiled in The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money Magazine. He has spoken at a number of national and international fundraising practitioner venues including The Association of Fundraising Professional’s International Conference, the U.K. Legacy Marketing Group, Legacy Promotion Ireland, and Giving Korea. He has been an invited speaker at universities in the U.S., England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Spain, and The Netherlands.

His most recent book, Inside The Mind of the Bequest Donor, has become a very hot topic in the planned giving circles. His website, Encourage Generosity, is a must view.  It has lots of helpful information, valuable research, free lectures, and fun quizzes.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.  

In this fascinating interview, we cover the research that he has conducted at Texas Tech University, and apply it to real world applications of approaching donors and asking for money, specifically charitable bequest gifts. This research also provides an insight into the thought process of donors, and how to manipulate that thought process to get the best responses. 

Highlights of the Show:

In this podcast, we discuss:

  1. What can neuroscience and neuroeconomics tells us about a philanthropist?
  2. What questions and stories should a fundraiser use to prompt the best responses and the biggest gifts?
  3. How does bequest giving differ from normal outright giving?
  4. Why charitable giving is not an altruistic act, nor a selfish one, but a case-by-case basis.
  5. What is Terror Management Theory?
  6. How to create a sense of scarcity when there is none.

Thought of the Day:

The best way to speak to a donor is with stories that connect them back to the organization, and deepen their connections. 

Links and Resources Mentioned In The Show:

  1. Inside The Mind of the Bequest Donor (book)
  2. Inside The Mind of the Bequest Donor (presentation)
  3. Encourage Generosity website
  4. Charitable Bequest Demographics (presentation)
  5. Russel James' curriculum vitae

Thanks so much for listening!

If you enjoy The Philanthropy Hour, please leave a review or a rating on iTunes. I read every review and it helps to make the podcast better.

Join thousands of others who watch the interviews and receive great fundraising resources...Get inspired!