Inside Philanthropy

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

October 12, 2009

Personally asking givers matters

By Todd Cohen

With the recession creating greater demand for charitable services and greater pressure on charitable giving, nonprofits should pay close attention to a new study that reinforces the long-held belief that fundraising is all about relationships.

Instead looking for quick-fix solutions for the financial crisis looming over the giving sector, nonprofits need to get back to basics and invest the time and effort needed to understand, cultivate and engage their givers and personally ask them for support.

The new study, commissioned by Chicago-based consulting firm Campbell & Company and conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, found donors who were asked to give in person by someone they knew gave 19 percent more to secular charities and 42 percent more to religious groups than donors who were asked by phone, mail or email.

“Volunteers sometimes are reluctant to ask their own friends for donations, but this research confirms that donors are even more willing to give when someone they know ask them personally,” says Edith H. Falk, chair and CEO of Campbell & Company.

The study, based on a national sample of over 8,300 donors, also found that a typical household’s largest gift represented nearly two-thirds of the household’s total giving in 2006.

And while greater levels of recognition do not necessarily prompt givers to make bigger gifts, the study says, givers who received substantial recognition for their contributions made bigger gifts than givers receiving minimal or moderate recognition.

Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, says if nonprofits expect to get givers’ most significant gifts, “they must build strong personal relationships, acknowledge gifts in accordance with the donor’s wishes, and communicate in ways that build long-term donor loyalty.”

Charitable giving is the lifeblood of nonprofits, which face huge challenges in paying their bills, delivering services and strengthening their operations and programs

Yet nonprofit executives and boards often are reluctant to ask for money.

But now more than ever, nonprofits need to ask, and make it personal.

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