Category

Prospect Research

Do Your Homework, Sit Still and LISTEN

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Prospect Research, Volunteers | No Comments

Jeffrey D. Byrne, President + CEO

We know to do our homework on prospective donors. You’ve heard me say time and again “Don’t commit fundraising malpractice!” (See my blog piece on the benefits of prospect research here.)That means do your research – because it reveals information about the wealth and capacity of prospects as well as information about philanthropic giving history, community involvement, natural partners and connections. And your donor database should contain important notes about your prospects and interactions with them. Prepare for your visit.

Sitting still tells your audience you really care about what they should say. Don’t shuffle your papers. Don’t check your phone. Don’t fidget. Sitting still lets you hear what your prospective donor should tell you about their life story and experiences – maybe even how a single instance changed their life. You can learn why they are passionate about your organization and its mission.

I believe in order to be a great fundraiser, you have to be a good – if not great – listener. Human nature might urge you to fill quiet moments with a remark or an anecdote. Of course you are nervous, and anxious to impress. You certainly want to make a connection you can build upon later. But it is in those quiet moments that you, as a volunteer or professional, can learn the most.  Waiting for the prospective donor to share might result in hearing firsthand how your healthcare institution saved their life. You might learn a relative was a long-time volunteer. You might learn how an agency similar to yours provided their mother with safety and refuge from domestic violence.  Resist the urge to talk about yourself.  Ask prospective donors about themselves…and then listen to what they say. Some good lead-ins might include:

  • “Tell me more about that …”
  • “What did she/he say about that…?”
  • “What happened next …?”
  • “What made you decide to …?”

You get the idea. You can think up your own list of “conversation engagers” that will help you get to know your prospective donor and involve them in the meeting. The bottom line is this: regardless of with whom you are meeting, when you get your prospective donors talking about themselves – when you ask about them – your prospective donor will come away from the visit feeling much more satisfied and positive about you and your organization than if you had used the time trying to tell them the 50 wonderful things you are doing to make a difference.

However, all of this doesn’t mean you should not educate your listeners about your organization and your mission. I’d suggest you use the 80/20 rule. Inform 20 percent of the time and LISTEN the other 80 percent.

In training staff and volunteers to make major gift solicitations, we place considerable emphasis on setting the appointment, sharing the vision and asking for the gift. Think about all the times we practice the script for the call or role-play the visit.  But how often do we practice listening? If you have volunteers who are reluctant to go on solicitation calls, think about how can coaching them on listening style can help them overcome their jitters about making the “ask.”

And finally, care about what’s being said and commit it to memory. Make notes when you leave if you need to capture details. This kind of active listening and remembering stems from truly caring about the donor. Don’t let the lure of a gift keep you from truly caring and listening to the prospective donor’s words. If you are listening and caring (and, of course, remembering to ask for the gift,) the gift will come.

Is Your Ask Using the Right Emotional Messages?

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, News You Can Use, Nonprofit Marketing, Prospect Research | No Comments

Editor’s Note:  We are pleased to introduce Grant Gooding of Proof Positioning as a guest contributor. Grant cut his teeth in the mergers and acquisitions world which gave him an uncommon, macro understanding of the hard and soft components of businesses and market transition. He took his knowledge of analyzing hundreds of businesses to consult with entrepreneurs, mostly inventors, to help them shape their brands relative to the market landscape. He then took this concept to the next level creating Proof Positioning in 2012 where he integrated consumer insights research into his market based brand process, allowing him to use statistics to show organizations what they can say to close more business.

When making an ask, taking into consideration the different emotional and psychographic idiosyncrasies of your audience can make all the difference.

Although we like to believe we are highly logical beings and use mostly logic when making decisions, neuroscience has debunked this once widely thought presumption and taught us that all our decision making, regardless of its subject and value, resides in our emotional brain.  The money and time that we give to charities and nonprofits is no different.  This being the case, understanding and measuring those emotions is especially important when considering asks to potential and existing donors.

This was evident in a study where our firm was charged with understanding minority population giving motivations for a fund.  We discovered clear trends that allowed our client to make gentle shifts that increased the emotional resonance and engagement of donors.  While there were many takeaways from this study, one simple, yet fascinating discovery was around the different emotionally resonant value propositions of male vs. female donors.  These are some high-level findings and recommendations from that study:

Women:

The data showed very high emotional resonance of three specific value propositions (i) the organization’s reputation (25% higher than men); (ii) the outcomes the organization has achieved (25% higher); and (iii) the transparency of administrative costs (15% higher).  Based on this data we suggested the organization segment its donor database and send separate communications (email, social, event, etc.) to men and women. Some of our recommendations included:

  • Highlight the reputation of the organization by including specific details around outcomes (either stories or statistics) the programs have achieved.  This was the most important thing to women and we recommended including these “micro-stories” into all non-administrative communication to female donors.
  • Be upfront and provide detail around organizational overhead, program costs and money that goes to the people.  They understand these costs exist and will not only appreciate the honesty but sharing this information will actually increase their emotional engagement.

Men:

The data indicated there were three very DIFFERENT value propositions that resonated with men (i) the organization helped other minorities (27% higher than women); (ii) programs increase quality of life in their local community (12% higher); and (iii) programs impact someone I know personally (8% higher).  We made some recommendations based on this data:

  • Start being more outward and explicit about the organization only helping minorities.  This was the most important thing to men, by far, regardless of the program details or the specific outcomes.
  • Use more donor-centric phrases such as “This will impact your neighborhood,” or “This will help someone that you might know.”  This strategy dramatically increased the probability of creating an ambassador out of a male donor.

The fact none of the top three value propositions were coinciding for men and women was not only shocking to us but to the organization as well.  Based on the data, they were able to make simple changes to their communication strategy and their asks to help better align their messages with the things their donors found most important.

While not every organization has dramatic differences between the sexes, variance exists in every donor population because we are emotional, human beings and we all value different things.  If you consider and measure the emotions of your donors and cater your messages to say the right thing to the right people you will have more successful asks and a more engaged donor population.

Grant Gooding holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from William Jewell College/UMKC and an MBA with an emphasis in qualitative marketing from The Bloch School of Business at UMKC. Grant also serves as a Board member to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, including the UMKC Marketing Advisory Board, is an adviser to several startups and is a frequent lecturer, mentor and judge for the entrepreneur community.  Grant is passionate about educating in the areas of entrepreneurship and brand philosophy. You can reach Grant and Proof Positioning by visiting http://proofpositioning.com/.

Just Ask.

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Prospect Research | No Comments

Saber Hossinei, Coordinator of Administration + Consulting

Have you seen those shirts with JUST DO IT across the front? It certainly makes for a catchy phrase, but the meaning behind it is so much more than that. It’s a message of action. Regardless of one’s condition, level of experience or ability, don’t forget what’s truly necessary: action. And with action, come results.

In my background with sales and sales training, the recurring obstacle for many of the trainees I worked with (rookie and veteran salespeople alike) was “making the ask.” How is it that most folks can be trained to do an excellent job with all aspects of the sales process, yet drop the ball when it comes to asking for the sale? Anecdotally, I can tell you that the best sales reps had the opposite problem. They weren’t great planners or polished presenters, but they asked for a sale with each and every visit, and as the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Recently, I had the privilege to serve on the silent auction subcommittee for a nonprofit’s annual gala fundraiser. It was my first time in such a role, and in fact it was my first time ever asking for donations. Armed with just a letter about the event and a donation request form, I hit the street and went door to door in a shopping center to ask for donations. Of course, I was very excited to receive a nice item from the first business I approached, and by the end of my walk, I had received not only merchandise and gift cards for the silent auction, but also referrals to other businesses to solicit for donations! The bottom line is, I might have felt poorly prepared, but by showing up and asking for donations, I received them.

I am certainly not making a case against proper and thorough preparation for solicitations. The qualification, cultivation and solicitation process with prospective donors is critically important, and today, we have many valuable resources readily available to help us develop strong strategies for relationship-building with our prospects/donors. (Check out Jeffrey’s article “Don’t Commit Fundraising Malpractice” about how nonprofits should “do their “homework” on prospective donors.)

But nonprofits suffer when leadership, staff and volunteers are reluctant to “make the ask,” or want to wait until everything is “perfect.” Don’t get “paralysis by analysis.” Your Boards, staff and volunteers should be taught that making an “ask” is not only the most important element in obtaining donations, but it is also the right thing to do. You owe your supporters action, your potential donors the opportunity to support your cause and you owe those who benefit from your nonprofit your best work! JUST ASK.

Jeffrey Byrne to Speak at DonorPerfect Community Network Conference

By | All Posts, Campaign Planning + Management, Current Events/News, Events, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Prospect Research | No Comments

Jeffrey Byrne, JB+A Firm President + CEO, is honored to be presenting with our Prospect Research Partner, DonorSearch, and the Belcourt Theatre, Nashville’s nonprofit film center, at the 2016 DonorPerfect Community Network Conference in Philadelphia, PA , September 19-20.  They will be discussing how to effectively utilize prospect research in capital campaigns.

DonorPerfect’s Community Network Conference is an annual gathering of industry experts from around the nation to speak about ways to improve fundraising success. It’s also a great time to network with other fundraising professionals to share best practices, tips and success stories.DP CNC LOgo

Jeffrey will join Ryan Woroniecki, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at DonorSearch, and Brook Bernard, Director of Development for the Belcourt Theatre, to illustrate the value of prospect research in campaign planning and implementation. Using the Belcourt Theatre’s recently completed campaign as a Case Study, Jeffrey, Ryan and Brook will share their processes and best practices for utilizing prospect research. Check out Jeffrey’s recent blog post on how to utilize research to improve capital campaigns.

Recognized for his distinctive client-focused philosophy to fundraising, Jeffrey is a frequent guest speaker at workshops and conferences across the United States.  He has also been quoted in numerous publications including the New York Times, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Kansas City Star, and interviewed on many public radio and television stations.

As national consultant thought leaders in philanthropy, JB+A team members share our fundraising leadership, industry best practices and the latest sector research and trends.  If your organization is looking for a speaker or workshop presentation, reach out to JB+A here.

DonorPerfect provides complete fundraising and donor management nonprofit software – including managingdonorperfect logo constituent contacts and donor development, sending personalized communications, managing and scheduling fundraising events, online donation pages and DonorPerfect mobile – while integrating with other industry products and services.

SofterWare is based in Horsham, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. It was founded in 1981 with a mission to develop and support software that is easy to learn, easy to use and adaptable to users’ unique needs. The company has grown over 30 years from a small entrepreneurial business to a $35 million+ company with over 10,000 nonprofits and childcare, camp, school and payment processing clients. To learn more about DonorPerfect, click here.

donorsearch logoDonorSearch was founded in 2007 to provide more accurate, more comprehensive, more actionable data to help nonprofits of all types achieve better fundraising and outreach results. Using information from 25 databases, DonorSearch uses proprietary algorithms to help clients find the best philanthropic prospects. Its data can be easily integrated with most common donor management and general sales software, putting critical donor information at a client’s fingertips. (Learn more about DonorSearch here.)

The Belcourt Theatre’s mission is to engage, enrich and educate through innovative film programming in its historicbelcourt theatre, its community and beyond. A unique Nashville treasure with a vibrant historic past and deep roots in the community, this cultural institution is dedicated to presenting the best of independent, documentary, world, repertory and classic cinema. Learn more about the Belcourt Theatre here.

Don’t Commit Fundraising Malpractice

By | All Posts, Campaign Planning + Management, Database Management, Donor Cultivation, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Prospect Research, Technology | No Comments

Jeffery ByrneJeffrey D. Byrne, President + CEO

I truly believe it is “fundraising malpractice” when nonprofits do not do their “homework” about prospective donors.  Much more than learning about the estimated wealth and capacity of a prospect, research can reveal information about philanthropic giving history and involvement as well as natural partners and connections. Then add the “human touch” of the prospect review committee process, and the result is powerful quantitative and qualitative data to help inform strategy development for prospective donors.

I am a big proponent of using philanthropic and wealth screenings in campaign planning. They offer a valuable data, help you determine when/if more in-depth individualized research is necessary and provide information beneficial beyond the campaign, that can help with strategies for planned giving and annual fund.

Here’s my simple and universal process for utilizing philanthropic and wealth screenings to strengthen campaigns:

  1. Determine your “end use”
    You cannot simply import the results back into your database, never look at them again and expect magic to happen. Be disciplined in defining how you are going to use the results to empower your fundraising activities. Do you need help in determining target ask amounts? Do you need to know more about giving histories, to determine if prospects might have an affinity for your mission?  Do you need to better understand the prospects’ peer networks to help you develop appropriate ways to connect with them? Before you select a screening vendor and before you select the screening product(s) to purchase, carefully think through how you need to use the data.
  1. “Screen” your vendor and product options
    Wealth and philanthropic screenings are investments – of both time and money – that merit a careful selection process. There are several vendor options, so do your homework. What is their methodology? What are their deliverables? Is education/training included? Do they verify their results? How long will the screening process take? Can the data be easily imported/integrated into your database? Do they support that process?  Ask for references. Then call them. And don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish.  Screenings are also opportunities to clean up your database. There are valuable services available that will assess and address the accuracy and completeness of the contact information in your records (such as address verification and email, phone and address appends.)
  1. Select records to screen
    It may not be cost effective – or necessary – to screen your whole database. The flip side is that you don’t know what you don’t know – screenings often uncover wealth you never knew you had in your database. Your consultant or screening vendor can and should help you select the records you want to run. And it is imperative to provide all the fields the screening vendor requires in their upload template.  (Garbage in typically means garbage out.)
  1. Interpret the results
    A lot of information comes back in a screening, so you’ll want to make sure you are able to understand it, digest it and use it the way you need. A good screening vendor will help you do just that – and will be accessible to you beyond a 30-minute webinar or 30-page guide. You not only need to be able to interpret the data yourself, but you’ll need to interpret it for other members of your organization – both staff and volunteers. You’ll also need to determine what is appropriate to share and how.
  1. Integrate the data results
    Again, this doesn’t mean just importing the results into your database. You have to make the data work for you. Integrating the screening results means synthesizing the information and incorporating it into your donor development efforts through the steps below.
  1. Prospect review committee
    A small and select group of volunteers and staff, the prospect review committee is a most effective – and personal – way to rate prospects, as a complement to screenings and in-depth research profiles. Composed of those “in the know” in your organization’s community, this highly-confidential group works early on in the campaign planning process to rank capacity and potential interest (not just for giving but for volunteering as well.) The committee works in sessions over several days or a couple of weeks, but the process is fast-paced and highly-facilitated (typically by staff or a consultant.) The end result is a prospect list that is “categorically” ranked/prioritized and supported by anecdotal information.
  1. In-depth research profiles
    Some prospects merit additional, in-depth research. These profiles contain expanded details about a prospect’s education, employer, professional career, family, hobbies/personal interests and civic/community activities. The information gathered should only be information that affects a person’s ability or inclination to give: relevant and publicly available. 
  1. Appraisals/Solicitation Amounts
    Determining appropriate ask amounts is a combination of several factors:  the capacity recommendations/target ask amounts provided in the screening results, the anecdotal and ranking information provided by the prospect committee review, the prospect’s relationship with your organization and last but certainly not least, good judgement.
  1. Strategies
    Now you’ve got a solid foundation for developing personalized and customized plans for prospect cultivation and solicitation.  A “good ask” is more than just an amount. Knowing through whom, how and when to approach a prospect makes for more effective relationship-building.  Strategy is about encouraging and empowering the prospect to become an important part of your organization’s mission.

The resources and methods for prospect research may feel endless, overwhelming and even cost prohibitive. But it does not have to be that way.  If you use research information appropriately, there can and should be a very valuable return on your investment.

What Women Want…In Philanthropy

By | All Posts, Commentary, Current Events/News, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Prospect Research | No Comments

Jeffery ByrneEarlier this week, I had the pleasure and privilege of spending time with Dr. Debra Mesch. While I was certainly impressed by her knowledge and awareness of key matters affecting philanthropy today, I was equally moved by why she researches, writes and teaches about gender matters in charitable behavior:  her commitment to improving and increasing philanthropy.

For more than 40 years, charitable giving has remained steady at about 2% of GDP. Few of us would argue that an increase in philanthropy would help in addressing the challenges our world faces today. So what can we do, as leaders in our field, to make this happen?

We can, and should, do many things to this end.  But I feel one of the most important variables in improving philanthropy is education.  We must educate ourselves and then others about research, trends, best practices and issues in charitable giving.

As Dr. Mesch discussed Tuesday, research and empirical evidence reveal gender is clearly a factor that affects philanthropic behavior—and should not be overlooked.

The data from a myriad of studies feels pretty clear-cut:

  • women today have more than $1.5 trillion in assets and are expected to inherit that or more in the intergenerational transfer of wealth
  • women are the primary breadwinners in 40% of households
  • 4% of households jointly make decisions about charitable giving; 16.2% decide separately; females decide in 6.5% of households; men decide in only 3.9% of households
  • Single female-headed households are more likely to give than single men, give higher amounts than men, spread giving across many organizations and are more likely to give across multiple sub-sectors (such as education, social services, health)

Then there are the more complex and seemingly abstract variables to assess:

  • Pinpointing motivations like empathy or altruism versus tax benefits and recognition
  • Results of giving like personal satisfaction and fulfillment
  • How political and philosophical beliefs shape giving
  • The impact organizational involvement like being on a Board or volunteering has on giving
  • Giving spontaneously/reactively versus giving strategically

Substantial data is gathered and tracked on the sources and recipients of giving, but there is still limited data on women as a subset.  Dr. Mesch and The Lilly School of Philanthropy have received a generous second round of funding ($2.1 million) from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to delve further into this subject. We hope additional research will answer questions, such as what factors influence women and men to give more, give more intentionally and give more effectively.

In the meantime, development staff can modify their strategies (at little or no cost) to account for gender differences:

  • Don’t make assumptions; make efforts to listen and learn about your prospects and donors
  • Get rid of any preconceptions or biases you might have about prospects and donors
  • Learn preferences on how couples want to be addressed and recognized; tailor appeals and communications pieces accordingly
  • Extend invitations for tours and personal visits, and be sure to include female donors/prospects
  • Include women in Board and other volunteer opportunities
  • Include personal stories and testimonials in your appeals to help create empathy
  • Provide information about the impact gifts have on those you serve

When we better understand donor motivation and the factors that influence giving, we are more effective determining which donors to solicit, how best to approach them for their support and in building lasting donor relationships.  Ultimately, this will increase and improve philanthropy.

In her remarks, Dr. Mesch mentioned the March 2017 Women’s Philanthropy Institute symposium – DREAM. DARE. DO. Women, Philanthropy and Civil Society.  For more information about this event as it becomes available, add your name to the symposium’s mailing list here.

Be sure to mark your calendars for two more 501 (c) Success National Speaker Series programs later this year:

June 21 — Giving USA 2016 with Dr. Patrick Rooney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University
For full details and to register, click here.

September 15 — Asha Curran, Director of the Center for Innovation & Social Impact with the 92nd Street Y in New York, leveraging the power of new and social media, partnerships and collaboration such as #GivingTuesday

 

March 22: 2016 501 (c) Success National Speaker Series – Dr. Debra Mesch, Women’s Philanthropy Institute

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Gender Matters in Philanthropy:  register now for the 501 (c) Success National Speaker Series with Dr. Debra Mesch, Director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
7:30 – 9:00 a.m.
7:30 a.m. – Continental breakfast served
7:55 a.m. – Program starts

Kauffman Foundation Conference Center
4801 Rockhill Road
Kansas City Missouri 64110

Register Here.

D.Mesch photoIn most households, women make or influence philanthropic decisions. Couple that with their $5.15 trillion in assets, and an equal or higher amount they will inherit, women are driving philanthropy in unprecedented ways.

Dr. Mesch will explore the changing philanthropic landscape, what the research says about gender and philanthropy and strategies that appeal to women. Bottom line? Engaging women in philanthropy is smart and transformative – and the discussion with Dr. Mesch on this topic will be too.

JB+A is pleased to sponsor, for the third year in a row, the 501 (c) Success National Speaker Series, a program of Nonprofit Connect. The Series brings the brightest national “thought leaders” to Kansas City to discuss progressive topics that are relevant and timely in our industry. This is an outstanding opportunity for the Kansas City community to meet and engage with exceptional nonprofit leaders right here in our own backyard.

Be sure to join us for two more 501 (c) Success National Speaker Series programs later this year:

June 21 — Giving USA 2016  with Dr. Patrick Rooney, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Research at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University

September 15 — Asha Curran, Director of the Center for Innovation & Social Impact with the 92nd Street Y in New York, leveraging the power of new and social media, partnerships and collaboration such as #GivingTuesday

Nonprofit Connect 501(c) Success Series Task Force
Jeffrey Byrne, Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc.
Lewis Gregory, U.S. Trust
Barbara Head, KU Endowment
Sherri Lozano, JDRF
Laurie McCormack, Park University
Susan Melton, Saint Luke’s Foundation
Bruce Scott, Bruce A. Scott Leadership Coaching
Mark Shuster, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City
Susan Tideman, William Jewell College

Donor-Advised Funds: Parking or Philanthropy?

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Commentary, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Grants, Insights, News You Can Use, Planned Giving, Prospect Research, The Giving Institute | No Comments

Jeffery Byrne

Jeffrey D. Byrne
President + CEO

The Giving Institute recently hosted its Summer Symposium in Boston, and I attended a very informative session on “The Charitable Landscape and Donor-Advised Funds” presented by Matt Nash, a Senior Vice President with Fidelity Charitable. I felt the presentation made a good case for donor-advised funds, and has helped me re-shape my thinking around this giving vehicle.

As fundraisers and nonprofit managers, we know donor-advised funds (DAFs) have been a part of American philanthropy for decades. We’ve also undoubtedly noticed (perhaps with some chagrin?) that DAFs are quickly becoming more and more popular vehicles for charitable giving. Their role in shaping the charitable landscape has grown dramatically over the past two decades and we can only expect this trend to continue. Many of us have probably also wondered how to “crack the DAF nut” – how to successfully secure this type of funding and connect with the seemingly anonymous individuals behind the mechanism. Since 1991, Fidelity Charitable has operated as an independent public charity and currently sponsors the nation’s largest DAF program. Its mission includes programming to make giving simple and effective. So how do they do that through a funding mechanism that feels like an enigma, and what are the benefits – to both donors and nonprofits?

I learned a lot about the state of DAFs from Matt’s presentation. For example, Fidelity Charitable holds nearly $15 billion in assets in more than 72,000 DAFs (Fidelity Charitable calls them Giving Accounts) which are held by more than 119,000 individuals (known as donors). The average age when opening a DAF is 54 and the current donor age is 62. Donors establish Giving Accounts as they approach retirement age, and 62% of Fidelity donors say they are using these donor-advised funds as a way to sustain giving through retirement. It is also interesting to note that more than half of Fidelity’s donor contributions were non-cash assets and 3/4 of donors say the ability to donate such assets is a reason for setting up their fund. In 2014, more than half of contributions were made with non-cash assets.

Fidelity Charitable is the second-largest grant making entity in the United States, after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2014, it awarded $2.6 billion in donor-recommended grants to 97,000 charities. The total amount granted by Fidelity has tripled over the past 10 years, as has the number of grants of $1 million or more. In the first six months of the 2015 calendar year alone, Fidelity has set a record with its 310,000 donor-recommended grants.

Once assets have been contributed to a Giving Account, they can be invested for short- or long-term giving goals. Donors can recommend an investment strategy that aligns with their own charitable goals and time frames, and potentially grow their charitable dollars tax free. And most DAF participants list tax benefit as a motivation for using a DAF. Is this “parking” funds? Perhaps. But isn’t it also empowering philanthropy? Absolutely! There is a correlation between investment growth and grant making. Fidelity reported its assets rose from $12.8 billion to $14.9 billion in fiscal year 2014. Grants rose 32% over the previous year. While the average grant size remains consistent, the number of grants per Giving Account continues to grow. And most contributions to Fidelity Charitable are granted out to charities within 10 years.

The median Giving Account balance is just over $16,000, and 60% of Giving Accounts have balances under $25,000. But more than 5,500 accounts have balances upwards of $250,000. The majority of grants were recommended online and Fidelity offers a free, online tool (the DAF Direct Widget) that nonprofits can add to their websites, helping donors recommend grants directly from the charity’s website. Donors are also taking advantage of being able to pre-schedule their giving, and pre-scheduled grants make up about 1/5 of outgoing grants from Fidelity. And contrary to some perceptions, most grants–92% of them–are not anonymous, but include names and addresses for acknowledging the gift.

Consider these takeaways when navigating the world of DAFs and meaningfully engaging DAF (and ultimately your organization’s) donors:

  • Flag the DAF and gifts in your donor database
  • Recognize the donor in stewardship, not the DAF sponsor
  • Seek to engage the donor, even if the initial gift is small
  • Be sure to include DAFs in your organization’s “Ways of Giving”

And remember, most donors complement their DAF giving with cash giving; often times, the DAFs are used in strategic and larger giving, while cash or cash equivalent gifts are used for smaller donations and more casual giving. DAFs are becoming increasingly more popular and nonprofits should recognize and work with DAFs and their donors as ways to strengthen philanthropy.