Turning Giving USA Into ‘Giving to My Organization’

Each year, I look forward to the release of the annualGiving USA report. It’s both interesting to read the giving trends and comforting to see that many of the same rules still apply, even in our quickly changing world.
But does it really have any meaning for the fundraiser working alone or with only a few other colleagues, trying to invest time and money to make the most difference for your mission? Or even the fundraiser in a large shop, concerned about a specific niche of fundraising? All of us barely have time to get everything done that is on our daily task lists, let alone worry about the other 1.08 million nonprofits in the United States.

Don’t despair. Following are four key principles from Giving USA and how we can apply this information to make our fundraising better for the remainder of 2012.

Principle No. 1: People
That’s it? Yes, the secret is “people.” Each year, Giving USAlooks at who gives. And every year — 2011 was no exception — individuals give the vast majority of dollars. If you add individual giving, bequests (which are gifts from individuals who have passed on) and family foundation giving (again, these are individuals, simply using another vehicle to give), men and women give approximately 88 percent of all contributions.

Not sure where to focus your efforts? Focus on people. Talk to people. Write letters and e-mails to people. Visit people. Stop worrying about this giant corporation or that anonymous foundation you can’t penetrate. Start building relationships with people. Your income will grow when you focus your work on the segment of the donor base that gives the majority of the money nonprofits receive.

Principle No. 2: Be patient
Yes, we all want patience — and we want it now. But the reality is that growth in giving has been rather modest the last two years. According to Giving USA’s presenter at a webinar earlier this week, “Philanthropy tends to react to the market a little more modestly.”

People still want to support philanthropy, but they often won’t increase their giving in direct correlation to market increases. They take more of a “wait and see” approach, making sure their own personal wealth (be that small or large) is stable, despite what the Dow Jones Industrial Average says. Continue to maintain relationships with donors and build new relationships with prospects, and give them time to regain confidence as the economy improves.

Principle No. 3: Engage
Giving USA included an interesting chart in its webinar presentation showing rates of volunteerism. As nonprofits have found, philanthropy has a direct relationship to volunteering. People who volunteer frequently become donors and are often the best donors, both now and for planned gifts. This is true across all ages, but especially for younger donor segments. Now is the time to engage Generations X and Y.

Furthermore, some of the most talented, skilled people in society retire every day — the baby boomers. They have their health, some wealth and a lot of energy. For the most part, they aren’t looking forward to baking cookies and building birdhouses. They have been superstars all their lives, and they expect to still be superstars in retirement. What are you doing to meaningfully engage them and get them involved as volunteers in ways that meet their interests and skillsets?

Just thinking out loud here … If you’re a national organization or one that has donors scattered across the country, why not start an ambassador program and train baby boomer retirees who enjoy travelling to meet with and present your work to far-flung donors whom you may not be able to visit yourself? You can’t fully abdicate your responsibility for making the ask, but these ambassadors can play an important role for your nonprofit. Do you have other ideas for engaging baby boomers? Use the comment section below to share them with other readers.

Principle No. 4: Read and ask ‘what?’
I encourage you to go to Giving USA’s website and download a free copy of the Giving USA 2012 Executive Summary. Read it (or at least pages 4 to 22) and ask yourself, “What?” “What does this information mean to me and my organization? What three things should I do differently today as a result of these findings? What will be different in 2013 as a result?”

I am in no way affiliated with Giving USA, so I have no dark motives for writing this article. I am always inspired to try new things after reading the annual report — and I suspect you will be, too. Americans are very generous people, and that heritage is reason enough to celebrate.

Originally published in NonProfit Pro.

Author: PJBarden

With a professional career in strategic fundraising that spans more than 35 years, Pamela brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to working with nonprofit organizations. She specializes in writing fundraising copy, grant proposals, P.R. materials, instructional articles and blog entries, as well as developing and executing fundraising strategy for her clients. Pamela is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); an instructor for UCLA Extension School’s Fundraising Certification Program and the University of La Verne, College of Business and Public Management; a frequent webinar speaker; and author of two online courses for UCLA Extension. Pamela earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015; her doctoral project (dissertation) was entitled “Nonprofit Organizations’ Awareness of and Preparation for Legislation, Regulation, and Increasing Scrutiny.” She is a past winner of a Gold Award for Fundraising Excellence and an ECHO Award from DMA; recipient of a Distinguished Instructors Award from UCLA Extension; a weekly columnist for NonprofitPRO (formerly Fundraising Success); and a monthly contributor to Blackbaud’s blog, npEngage.

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