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The Generosity Commission: A National Conversation on Giving and Voluntary Action

By | All Posts, Current Events/News, Fundraising, Giving USA, Insights, Legislative + Advocacy, News You Can Use, The Giving Institute | No Comments

Heather Ehlert
Chief Operating Officer

Americans give and Americans volunteer.  We are a society of generosity – even during times of intensely different perspectives and ideology. Americans gave more than $410 billion to charity and volunteered more than 7.8 billion hours of service in 2017. But we cannot and should not take this generosity for granted. The Generosity Commission, born from an initiative of The Giving Institute, has been created to explore the questions that will help sustain and strengthen the giving, volunteering and civic engagement that brings out the best in America.

The Generosity Commission has been awhile in the making and its concept is not entirely new.   More than 50 years ago, philanthropist John D. Rockefeller formed the Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy to research the role of philanthropy in American society. This group evolved into the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs which subsequently became known as the Filer Commission (named after its Chairman, John Filer, CEO of the then Aetna Life and Casualty Company). The Filer Commission began to explore giving and factors impacting it, such as the Tax Reform Act of 1969.  It was privately initiated and privately funded but benefited from the support of philanthropists and civic and nonprofit leaders.

The Filer Commission’s work resulted in a report published in 1975, Giving in America: Toward a Stronger Voluntary Sector. This 200+ page report of its findings outlined 19 recommendations for the charitable sector, and focused on three main areas: democratizing philanthropy, improving the philanthropic process and establishing a permanent national commission on philanthropy within the federal government. You can review the entire report in the Indiana University Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives here.

The Filer Commission was disbanded shortly after the release of its report (President Carter was reluctant to establish executive leadership on the matter) but the subsequent rise in critical analysis and discussion about charitable giving can certainly be linked back to its work.

As part of his leadership of The Giving Institute as Board Chair from 2015-2017, JB+A President + CEO Jeffrey Byrne created a working group, which then became a committee, to facilitate the convening of a major conference of thought leaders, academics, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, NGOs and leaders of civic engagement and corporate governance, to build upon the work of the Filer Commission and drive a renewed exploration of the critical role of philanthropy in society.

And now, The Generosity Commission is taking shape: an extremely strong, nonpartisan collection of stakeholders and experts working diligently to solidify its vision, structure, timeframe and agenda. Jeffrey Byrne shares his thoughts on The Generosity Commission: “I am very proud of this effort, very supportive of it and very encouraged by the future implications it could hold for our country.”

The philanthropic landscape in America is strong. But as much as it’s tied to who we are, that’s no guarantee it will last forever. Society is changing, and we are beginning to see shifts in charitable giving and volunteering trends. The Generosity Commission will take on tough questions about philanthropy with the objective of advancing it well into the next generation.  Stay tuned.

The Campaign Planning Study:  Putting More Action into your Study

By | All Posts, Campaign Planning + Management, Capacity Building, Fundraising, Insights, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Strategic Planning | No Comments

Heather Ehlert
Chief Operating Officer

Whether you call it a “Feasibility Study,” “Campaign Planning Study,” “Campaign Readiness Assessment” or “Oh-My-Gosh-We’re-Actually-Thinking-About-a-CAMPAIGN!” a planning study is critical to laying a solid foundation for a large-scale fundraising effort.  Not only does it help prepare your organization internally, but a (good) planning study also externally tests your project plans and campaign concept. But couldn’t/shouldn’t a planning study also include getting a head start on cultivating and soliciting key leadership and lead gifts for the campaign?

That’s where the JB+A Integrated Campaign Planning Study comes into play.

Yes, we need the planning study process to measure internal readiness:

  • Assessing the organization’s infrastructure, giving histories and current/previous activities in fundraising
  • Reviewing the functionality of the Board and other volunteers as related to fundraising
  • Appraising your organization’s financial development strengths
  • Determining what is already in place and what is needed to enhance the overall success of your campaign

Yes, we need to a planning study to test external receptivity and get perspective from top donors, leaders and key influencers:

  • Seeking community feedback about your organization, your programs, your leadership and the specific project within the campaign
  • Gauge the potential for support for the fundraising effort
  • Evaluate the fundraising landscape and market viability (potentially competing efforts)

Then we compile and analyze the findings and develop a final report and campaign action plan containing observations, conclusions and recommendations to serve as a nifty road map for implementing your campaign.

Many times, an organization (the Board) will PAUSE after a planning study final report is presented, to contemplate the findings and recommendations and make its own determination of next steps. Yes, a campaign is serious business – life altering, actually – and the decision to undertake one merits serious reflection.  But too often, an organization is struck by “analysis paralysis” and lets too much time pass before finally deciding to move forward with a campaign.  By then, “real life” is back in full swing, and the project and campaign plan is no longer front and center for staff, volunteers, leadership or prospective donors engaged during the planning study.  A tremendous opportunity is lost.

But wait!  This delay can be avoided, forward energy can be maintained, enthusiasm need not be lost.

A JB+A Integrated Campaign Planning Study also includes critical activities to leverage the awareness and momentum generated during the internal and external assessments:

  • Recruiting campaign leadership (chairs/co-chairs)
  • Organizing and launching the Campaign Steering Committee
  • Appraising and prioritizing your top leadership gifts for the campaign (and that includes strategies for cultivation and solicitation)
  • Soliciting the “Inner Family” (Board members, Campaign Steering Committee and staff)

The JB+A Integrated Campaign Planning Study:  all the tried and true, best practices elements you need from a planning study, PLUS the critical first steps of a campaign.  It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

Is the JB+A Integrated Campaign Planning Study right for your nonprofit?   Give us a call (816-237-1999) or drop us a line (info@fundraisingjba.com) and we’ll help you decide.

Giving USA 2018: What Did Americans Give to Charity in 2017?

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Fundraising, Giving USA, Insights, News You Can Use, The Giving Institute | No Comments

Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy, charitable giving by American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations to U.S. charities surged to an estimated $410.02 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017.

Giving exceeded $400 billion in a single year for the first time, increasing 5.2 percent (3.0 percent adjusted for inflation) over the revised total of $389.64 contributed in 2016. Giving from all four sources and giving to all but one of the major types of recipient organizations grew in 2017, driven by economic conditions. Giving to eight of the nine major types of recipient organizations significantly increased in 2017. Giving to foundations experienced the largest gain of any subsector (an increase of 15.5 percent), far outpacing the growth in total giving. Arts/culture/humanities was the second-fastest growing subsector.  Giving to international affairs decreased following six consecutive years of growth.

There’s a lot of data that comes with Giving USA.  Check out this fantastic video overview of Giving USA 2018 from The Giving Institute and Giving USA Foundation and use this great resource to strengthen your fundraising.

And be sure to see Jeffrey Byrne’s five ways nonprofits can use Giving USA to improve their fundraising here.

Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy is the seminal publication reporting on the sources and uses of charitable giving in the United States. The production and release of Giving USA is the result of the collaborative efforts of Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute, and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

#GivingTuesday: November 27, 2018

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Current Events/News, Fundraising, Insights, News You Can Use, Nonprofit Marketing, Social Media, Technology, Uncategorized | No Comments

Heather Ehlert
Chief Operating Officer

Social media + celebration = global giving = #GivingTuesday. In 2017, #GivingTuesday raised more than $300 million online through 2.5 million gifts in more than 150 countries around the world.  And for the seventh year in a row, Lamar Advertising is collaborating with JB+A to support this global day of giving, by generously providing pro bono digital billboards throughout the Greater Kansas City Metro.

How will you participate in #GivingTuesday?  It’s not too late to make a plan.  Download your JB+A #GivingTuesday Guide here.

Celebrating its 7th anniversary, #GivingTuesday falls on November 27th this year. November may seem like a long way away with countless other deadlines in between for you and your organization, but there are three important steps you can take now for a successful #GivingTuesday this fall:

  1. Identify your #GivingTuesday Program/Theme Focus

Highlight a specific program or immediate need to create your communications talking points and grab donors’ attention. Setting a fundraising goal that is attainable and clearly ties back to what it will help your organization accomplish increases excitement and participation.

  1. Create your #Hashtag

Identify your unique #hashtag for your #GivingTuesday campaign based on the program or theme you have selected. Be sure to make it short and relevant to your organization and something easy for people to remember.

  1. Alert donors, volunteers and other constituents

Let folks know via email and your website (and in any already scheduled correspondence in your communications plan) about your #GivingTuesday plans and educate them about the social media channels your organization will be using.  Don’t forget to arm them with your #hashtag.

For more tips about ways you can participate in #GivingTuesday, visit https://www.givingtuesday.org/.

Open Spaces: A Kansas City Art Experience

By | All Posts, Arts/Culture/Humanities, Current Events/News, Events, Insights, News You Can Use | No Comments

JB+A is excited to profile its Client Partner Open Spaces – a unique public-philanthropic partnership that will strengthen Kansas City’s presence in the arts and culture landscape. Open Spaces is a contemporary arts exhibition showcasing the work of leading national and international artists as well as local talent from our diverse visual and performing arts community.

Conceived as a recurring event unfolding in the Fall of 2018, Open Spaces is curated by a nationally-recognized Artistic Director Dan Cameron and implemented by a working team of representatives from the City of Kansas City and KC Creates.

With Swope Park as the hub, works by more than 40 visual artists in a wide range of media have been installed throughout our City. Internationally-renowned artists such as Nick Cave and Ebony G. Patterson are joined by local talent like Shawn Bitters and Sike Skyle Industries to transform KC into an artistic exhibit like we’ve never experienced before. There’s even a mobile app  to guide you through all Open Spaces has to offer – and you can interact with each piece by providing your feedback and reaction to each work of art with the artist and share your adventures with your friends and fellow Open Spaces explorers.

And mark your calendars for “The Weekend,” from October 12 through 14: visual art, music, dance, theatre, performance, film, poetry and the culinary arts all come together at Starlight Theatre, Swope Park and The Village.  A lineup of 11 recording artists slated to perform include headliners The Roots (Friday, October 12), Janelle Monáe (Saturday, October 13) and Vijay Iyer Sextet (Sunday, October 14). Get more info and your tickets here.

Learn more at www.openspaceskc.com.

Little Things Make the Difference

By | All Posts, Insights, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Volunteers | No Comments

John Marshall
Senior Vice President

My wife and I were recently quite nicely entertained by the movie Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. It’s not for everyone, but we like action movies and there was plenty of it in this fast-paced film. During a lull in the movie Diaz asks Cruise what makes him so successful as a secret agent: “I pay close attention to the little things,” was his response. His answer made me think about “the little things” in my life and the impact they have had on me and those around me.

When relating to people, it seems I have always paid attention to the little things. Maybe it goes back to when I was a kid growing up in a Salvation Army Officer-parent home and observed my folks always going the extra mile to help people or undertake one of their many acts of kindness – neither of which were intended to elicit any type of response or reaction.

Or it might have been the Stephen Covey seminar I attended several years ago “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” I learned a lot during that week, but what has stayed with me the most is the lesson on the Emotional Bank Account. It teaches that if you keep a healthy balance of positive deposits in people’s emotional bank accounts, interpersonal relationships with those you work with, friends and family members can be a whole lot better.

Have you ever worked with or for someone who seems to always be pointing out the things you do wrong while ignoring your positive contributions? I have, and it’s not any fun. These are the individuals whose emotional bank accounts with people are always awash in red ink, and like a regular bank account, things will catch up with them eventually.

I have found paying attention to the little things is really effortless and the upside can be quite substantial. I like to send handwritten notes or cards to people with a simple note of congratulations or recognition for something accomplished….maybe even a thank you where none was expected. Donors love this attention (well, most of them do, anyway) and believe me, although they may not say anything, they do remember your thoughtfulness.

I also think it is very important to do the little things when dealing with your staff or co-workers. In the fundraising business we are usually under a lot of pressure to perform and don’t always take the time to offer a “Kudos” or well-deserved pat on the back. If you are a manager, praise of a direct report for a job well done, either one-on-one or in a staff meeting, can make all the difference in the world. When I was the head of a large team a few years ago, I always ended our monthly all-staff meeting agenda with a topic entitled “Share a Kudos.” I enjoyed sitting back and listening to staff expressing their appreciation for the efforts of others within our department. There is no doubt in my mind that this activity was partially responsible for creating an harmonious atmosphere for our team.

Let me close by suggesting you don’t forget your family when contemplating the little things, especially your children. In my opinion, contentment in one’s life is dependent upon an harmonious balance between work and home, so make certain you are paying attention to the little things at home just as much (if not more) than at work.

“The little things” – they’re easy to do and bear little to no financial cost. But engage in them consistently and the benefits can be priceless.

You Can Change Board Conversations Around Philanthropy By Using the Fundraising Fitness Test

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Boards + Leadership, Campaign Planning + Management, Capacity Building, Database Management, Donor Cultivation, Education, Fiscal Management, Fundraising, Insights, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Stewardship, Technology | No Comments

Erik Daubert, MBA, ACFRE

Chair of the Growth in Giving Initiative and the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, Faculty at Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, LaGrange College, and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

Originally posted on Nonprofit Connect

I have worked with hundreds of nonprofit organizations who have used the Fundraising Fitness Test (FFT) and I am often asked, “How should I use the Fundraising Fitness Test with my board?” (Available for FREE at www.afpfep.org)

The answer is, “Effectively!”

At the Growth in Giving Initiative and the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, our goal is for fundraising to be more effective, and this is just as true with your board of directors as it is with your overall development program.

So, how can you be most effective at using information from the Fundraising Fitness Test with your board?

The first thing to decide is, “Which data points are right for our organization to share?”  While this answer is not always clear at the onset, you should begin by analyzing your test results.

Once you have run the Fundraising Fitness Test and reviewed your results, you should ask some key questions:

  • What opportunities stand out in our analysis as areas of opportunity?  Some examples of this may be findings related to new donor acquisition, specific donor group retention strategies, Pareto Principle analysis and comprehension, Gain/Loss indicators and more.  Having a good understanding of the information found in the report empowers you to have and lead strategic conversations about how to improve development performance going forward.
  • What does leadership think about how things are going, based on information appropriately shared from the FFT?  One of my favorite quotes in fundraising is, “The best idea is someone else’s!”  By this, I mean, when a board chair or a CEO thinks something such as, “We need more major donors” or “We need to broaden our base of support of donors”, I almost always say, “You are right!” Because these ideas are “theirs”, you don’t have to do the heavy lifting of convincing them to embark on these efforts…that part of the work is already done!  The FFT reveals all kinds of information in the results, and will, perhaps, spark important ideas for your Board on where to spend their energy!  For example, by seeing your organization’s major donor acquisition, upgrades, retention rates, and more, you can have strategic conversations about how to best make more, good results happen in your future fundraising efforts.  You can use your past performance as your “baseline” while also using information available at www.afpfep.org/reports to see what is happening in the broader nonprofit sector.  Nonprofit organizations can compare against themselves (By comparing against previous year’s past performance) and also against other nonprofits in their sector and  region of the country.
  • What is the best use of board member engagement and/or development committee engagement at this time?  If having board members do critical development work like solicitation, recognition, cultivation, stewardship or other activities is the goal, you can use results from the FFT to share why this is a good idea.  By leveraging key data points such as “We are behind the national average for Human Services organizations on repeat donor retention” you can help to shape and guide key conversations around development program improvement.

So, how should you use your FFT with your board?

  • Determine which points you should highlight.  Share some points to celebrate (they are there!) and also points to work on and improve.
  • Share these findings with key leaders such as your CEO, Board Chair, Financial Development Committee Chair, or other key leader as appropriate to your organization.  Have conversations about what is working and what can be improved.  Talk strategically about what you might do to make the results better for next year.
  • Mutually decide which points should be shared with the overall board.  Be transparent both in the celebration of great work, and recognition of the work yet to be accomplished.
  • Remember that while the Fundraising Effectiveness Project has information on how other nonprofits are doing with regard to these metrics, the best comparison of all is against your own organization!  Look at how you did last year, two years ago and beyond, and look at what is working and what is not.  These findings can be used as a basis for well- informed conversations – about personnel, budget, strategy, tactics, focus and more – to create a better future for your nonprofit organization and your financial development efforts.

For more information about how to engage your board with data and the Fundraising Fitness Test, check out the tools and resources available at www.afpfep.org.  There you can find tutorials on how to run the Fundraising Fitness Test in addition to key resources and reports outlining findings by our senior research and data compilation teams.

We hope you will find these resources helpful and thank you for raising more funds to make the world a better place!

Written by Erik J. Daubert, MBA, ACFRE Chair, Growth in Giving Initiative/Fundraising Effectiveness Project Work Group.  Erik serves as Faculty at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, LaGrange College, and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in their various philanthropy programs, in addition to serving as an Affiliated Scholar with the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute.  He also works as the Director of Financial Development Education at the YMCA of the USA.  Erik may be reached via email at daubert.erik@gmail.com

The Growth in Giving Initiative’s work to date is often recognized by our work on the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) which includes tools like the Fundraising Fitness Test.  The FEP was launched in 2006 to help nonprofit organizations measure, compare, and maximize their annual growth in giving.  The FEP is focused on “effectiveness” (maximizing growth in giving) rather than “efficiency” (minimizing costs).   Check out FREE resources at www.afpfep.org

Nonprofit Staff Development: Not a Nicety, A Necessity

By | All Posts, Commentary, Insights, News You Can Use, Nonprofit Marketing, Organizational + Personal Development, Stewardship, Strategic Planning, Technology, Uncategorized, Volunteers | No Comments

Katie Lord
Vice President

Between technological advances, the rise of the “gig” economy and the transition to a majority millennial workforce, it should come as no surprise that change is happening across all sectors and it is happening faster than we are able to accommodate. This can be especially true when it comes to the nonprofit sector, where I consider our adaptability to change similar to turning the Titanic. While our industry may be a bit slower to adapt than most due to constraints of resources, the best and most sacred resources most of us have is our staff. Our staff has the ability to lead the charge for change within our organization.

We have all seen the classic business quote below of the fabled conversation between a nameless corporate CEO and the CFO:

CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”

CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”

This is just as true for nonprofits, especially when it comes to development and volunteer management staff. Nonprofits are known to have one of the highest turnover rates in staff with an estimated 19% annually. According to The Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey by Nonprofit HR, 81% of nonprofits said that their nonprofit organization had no employee retention plan. That is astonishing, especially when you consider how much more cost effective it is to keep your high performing development staff than it is to replace them. How can you keep your top talent engaged and decrease your turnover rate? The answer is simple. Invest in your staff through personal and professional development.

Another finding of The Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey states, “Less than 1% of nonprofit funding has historically gone toward supporting nonprofit talent and only 0.03% ($450M) of the sector’s $1.5 trillion annual spending has been allocated to leadership development.” Let that sink in for a minute. The nonprofit sector accounts for 10% of the GDP and is the third largest employment sector behind retail and manufacturing, yet we don’t invest in our biggest asset of all, our workforce!

Investing in professional development for nonprofit staff is no longer a nicety. It is a necessity, especially when you factor in the traditionally lower salaries that sector employees make compared to their corporate counterparts.  According to a study by Execu-Search, 76% of millennial employees (who are the largest generation in the current workforce) think that professional development is one of the most important aspects of a company’s culture. Below are a few suggestion of how you can offer professional development to your high performing staff that won’t break the budget:

  • Choose a business or career development book and read as an office
  • Bring in a local speaker to talk with your employees about a relevant topic to your mission
  • Reimburse or pay for membership in a professional development association
  • Allow staff to take a webinar or attend a seminar once a quarter
  • Have staff select one conference every other year to attend (many provide financial assistance or scholarship opportunities)
  • Encourage your staff to volunteer to serve on boards (Believe me, it gives your staff member an invaluable perspective to be on the other side of the table) and allow flex time for your staff to do so
  • Hire a coach for first time managers or for those you see with leadership potential

It is important for us as a sector to not shy away from investing in our staff’s development. It is our staff who run our programs and who work tirelessly to fill the gaps in our society left by both the public and private sector.  By not providing employees with professional development, we risk continuing to be slow to adapt as a sector and thereby losing our most promising talent and future change makers to others who will allow them to grow.

Is Your Nonprofit in Shape? Don’t Miss Erik Daubert and The Fundraising Fitness Test in Kansas City

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Campaign Planning + Management, Capacity Building, Database Management, Donor Cultivation, Education, Events, Fiscal Management, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Prospect Research, Stewardship, Strategic Planning | No Comments

How can you put your data to work?

Utilize the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP).

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project has developed a tool kit for nonprofits to harness their fundraising data. One of the largest philanthropic research projects in the world, the FEP was established in 2006 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. Its aim was to conduct research on fundraising effectiveness and help nonprofits increase their fundraising results at a faster pace. FEP provides free tools like the Fundraising Fitness Test for tracking and evaluating an organization’s annual growth in giving. Explore the FEP and Fundraising Fitness Test here.

For those of you in the Greater Kansas City area, join us on Tuesday, September 11 for the 501(c) Success National Speaker Series with Erik Daubert, MBA, ACFRE, Chair of the Growth in Giving Initiative and the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. Erik will demonstrate how nonprofits can use the Fundraising Fitness Test to understand their own financial development data – and ultimately make better fundraising decisions. To reserve your spot now, register here.

Economic Trends, Philanthropy and Civil Society: Dr. Patrick Rooney and Giving USA 2018 in Kansas City

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Capacity Building, Commentary, Current Events/News, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Giving USA, News You Can Use | No Comments

Dr. Patrick Rooney
Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

On June 15, JB+A welcomed Dr. Patrick Rooney, Executive Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Professor of Economics and Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, back to Kansas City for his 13th year of presenting Giving USA.  This year’s report was presented as part of the 501(c)Success National Speaker Series program of Nonprofit Connect, sponsored by Jeffrey Byrne + Associates and U.S. Trust.

Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy, charitable giving by American individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations to U.S. charities surged to an estimated $410.02 billion in 2017, according to Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017. In addition to his presentation covering the sources and recipients of giving (check out the 2017 charitable giving numbers here). Dr. Rooney provided insights about five key areas that impact philanthropy:

  1. Civil Society
  2. Tax Policies
  3. Disaster Giving
  4. Donor-Advised Funds
  5. Generational Giving
  1. Civil Society
    We’ve heard it before from Dr. Rooney:  more people give than vote, and that trend hasn’t changed. A study found that in every presidential election year (for which there is data), more Americans have donated than voted!  As the world of politics becomes more and more turbulent, don’t lose sight of the role charitable giving plays. In some cases, changes in public policy or budgets actually drive giving (think ACLU for example, or “rage giving”.)  But these reactionary gifts haven’t quite “moved the charitable giving needle” overall.
  2. Tax Policies
    Dr. Rooney addressed the misperception that people donate because of a tax deduction. He pointed out the irrationality of that behavior (if someone only cared about himself he would never give, because one is always in a better fiscal position by NOT giving away money). BUT, theoretically anyway, a tax deduction lowers the “cost” of giving (the after-tax price) and consequently, eliminating the tax deduction increases the cost of giving.  Dr. Rooney’s research concluded a 35% tax rate and an increased standard deduction would reduce charitable giving by more than $13 billion, and that didn’t include impact from dropping corporate tax rates or doubling the exemption for the estate tax. The research also noted that adding an expanded charitable deduction would increase charitable giving by $4.8 billion. Bottom line, tax and fiscal policy decisions impact charitable giving and the nonprofit sector.
  3. Disaster Giving
    Does giving to disasters usurp giving to other sectors? This is an understandable concern, given the phenomenal response we’ve seen over recent years to both domestic and international disasters.  But Dr. Rooney reassures us that research indicates there’s not significant displacement: gifts to disaster response average $50 and are in high quantity immediately following a disaster but tend to (but not always) taper off with time and as media coverage shifts away from the disaster. Studies support that there are no permanent effects on giving – to either disaster relief organizations or other charities.
  4. Donor-Advised Funds
    The dialogue and debates surrounding Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) seem endless – but for better or worse, DAFs are here to stay (DAF asset values have more than doubled between 2010 and 2015, from $33.6 billion to $78.6 billion) and are likely to become even more popular with the doubling of the standard deduction, given they are a useful way to “bunch” gifts in a year and maximize tax deductibility. DAFs are often the recipients of “liquidity moments” – meaning, donors can easily place their resources into a DAF and then allocate gifts through the DAF to charities over a period of time.Dr. Rooney cautioned against assuming all gifts to DAFs would have been made directly to either public charities or private foundations if DAFs were not available.  He reminded us all DAFs end up in charities eventually (for example, commercial holders of DAFs have policies in place to ensure funds are donated from “dormant” accounts after a set period of time) and are really permanent commitments to philanthropy.  It’s still unclear if/the extent to which DAFs cause displacement or reallocation of giving.
  5. Generational Giving
    Dr. Rooney shared observations on generational succession in American giving and stressed the importance of understanding differences by generation.  The Greatest and Silent generations (born before 1945) had a sense of common purpose, a high confidence in institutions and were active in civic participation. They overcame the Great Depression and World War II and created Social Security. These generations had a larger percentage of families who gave large amounts than later generations.Boomers, GenXers and Millennials (all born after 1946) place a higher emphasis on autonomy, have a lower confidence in institutions and demonstrate less empathy.  These generations also participate less in formal religion and experienced more political and economic scandals.  These generations have a smaller percentage of families giving large amounts than the Greatest and Silent generations, but among these generational families who do give large amounts, the level of giving is higher than or similar to the level of previous generations. Dr. Rooney stated a critical statistic is that donors are down, and dollars per donor are up but starting to slip. He stressed it seemed unlikely we would increase total giving by applying more pressure to existing donors – rather, we need to have a clearer understanding of why donors are down and better grasp gender differences by generation.

Remaining aware of the deeper variables that impact giving will help us understand our donors and prospective donors better, and enable us to build stronger relationships with them – ultimately improving the overall outcomes of philanthropy, and most importantly, improving our communities.