More Money, Fewer Donors, and Lots of Data

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Headlines sell, and as much as I don’t want to be a victim of a lead, several have grabbed my attention this month. Recently, Giving USA released their annual report on giving trends. I love numbers and looking for trends, so I jumped in!  

I was excited to learn that “giving exceeded $400 billion in a single year for the first time, increasing 5.2 percent” over 2016. There is such power in that threshold and in philanthropic endeavors.  The best part is that giving was up among individuals, foundations, bequests, and even corporations. As for where the money is going, it too increased in nearly all categories including religion, education, human services, and health.  

I appreciated Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., executive associate dean for academic affairs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, comments which were, “the broad growth in giving to virtually all charitable subsectors suggests that charities are connecting effectively with their donors and demonstrating their impact and case for support.”

My next headline was “With fewer Americans giving to charity, some nonprofits are planning for an uncertain future,” from The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Could we not have waiting until July to bring us all down?  But the reality is that this trend has been on the move for a while.  

Since 2000, the percentage of households that donate has dropped from 66 to 55 in 2014 with a decrease across all age groups.

The largest decrease by age group was 51 to 60-year-olds who normally are most dependable.  

But those who are giving are donating more. Overall the increase was 2 percent, but significant double-digit increases for arts and culture, education, environment, health, international, and community improvement.  

Pipelines are shrinking. What does all this mean? To steal a quote from my friend and fellow Senior Advisor, Katie Weeks, “It depends.”  

All nonprofits are seeking to live into their mission with a case that drives investment. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Based on where you are in the evolution and size of your development program, these numbers have different realities. Like Bert shared in his post a few weeks ago, “don’t ignore the inspection.” Knowing where you are with your fund development program will enable you to see where you are a risk, and where you have opportunities.

With increased giving, make sure your major gift strategies are in place and that you are engaged with donors to find where your interest aligns.

Look at planned giving with donors who have a history of giving.  

Ensure strong stewardship is in place with all donors, but especially those entry and smaller levels to build your pipeline.

If you have the capacity and funding to pilot new modes of acquisition, try.

It’s about the basics. Programs with a strong case for support, active engagement at all levels of their donor pipeline, a willingness to ask for investment, and sincere stewardship will meet their needs. Now go #DoGreatThings!

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