Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

December 10, 2007

Nonprofits must tap philanthropy’s diversity

Giving takes many paths.

So nonprofits, always scouting for ways to pay their bills, improve their services and launch new ventures, must make their case to prospective givers and partners who can choose to participate in widely varying ways to support a broad range of causes.

As a continuing flow of studies show, givers’ preferences and practices are diverse.

A survey released in November by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and American Express, for example, found two-thirds of all donations totaled $100 or less, and a second study the Center released in December found the average amount U.S. households gave totaled $2,045.

Another new Center study, sponsored by Bank of America, provides portraits of 12 “archetypes” of donors representing the wealthiest 3.1 percent of U.S. households.
Studies also look at the diverse ways in which foundations give.

A growing number of foundations and funders, for example, are turning to “mission investment intermediaries” to help them with their social investment goals, according to a new study by FSG Social Impact Advisors in Boston.

A separate survey by The Foundation Center in New York City found one in four independent and family foundations surveyed operate their own charitable programs and activities.

And only 5 percent of the more than 3,000 foundations in Southern California are willing to consider capital grants for buildings, renovations and land acquisition, according to a recent study by the Center of Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

Produced by a broad range of academic, philanthropic and financial-services institutions, research on charitable giving gives nonprofits and givers alike a fuller picture of how the charitable marketplace works.

More research is needed, particularly to examine giving by individuals of more modest means, those from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, and those who give their time and know-how as well as their money.

By better understanding how and why people give, nonprofits can continue be smarter and more strategic about engaging givers and matching their values and resources with their organizations and mission.

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