Up Thanks to Small Donors
Driven by increased need during the Covid-19 pandemic, charitable giving grew 10.6% in 2020 over 2019. Despite early concerns that pandemic-induced economic hardship would suppress philanthropy, charities benefited from gifts of all sizes from people in a broad array of income levels. Small donors, however, outdid more affluent Americans. These results are from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, which is managed by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in collaboration with GivingTuesday and analyzes donation data from the Growth in Giving Database. The data analysis includes giving details from 2,496 non-profit organizations based in the U.S. that raise $100,000 to $10 million annually. Gifts of less than $250 grew by 15.3% over 2019. Gifts of $250 to $999 increased 8%. And gifts of $1,000 or more increased 10.4%. One reason for the rise in small gifts could be the Congressional decision a year ago to let everyone take charitable deductions, not just people who itemize. The overall number of donors grew by 7.3% over 2019. That growth was led primarily by an 18.5% in increase in new supporters and a 13.7% increase in “recaptured” donors — those who had given to a charity before 2019, did not give in 2019, but then gave to that same charity in 2020.
The Bezos Earth Fund launched in 2020 with a $10 billion commitment from Jeff Bezos in support of efforts to address climate change has appointed Andrew Steer as President and CEO, as well as announced plans to spend down by 2030. Steer has served for the past eight years as President and CEO of the World Resources Institute, which was awarded $100 million by the Bezos Earth Fund in November as part of a $791 million inaugural round of funding to 16 organizations. Spending down by 2030 would mean allocating $1 billion a year on average. That it plans to “invest…in the private sector” suggests that “at least part of the Bezos Earth Fund’s structure would be through a limited liability company, since it is difficult for other philanthropic vehicles such as private foundations to make major investments in for-profit companies,” Recode reports, noting that “an LLC, while more nimbly allowing for for-profit investments, is not required to file public tax documents that offer regular disclosures.”
Why are U.S. universities pre-eminent in global higher education? Previous explanations have included the country’s massive economy, its enormous budget for scientific research and its history of immigration. But a scholar suggests that the answer could be something far more attainable: The fact that they are governed largely by their alumni. Shailendra Raj Mehta, President and Director of Mica, a higher education institution specializing in strategic marketing and communication in India, researched the members of governing boards at leading private and public U.S. universities and found that the majority were predominantly made up of alumni, while several consisted entirely of former students. He argued that this was why older institutions had managed to sustain excellence over a long period of time and why newer universities had built prestige quickly. Higher-ranked universities and institutions with bigger endowments generally had a larger share of alumni on their boards.
Women’s Philanthropy Institute research sheds light on charitable giving decision-making in the general population. The report analyzes the first new data on this topic in 15 years and finds that 61.5% of couples make giving decisions together — a number that has declined from 73.4% in 2005. When one partner in the household decides, women are more likely to do so. Women Give 2021 — which is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — found that couples who decide together about charitable giving are typically older and have children, while younger couples are more likely to decide separately or have one partner make the decision for the household. The report suggests this may be due to some couples marrying later and entering the relationship with preferred charitable causes, in addition to shifting gender roles within couples. Among sole deciders, individuals have varying thresholds for how much they will give without consulting their partners; this amount is much higher for men compared to women. Most couples make giving decisions without any outside consultation. Only 1.1% have ever talked about giving with a financial or philanthropy advisor.
Most non-profit leaders intimately know the value of holding onto development professionals who demonstrate that wonderful blend of a knowing head and an honest heart. Yet, turnover is running rampant everywhere in the fundraising profession. Money and the compensation package are essential for holding onto good staff, but don’t tell the whole story. Our thanks to our friends at Candid Learning for featuring our essay on making fundraiser retention a high priority just like donor retention
Recently, legendary country singer and pop culture icon Dolly Parton received a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. What makes this story interesting is that her philanthropy catalyzed the creation of the medicine she received. Parton is an example of how private philanthropy is often behind the biggest medical discoveries and the distribution of life-saving treatments. In a viral Twitter message, the singer tweeted, “Dolly gets a dose of her own medicine” and colorfully admonished her fans to do the same. In an accompanying video shot — no pun intended — just before the doctor arrived with her vaccine, Parton broke out in song, crooning one of her classics, “Jolene,” but updated for the occasion: “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine. I’m begging of you please don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late.” In April 2020, Parton first donated $1 million for coronavirus research to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. At the time, little was known about the coronavirus. However, efforts to fund a cure were already underway. A long time and active philanthropist, her generosity includes the Dollywood Foundation.
From Charity to Justice
On the Bookshelf: 10 Hidden Heroes
You might want to get this book for one of your children, grandchildren or other young people you would like to inspire. In this fun-filled seek-and-find book, New York Times bestselling author and President of Save the Children Action Network, Mark Shriver highlights the various ways children and adults can be real-life heroes in their everyday lives. Little ones learn to count the individual heroes who shine a light on the importance of helping others whether it’s through teaching, caring for animals, protecting the environment, or keeping others from harm. Adults who read along can help their children make connections to the unseen acts of compassion that occur in their very own neighborhoods. Illustrated with colorful drawings by Laura Watson, 10 Hidden Heroes proves that acts of kindness and generosity can be found all around us. We just need to know where to look.
Video Chat Fatigue
Quiz: Best Managed Companies
Stratagems is published monthly by Jim Eskin, Founder of Eskin Fundraising Training, LLC. We offer workshops and customized training sessions for board members, staff and volunteers of non-profit organizations of all kinds and sizes. For details about our services and information, or to find out how to schedule a training session for your organization, visit our website. Follow our events on Facebook, and read more articles about philanthropy on our LinkedIn page.
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ANSWERS TO THIS MONTH’S QUIZ: 1=b, 2=d, 3=c 4=a, 5=e