Two Studies Indicate a Brighter Picture for Giving

Good news for philanthropy comes in the form of encouraging reports on giving trends at both the corporate and personal level.

Well over half (59 percent) of the corporate respondents have returned to 2007 total giving levels last year according to the just released Giving in Numbers: 2013 Edition, from CECP and The Conference Board.  Some of the highlights:

  • 38 percent of companies increased their giving by 25 percent or more between 2007 and 2012.
  • Since 2008, corporate non-cash donations (in-kind donations of product, space, services) grew faster than monetary giving.
  • 40 percent of companies plan to increase giving in 2013, while 42 percent report no anticipated change.
  • For the first time in the history of this report, health and social services (28 percent) ceded the top area of giving slot to education (29 percent with k-12 and higher education combined).

The report, which also discusses trends in corporate philanthropy since the 2008 economic downturn, is available for download at the CECP website.

Parents hold the key to their children’s giving habits according to the report Women Give 2013, a study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University that found children with parents who talk to them about charitable giving are 20 percent more likely to to donate themselves.  Key findings from the research from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy include

  • Nearly 90 percent of youth between the ages of 8 and 19 years donate to a cause or charity.
  • Regardless of income level, over half of the youth reported that they talked with their parents at least twice about charitable giving during the study period (2002-03 and 2007-08), with 60 percent of middle income families discussing philanthropic activities, 59 percent of high income and 52 percent of low income.
  • There were no strong differences in the impact of talking to children about charity across age, race or income categories.
  • Talking to children about giving was shown to have a statistically significant effect on later giving, while role-modeling did not.

Discussing the organizations you support and why you choose to do so has a more powerful impact on children than simply writing the check.  Engaging the next generation of givers truly begins at home.



What Nonprofits REALLY Want from Board Members

Colleen Dilenschneider posts another must-read at her blog Know Your Own Bone on the disconnect between what nonprofit executives need from board members and what board members expect to give during their tenure.  A study of visitor-serving organizations found that CEOs needed board members to bring in revenue – first, foremost, always. Executive management from nonprofits of all sizes consistently ranked “Treasure” as the top priority of the board, ahead of  “Time” and “Talent”. Board members reported their top priority was to share their “Talent” with the organization (with the exception of members serving on boards of 1+ million annual visitors).  The quotes from the study included in the post make it abundantly clear that while skills and connections are appreciated, if the organization is lagging behind in filling its coffers, board members better be ready to lead by example.

Part of this gap in perception could be chalked up to poor recruitment, incomplete vetting or a fear of appearing mercenary by enforcing the giving requirements in a board agreement. Never underestimate fear – it’s easy to list frustrations anonymously in a survey, not so much to be the one sweeping board members out the door and risking blowback from philanthropic circles.  If this gap exists in your organization you may want examine internal roles and procedures, for example,

  • Is your nonprofit making expectations clear to board members during the recruitment process or is the financial obligation suggested hesitantly and never broached again?
  • Do you ask long-standing board members who grasp the importance of their role in raising funds to mentor new members?
  • How does leadership respond to board members who state  they cannot get their connections to support your cause if the events aren’t more lavish or the promotional materials more appealing – the vague and unhelpful spend more to make … something… suggestion? In other words, do you allow members to  blame the organization for non-fulfillment of their own responsibilities?


If after some adjustments and clarifications around expectations and responsibilities your board is still giving you more verbal than financial support, it’s time for some no frills, honest dialogue between the leadership and members.  How would you begin?

Foundation Funding Trends and Areas of Interest

Trends in large foundation giving are looking optimistic based on research from the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), particularly in support for core operations and funding for programs aimed at underserved communities. The NCRP’s recently released Philanthropic Landscape 2011 series gives grantmakers and grantees alike a picture of whom is giving what where, and in which areas of interest.

According to the brief, The State of Giving to Underserved Communities 2011, by Niki Jagpal and Kevin Laskowski, foundations reported over $10 billion in grants for the elderly, women and girls, economically disadvantaged communities and ethnic or racial minorities in 2011. Key takeaways:

  • The percentage of foundation funding reported to benefit underserved groups or areas increased to 42 percent in 2011 from 40 percent during 2008 – 2010.
  • In 2011, one in five grantmakers (22 percent) was giving 50 percent or more of grant dollars to benefit underserved communities.
  • Foundations in the western United States were more likely to fund underserved communities/marginalized groups (60 percent, although without the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation it drops to 30 percent), followed by the Northeast 35 percent, the Midwest 34 percent and the South 25 percent.
  • Not including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Independent foundations, Corporate foundations and Operating foundations were more likely to give to underserved communities or groups in 2011.

Philanthropic Landscape 2011 includes reports on trends in general operating and multi-year funding – all available at the NCRP website.


The Development Director – A “Cursed” Position?

“You see, we have not been able to keep a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor for more than a year since I refused the post to Lord Voldemort.” —Albus Dumbledore

Have you ever wondered about that one position in your organization that seems to be a portal of sorts, depositing new faces into the office at a mildly alarming pace?  Hmm. Why doesn’t any one person seem to hold it for very long?  Why is that the only door in the office without a nameplate? What departmental antics could possible result in these once fresh-faced hires briskly stepping out the door one day never to return, nor be spoken of again?

In the Harry Potter series, a position at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is supposedly cursed by the evil wizard Lord Voldemort after he was passed over for the post. Those who hold it do so only briefly, all leaving (some more permanently than others) by the end of the term year.  In J.K. Rowling’s tale, that position is the Defense Against the Dark Arts (DADA) professor.  In the nonprofit sector, it’s the development director.

Ok, the comparison may be a bit of a stretch, but surely I am not the first to see the connection?  Actually, considering the findings of a study (a joint venture between CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund) that pinpoints some disturbing trends in development comings and goings, there may be more similarities between the DD’s and the DADA’s  than not.  The report, UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, identifies 3 hefty issues around securing and retaining development professionals,

  • Turnover.  Sadly, a high turnover rate is the rule rather than the exception in development.  The average period of time a fundraiser holds a position is 16 months, not too much longer than the tenure of our fictitious DADA instructors.  Unlike the professors, however, fundraisers tend to leave for salary and promotion concerns rather than because they are a werewolf or have a cell awaiting them at Azkaban prison. Thank goodness for that.
  • Poor credentials or just a bad “fit”.   Finding qualified, experienced candidates is not an easy task. Professor Gilderoy Lockhart shamelessly padded his wizardry skills to get the DADA gig (he ended up irreparably wiping out his memory due his lack of expertise – imagine your insurance provider’s response to that claim).  A more likely scenario for a nonprofit –  your dream development director’s resume of degrees, skills and accomplishments does not translate into similar outcomes at your nonprofit.  Where was the disconnect?
  •  A lack of organization capacity and culture to achieve fundraising goals. The study found that 20% of nonprofits don’t even have a donor database. What? It’s 2013! Even the ill-fated professors had both cultural and systemic supports in place at Hogwarts. If nonprofit executives welcome their new development directors with a tour that ends with the equivalent of “Here is your office, we’ll be expecting  your  plan tomorrow and a full turnaround by next Tuesday,” well, is anyone surprised at the turnover rate?

Obviously the development director position isn’t really cursed, but it certainly has a set of challenges unique from others in nonprofit management.   It may even be the most difficult position for a nonprofit to successfully fill. Why is that and can that reality be changed?