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Not All Wealthy Direct Mail Donors
Live in Upscale Neighbourhoods

by Alan Sharpe

If you look for wealthy donors in all the usual places you’ll receive the usual result.


Why not learn a lesson from the authority on the wealthy, Thomas Stanley? When the author of The Millionaire Next Door and other books about millionaires began studying these folks and how they got rich, he figured the best place to find millionaires to interview was wealthy neighbourhoods. Places like Manhattan and Beverly Hills.

But Stanley made the same mistake that many non-profit organizations make in hunting for the wealthy. Stanley assumed that the people who live in wealthy neighbourhoods are wealthy. He was wrong, as he himself admits.

What Stanley discovered from his research was that many people who live in expensive homes in upscale neighbourhoods do not have much wealth. Plenty of them are living beyond their means, and have only the trappings of wealth (expensive homes, luxury cars, exotic vacations).

Stanley also discovered that a great number of people who have wealth don’t live in upscale neighbourhoods. Instead, they live in houses valued at around $420,000 and have lived in the same house for more than 20 years. They live well below their means. Their neighbours don’t know how wealthy these folks are. And neither do most of the children of millionaires know how wealthy their parents are until these children are old enough to receive an inheritance.

The lesson for you to learn from Stanley’s research is to look beyond the obvious when looking for wealthy prospective donors. Look beyond the mansion. Look beyond the Cadillac. Look beyond the annual income.

Wealth is not what you paid for your house. Wealth is not what you earn. Wealth is not what you spend. Wealth is what you save. Most millionaires are accumulators and investors, not spenders.

The secret to reaching hidden millionaires in your city is to know what they look like, know where to find them, and know how to approach them.

© 2006 Alan Sharpe. Reprinted with permission.


About the Author: Alan Sharpe, fundraising letter writer, instructor and author, is president of Raiser Sharpe, the full-service direct mail fundraising agency that helps non-profit organizations raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors using cost-effective, compelling, creative fundraising letters. Sign up for free weekly tips like this at
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