Philanthropy is all about individuals

GivingUSA1It is June and you know what that means … The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the fundraising professionals from The Giving Institute are releasing another Giving USA annual report focused on charitable giving and philanthropy in America. This usually provides days worth of chatter throughout the non-profit sector and blogosphere. Today, I will fall in lock step with my colleagues by chattering a little bit over the new numbers and providing you with links to other online chats on this subject.
Erik chatters about this year’s Giving USA numbers
This year’s report contains a few surprises such as:

  • Charitable giving hit a record high with Americans giving $358 billion
  • Giving now accounts for 2.1% of GDP, which is the highest since 2003
  • Charitable giving still hasn’t gotten back to pre-recession levels

Not surprising is more than three-quarters of philanthropy is still coming from individuals (72% of giving comes from living individuals and 8% coming from bequests).
It has been this way for as long as I can remember.
If you want to get serious about raising money, then you need an individual giving strategy.
It never ceases to amaze me how many times I hear people moaning about cuts in government funding (please note that I live in Illinois, which is broke and entering a period of austerity) and how their organizational survival strategy is based on writing more grants and asking corporations to step up.
With this year’s Giving USA numbers glowing in the background of this blog post, I strongly encourage all of you who are looking down the barrel of impending government funding cuts to please do something — heck, do anything — to strengthen your individual giving strategies and tactics. The following is a short list of things you might want to start developing or strengthening:

  • Annual campaign pledge drive
  • Walk-a-thon (or any kind of an a-thon)
  • Direct mail or targeted mail
  • e-Philanthropy (there are all kinds of online fundraising tactics that you can pursue)
  • Benevon style event

While I have strong opinions on where you should start, I’m simply going to encourage you today to start somewhere.
Others chatter about this year’s Giving USA numbers
GivingUSA2Before you dive into lots of other chatter, you may want to purchase this year’s Giving USA annual report (or at least download the free whitepaper highlights). Click here to access the website where you can access those products.
Why is this information valuable? Simply put, it provides benchmark data for your organization. Share it with your board and resource committee volunteers. Use it during the process you’re about to undertake to start development of your 2016 written resource development plan. I guarantee it will spark discussion and even comparisons, which is a healthy place to start a planning process.
Click here to read a great story in the Chronicle of Philanthropy titled “Philanthropy Surges 5.4% to Record $358 Billion, Says ‘Giving USA’” written by Holly Hall, Eden Stiffman, Ron Coddington, and Meredith Myers. They do a nice job summarizing all of this year’s chatter around the report.
Click here to read a wonderful blog post by Rob Mitchell, who is the CEO at Atlas of Giving, titled “Giving USA Annual Release fraught with impossible and immoral problems”. Rob does a nice job of being the contrarian in this discussion. I really like this tough-minded critique, and it gives me something to chew on. However, I’m left with the fact that Rob thinks the charitable giving numbers are even better than what Giving USA is reporting.  All I have to say to that is . . . WooHoo! This post is definitely worth the click!
The Chronicle of Philanthropy also recorded a Google Hangout of experts chattering about this year’s Giving USA report. I’ve embedded that video below (please note that it starts off a little choppy but gets better). If you cannot see that embedded video because you’re receiving this in your email then click here to access it.

Phew . . . that is a lot of chatter. I’m sure you’ve clicked on some of it and ignored other parts of it, but I’m kind of curious about your initial thoughts and reactions. What struck you as the most memorable thing coming out of this year’s report? What, if anything, do you plan on doing with this information? Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847