WolfBrown: On Our Minds

Posts tagged ‘donors’

And of the present, too! My interest in this topic is both personal and professional. I have a “millennial” daughter in her first job out of college, and as I urge her to set aside some of her earnings for charity, the professional part of me wonders, “what organizations will capture her attention and how will they do it?” According to the second annual Millennial Donors Report from consulting firms Johnson Grossnickle Associates and Achieve (Find the executive summary here and the full report here), this generation (defined as 20-35 year olds) are givers-93% of the 2,953 survey respondents from seven nonprofits made a charitable contribution, although most of the contributions were small and spread out among many organizations.

Some of the findings of the study reinforce fund raising principles from way back: the younger generation is most likely to give to a compelling mission or cause carried out by an organization they “trust,” and that trust is often established by a personal connection. Interestingly, celebrity endorsements were a non-starter (motivating only 2%). Volunteerism was high among respondents (79%), and not surprisingly, Millennials are looking to technology for information and engagement. Non-profits need to pay attention to how they fare in web searches, as that is a primary tool for Millennials to learn about potential recipients of their charitable dollars. Most interesting was the finding that although only 49% gave online, 58% would have preferred to give that way, indicating that non-profits are still behind in facilitating giving through technology.

Giving USA and The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University have also published a monograph on this subject (Charitable Giving and the Millennial Generation, available for purchase here). This study looks at giving trends across different generational groups from the Great Generation to the Boomers to the Xers to the Millennials. Some of its findings (based on 2006 and 2008 data) are considerably at odds with the Millennial donors survey-e.g., it notes that only 33% of Millennials gave and 21.6% volunteered. Nevertheless, the monograph points to a potentially bright future: Millennials and Gen Xers are the most educated generation in history, and the Center’s studies have shown that people with a college degree tend to give $1,900 more annually on average.

Bottom line: cultivate these donors now through multiple personal and electronic engagement strategies in order to build their trust and capture their potential for giving down the road. It’s a long-term investment that will pay off.

What Motivates Donors?

June 15th, 2010

Over the past year, Rebecca and I have been hard at work on a major study of Bay Area donors.  The results were released last week, and we’ve created a special page on our website where you can download the results.  There are three reports:

1.  A high level summary report, It’s Not About You…It’s About Them: A Research Report on What Motivates Bay Area Donors to Give to the Arts and Artists, which should be of interest to funders, arts agencies, and others who seek to help artists and small arts groups raise funds for programs.

2.  A series of case studies, Field Reports from the Fund For Artists Matching Commissions Program:  Unlocking the Potential of Individual Donors, which describe how some of the individual artists and arts groups successfully raised funds.

3. A detailed WolfBrown report on what motivates Bay Area donors to give to a range of arts programs and projects, including results of a survey of over 3,000 donors, for research geeks who want to read the whole bloody thing.

The research was co-commissioned by The San Francisco Foundation and East Bay Community Foundation, as part of an effort to better understand the success of their Fund For Artists Matching Commissions program, through which Bay Area artists raised more than $1.3 million since 2004.  I am particularly grateful to our partners in the research, John Killacky and Diane Sanchez, as well as Marcy Cady and Holly Sidford of Helicon Collaborative, for all of their support and good thinking.


Diversity of Donors

July 27th, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what motivates donors to give to the arts, and how their giving patterns relate to their core values – both inside and outside of the arts. In partnership with Helicon Collaborative, we are currently working on a study on donor motivations and values for The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) and East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF), and have recently been engaged to survey San Francisco Symphony donors. As part of this TSFF/EBCF study, we facilitated an intensive donor interviewing exercise with a number of small community arts groups and individual artists who are recipients of matching funds through the Fund For Artists initiative, a program of both foundations. Key learnings from these interviews shed light on the deep meaning that small gifts hold for many donors, when they believe that their gift makes a difference. It was also interesting to note that the donors’ most important values often lie outside of the arts (e.g., social justice, the environment), and that arts projects that tap into these value systems were successful in raising funds from individuals who do not normally support the arts. Perhaps by stepping back to ask the bigger questions about what is important to donors, we can better understand the diversity and breadth of their interests and communicate with them more effectively. The report from this study will be released at the end of the year.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy is causing a stir with its new publication Criteria for Philanthropy at its Best. The premise of the report, stated in the Executive Summary, is that “Current philanthropic practice accomplishes many beneficial things, but it’s insufficient to play the substantive role needed to solve the urgent problems facing our nation and the world. Grantmakers simply aren’t delivering as much social benefit as they could.” NCRP proposes four criteria, Values, Effectiveness, Ethics, and Commitment, and then challenges foundations to realize these values by working toward ten specific benchmarks. The benchmarks describe grantmaking that many of our nonprofit clients yearn for – including more multi-year grants and operating support, as well as six percent minimum payout, mission-related investment of the foundation corpus, and greater support of low-income and otherwise marginalized communities and more support of advocacy and civic engagement. But not everyone is in agreement on all points laid out in the publication. Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote a countervailing view in the Wall Street Journal, arguing that donor intent may be quite different from philanthropic purposes suggested by NCRP, but yet may still be quite worthwhile and effective.

How To Attract Donors

February 19th, 2009

We all know that donors are increasingly besieged by requests for gifts in these difficult economic times. How do donors decide to whom to give? How can nonprofits show that they are worthy of receiving precious philanthropic dollars? How can those who guide donors help them with their decisions? I recently read about a new McKinsey report on this topic entitled The Nonprofit Marketplace: Bridging the Information Gap in Philanthropy (executive summary), produced with the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Philanthropy Program. One of the main points of the report is that current assessments of worthiness, which rely heavily on financial measures (fund-raising ratios, numbers of people served), do not provide adequate information about which nonprofits are effective and which are not. Some of the burden for communication falls on nonprofits themselves, who often don’t assess the intrinsic impacts or social benefits of their programs or communicate these outcomes to their donors, beyond anecdotes. The responsibility for communication of relevant information is shared with intermediaries (like Guidestar) who provide information to potential donors, and of course with the donors themselves, who need to learn how to ask appropriate questions. Anticipating some controversy, Hewlett Foundation has set up a web site devoted to this topic. Take a peek and see if you have anything to contribute to the discussion!

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