Giving for 2011: Flat-Like-Stanley

June 17th, 2011

Just as he did last year,  David King, President of Alexander Haas presented a summary of findings from 2011’s Giving USA comprehensive survey on American Philanthropy at the June AFP Breakfast in Atlanta.

This year, though, giving at 4% increase translates to a flat year for giving. Even so, there are 3 focal points I want to highlight here that I think provide real opportunities for using donor recognition to enhance giving.

1. Once again, giving to “Religion” is down. “Religion” as a sector of giving continues as the leader of all giving if viewed as “total dollars given”. Yet, now at 32% of the total, down from 35% last year, this percentage does not bode well for those depending on this avenue of support over the long haul.  As a group, since 2003, Religion continues to lose market share. Is that because as King suggested last year, there has been a slow acceptance of church organizations to embrace the idea of bringing professional fundraisers on staff? Or is it more involved with the declining numbers of those who attend church or synagogue, especially those under the age of 46? Either reality seems a daunting influence to overcome, but together, there needs to urgent focus now on that decline.

In donor recognition, for the first time, I see a proactive willingness by Christian organizations to use the public acknowledgment of giving, or “witnessing” displays, to the fundraiser’s advantage.  And that’s good.  Jewish organizations have written the name of donors publicly as a matter of belief and cultural acceptance all along. It’s good to see that the good works of others can be seen now more often by Christians as a proper and respectful presentation of honor and appreciation for leadership.

2. “Individual” giving makes up over 80% of all giving, when grouped with “Bequests”. Also when considered in concert with the statistic that shows that over the last 5 years 63% of all foundations created have been “family foundations”,  a vehicle for individual-directed giving (and do note that those totals do not count the donor-advised funds at all).

Donor recognition publicly presented to one’s peers-who-could-also give has always been considered a motivator of giving. Yet, happily,  I see that in recent years the benefits of using donor recognition as a story-telling device to every viewer (prospective donor) is much more widely received. In fact, increasingly I see it becoming organizational policy to match storytelling opportunities to levels of giving. In other words, higher levels of giving often translate into more chances to tell others what the act of giving has actually meant to them.  That’s a very good change for hospitals, or any non profit, to present and celebrate the benefits of giving to their viewing public beyond just the immediate need.

3. Lastly,  the “Healthcare” sector’s success in 2011 giving was signified by registering an 80% increase in the receipt of $1 million gifts, or more! No need to talk here about the looming issues that weigh on the future of healthcare. Instead, and much more to my point,  I advocate strongly that a bona-fide healthcare fundraising organization have a recognition program identity in play, along with documented graphic standards and guidelines in place. If they do not, or if they have not at placed it squarely within their program planning sights, they simply will not be positioned to capitalize on these  significant and impactful gifts in behalf of continued giving over time.  Written by Robin E. Williams

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