Report Makes Suggestions For Increasing Donations

November 4, 2011       Samuel Fanburg      

Enhancing retention, building supporter loyalty and leveraging companies to promote philanthropy were among almost three dozen recommendations from a panel tasked with suggesting how to increase giving from individual donors.

A 35-person panel, convened during the Growing Philanthropy Summit in Washington D.C., in June, made 32 recommendations in all. The resolutions came to encompass a report, Growing Philanthropy in the United States, by Indiana University professors Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang. Blackbaud and Hartsook Institutes presented the study.

After review by attendees at Blackbaud’s 2011 Nonprofit Executive Summit in Washington D.C., four major themes materialized that encouraged organizational transparency or enhanced relationships with donors.

  • Enhancing the quality of donor relationships;
  • Developing public trust and confidence in the sector;
  • Identifying new audiences, channels and forms of giving with a strong potential for growth; and,
  • Improving the quality of fundraising, training and development.

Charitable giving has remained static even though ways to donate have increased. Whether through social media, planned giving or new digital options, individuals today are no more generous than donors decades ago. According to Giving USA Foundation 2011, individual contributions in the United States rose by 2.7 percent to $212 billion in 2010.

“I think donors want a relationship on a different level,” said Diana Krupa, vice president of marketing at Blackbaud, a Charleston, S.C., software and fundraising firm. “They want more from organizations than being asked for money the same time every year. We need to be keeping these donors more engaged in the process. This is helped by the impact of social media and new metrics to measure success.”

In terms of enhancing donor relationships, the report advocated for a more “holistic” approach. Donors are looking for other ways to support an organization besides money. Look to donors you already have, rather than acquiring more. Sargeant pointed out that a 10-percent improvement in attrition (or lapsed donors) can yield up to a 200-percent increase in projected value.

And even though substantial in-roads have been made to make the charitable sector more transparent, more advances are possible, according to the report’s panel. Some suggestions included empowering regulators to enforce 100 percent filing of Form 990 and inform others of organizations that claim to have zero fundraising costs.

Developing new channels is also important. By identifying new audiences and new forms of giving with a strong potential for growth, organizations can help ensure fiscal stability through adapting to new tools based in technology. Experts suggested the adoption of monthly giving, improving reach to younger people, promoting best practices in social media, and challenging the wealthy to plan their own philanthropy.

The onus isn’t just on fundraisers. Sargeant and Shang argued that more development and training is needed for fundraisers so they could perform their jobs to full capacity. Some suggestions included investing in the development of fundraising research, the creation of a fundraising research institute, and a redesigning of the system used for professional development and certifications for fundraisers.

“A lot of people were relieved we were talking about these subjects,” said Krupa. “Redefining education in this field can help generate better talent and decrease the high turnover rate among staff and boards.”

A next step comes in prioritizing objectives. Krupa said the original participants would soon get together and select different recommendations to spearhead on their own.

“We are certainly trying to move the needle to a better place,” said Krupa. “We are going to be asking sector leaders to take a more of active role. I think we are going to start out by examining the top four to five important recommendations and try to deliver on them.”