By Donald M. Fellows of member firm Marts & Lundy
Some days I get tired of reading the so-called news on philanthropy during the recession. I suppose if you want to wallow in reasons why your institution received fewer gifts in 2008 and 2009, then reading about new IRS estimates for itemized deductions for charitable giving in 2008 (The Chronicle of Philanthropy, April 22, 2011) gave you something to celebrate.
Me, I’m an optimist, and I think every consultant and professional fundraiser should be. All we have to do is look at our clients and institutions every day. We are all in the business of helping public service organizations be the best they can be – provide the best service possible to their constituents. We are in the business of building hope and delivering on promises.
My colleague, Ned Lees, just finished an analysis of giving that was self-reported by educational institutions to the Council for Aid to Education (CAE). And while I am sure there is someone who wants to poke holes in the way this data is accumulated, it provides just enough good news to make me and my colleagues hopeful that philanthropy is indeed on the cusp of a strong comeback. (Ned’s report on Post-recessionary Giving to Education can be downloaded at www.martsandlundy.com).
As previous blog posts here have reported, online fundraising is becoming an increasingly important part of the puzzle. Disaster relief and membership based organizations are ahead of the curve on this. Educational institutions will need to step-up their efforts in online fundraising and social networking if they hope to catch the wave of younger generations, having been mostly focused in recent years on those who are older and more likely to make larger gifts.
Mega-gifts are back in a strong way as more of the substantially wealthy recoup their stock market losses and as general confidence in the overall economy gradually improves. But the recession did illuminate the hazard of relying solely on mega-gifts for fundraising success particularly for the universities that have been the primary recipient of these gifts of $25 million and more. It is now, as ever, important to keep a focus on a broader group of constituents who resonate with mission and who will indeed ensure sustainability and relevance for the non-profit sector.
Which takes us back to our true roots—it’s about mission. It’s about hope. It’s about service.
Mission – Hope – Service
That’s what will put a smile on your donors’ faces. And should put one on yours as well.