Is Asking for More Money the Answer?

03/11/2015 at 09:10 Leave a comment


As you may know, The Chronicle of Philanthropy released their list of the Philanthropy 400. You can read about the changes, surprises and insights on your own.

But this article The Lessons of the Philanthropy 400 written by William Suhs Cleveland got my attention. He is a doctoral candidate at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. He has updated and revised many of the figures that appear in The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 400 database showing fundraising totals for more than 1,100 groups over the past quarter of a century.

While the article offers some insights as to who’s on and off the list, changing demographics of donors etc., it is his last paragraph that really got my attention. He offered it as a warning,

Nonprofits — and the donors who support them — must keep an eye on what insights the Philanthropy 400 offers. It tells us which causes and groups are growing fast enough to meet social needs — and which are falling out of favor. And it is a reminder to everyone that if we don’t get better at asking Americans to give more, we can’t expect to solve the problems of our communities, the nation, and the world.

Fundraising has never been about “asking.”

Strong, authentic relationships with our donors are what makes the difference between good to great fundraising. And this is where academia and the real world collide.

Of course we fundraisers ask for money – but that’s only 5-10% of our work. Cultivation and stewardship is where great fundraisers spend their time. Our donor-centered approach allows us to connect donor’s interests and passions to our mission and people. This connection is what engages the donor to invest.

Sometimes we don’t ask – the donor asks us!
“What can I do?”
“How much can I give to make an impact?”
“Where can I give most?”

They are so involved and engaged, the donor is looking for ways to help.

And yes, donors change their minds, move on to other impact opportunities. New fundraising approaches are certainly impacting HOW donors are giving. But the best online giving programs also create a “connection” between donors and mission – in real time, with videos, emails and call to action – to give or do something. Online programs that keep asking don’t do well – so we’re back where started – building relationships. And when done really well they provide a starting point for the philanthropic journey we will take with our donors.

Is the Philanthropy 400 useful or interesting? Well it’s a “measure” of something that’s measurable – how much and who raised the most. I’m more interested in impact – and so are our donors. But as we all know a list of Philanthropy 400 according to “impact” would be quite different, maybe impossible, for the universities who help gather the information.

But our greatest donors and fundraisers know what great impact looks like. If we share it effectively before, during and after the “ask” we have created long lasting relationships that allow our donors to make an impact.

Entry filed under: Fundraising, Nonprofit fundraising, Nonprofit Research. Tags: , , , , .

Veritus Passionate Giving Blog – Relationship Value Letter from the President of the Board

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