Fundraisers Get Ready!

July 8th, 2009

Overall, giving in America is down this year, but a quick look at economic history reveals two heartening constants for fundraisers:

• A deep slump in the economy is not typically mirrored within the philanthropic community. Instead, only a dip or a less steep climb in giving during the same time-frame has been the norm.

• An economic slump is historically followed by a significant and long term increase in giving!

In “thinking about thanking”, I am posting a positive alert here – I see an administrative urgency to prepare for the coming INCREASE in giving by focusing on improved policy and standardized programming. This investment will give those fundraisers who are prepared a competitive advantage when donor activity rebounds.

Over the years, I’ve learned that donor recognition is seen by the majority of organizations primarily as a product and vendor issue. Far from it! Short-sighted thinking like that when giving resumes with gusto will absolutely hamstring fundraising organizations. They will be doomed to a continued reliance upon institutional memory that allows individual personnel to wield undue influence. Such subjective, personal decision-making introduces errors, inconsistencies, and inexact budget estimating for product outcomes. Instead of organizational inefficiencies eating into the bottom-line, staff time and effort will be better spent on stewarding and wooing donors via the way they are thanked.

Fundraisers, please heed the call. Pause now to develop and define and document all donor recognition program and policy issues. Get those decisions approved, refer to them as “policy” and move on to more substantive and productive fundraising activities.

An upward trending of giving gives cause to getting your donor recognition house in order immediately. Get ready for the certain resurgence in giving. Best Practices in Donor Recognition dictate that your policy about thanking donors, about donor acknowledgments, area namings, and donor walls be fully vetted and confirmed in board-approved policy. A comprehensive donor recognition program, once set, once procedural, serves the efficiencies and economies of the fundraising organization just as any process-setting effort is known to do in any business.

“Just do it!”

Two graphs taken from the website of Alexander, Haas, Martin + Partners, fundraising consultants, illustrate giving trends over comparable periods of time using historical data from the S&P and Dow indexes.

total-giving-graphed-with-sp-500-indexTotal Giving Graphed with S&P 500 Index



Total Charitable Giving Graphed with Dow Jones Industrial Average

Total Charitable Giving Graphed with Dow Jones Industrial Average


Written by Robin E. Williams

Comments are closed.