Inside Philanthropy

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

April 3, 2007

Charities need to respect donors

The news about the charitable marketplace is mixed, underscoring the tough job charities face in securing the resources they need, as well as the possible payoff for that hard work.

New federal tax data, for example, show that while Americans with the highest incomes account for a bigger share of national income than they have held since before the Depression, and that total income in the U.S. grew almost 9 percent in 2005, average incomes for those in the bottom 90 percent fell slightly, The New York Times reports

So those with the biggest paychecks may be even more productive targets for fundraisers than in the past, while securing funds from everyone else may require even more work.

But while giving by living individuals totaled 76.5 percent of the more than $260 billion given to charity in 2005, average charitable giving per household in the U.S. for 40 years has totaled 2.2 percent of average household disposable income after taxes, according to Giving USA.

So whether targeting the upper or lower end of the income food chain, effective fundraising depends on engaging donors in a meaningful and personal way.

Underscoring the growing disenchantment with fundraising as usual, with charities treating donors like faceless change machines, is a report in The Wall Street Journal that says school officials and parents alike are fed up with traditional school fundraising strategies.

The Journal cites a survey the National Association of Elementary School Principals that says nearly two in three school principals would stop fundraising if they could because it is a distraction, puts too much pressure on kids, and burdens parents and teachers.

The Journal also says some schools and parents are bucking traditional fundraising methods like auctions, car washes and the sale of raffle tickets, and instead are donating money and gift cards directly to teachers, or giving cash to schools or even starting fundraising businesses.

To be more effective in their fundraising, charities must find ways to connect with donors and make a compelling case for support that is personal to the donors and engages them in causes they care about.

That of course is easier said than done, but charities cannot continue to approach fundraising as if they simply are entitled to support.

To raise the money they need, charities must approach donors the old-fashioned way, with passion, respect and connection.


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