In a recent survey, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that philanthropy increased 5.4% to a record $358 billion in 2014. This is not surprising. But I thought these findings were interesting:
- Living individuals, while giving the majority of the money, are not increasing their giving as fast as corporations and foundations.
- Bequest giving was very strong, increasing 13.6% to $28.13 billion.
- Total giving dropped by 14% from 2007 to 2009 – the recession years.
- Arts, culture, humanities, environment and animal causes are the fastest growing categories.
- The share of income given by Americans is rising slowly.
All of this applies to major gifts in these ways:
- Treat corporations and foundations just like you would major gifts. In others words, make sure someone is assigned to them and has a qualified caseload. Corporations and foundations are just like individuals – they have personalities, and they have interests and passions. So you need to do the same thing you would do with individuals. Do research on them, then tailor your ask to their interests. Of course, most of these institutions have defined or prescribed cycles and processes you need to follow. But you know that. My point here is that you should assign a MGO to handle this, or to handle several of them. Jeff and I see too many organizations that think corporate and foundation work is something different than regular major gift work. Don’t go down that path.
- Don’t ignore planned giving. We see this happening all the time: current giving efforts are funded, while management ignores planned giving. Planned giving is a huge revenue source for every savvy nonprofit.
- During hard times, people will give if you ask them in the right way. Giving dropped 14% during 2007 to 2009. But Jeff and I experienced increased giving to many of the nonprofits we were working with during that time. Why? Because rather than hunker down, cut expenses and get more conservative, as many nonprofits did during that time, we suggested and they agreed to increase fundraising efforts. The result: an increase in giving. Here’s the thing to remember during hard times. Most people who are not as affected by an economic downturn will give more generously. You just have to ask them to do it, while pointing out that “now more than ever you help is needed,” which it is. This is counter-intuitive, I know. But remember this point when your city, region, state – or country – is facing difficult economic times. People really do want to help when things are tough for others.
- If you are in a sector where giving is increasing, take note and increase your efforts. This information is important, in that there is external proof that your area is growing. This should matter to management. And they should allow increases in staff and financial resources dedicated to major gifts.
- People are giving more. It is a fact. So if giving to your program is down, don’t blame it on “donors who don’t want to give.” Instead, look inside for the real reasons. In the international aid category that declined in giving by 3.6% last year, one of our clients actually increased in giving. Increased. Why? Because they did all the right things in their fundraising by presenting solid programs and needs to their donors. You don’t have to go backwards.
Here is the big takeaway for Jeff and me as we look at these survey results: this is ALL about leadership and management. All of it. The fact is, giving is up and donors want to give. Jeff and I, and our team of professionals, daily experience donors whose lives are enriched, blessed and increased because they were asked to participate in a life-changing, planet-saving activity.
So if your organization is not getting its share of help from donors, then you have to wonder why management is not doing more. That is where you need to look. And that is what needs to be addressed.
Donors are actively looking for organizations that will partner with them to fulfill their interests and passions. The organizations that do that successfully will have their donors for life. Those that don’t will continue to struggle. It really is up to you, not the donor.