According to Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, charitable giving in the U.S. reached its highest level since the Great Recession. In 2014, Americans donated a total of $358.38 billion to nonprofit organizations, representing five years of continued growth. The positive trajectory of charitable giving in the U.S. is a significant representation of the industry’s current strength and its potential for future growth.
In conjunction with the publication of this year’s report, Campbell & Company collaborated with nonprofit professionals across the nation to discuss the current state of philanthropy. Dynamic presentations took place through a series of events in Chicago, Washington D.C., St. Paul, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. We also held two webinars; a national webinar and a Pacific Northwest webinar. With over 1,300 attendees and several presenters, panelists, moderators, and co-sponsors, we captured fascinating insights and translated Giving USA’s data into actionable results.
Below, we summarize key insights shared in our national webinar and events.
Although Giving USA 2015 results remain positive, panelists emphasized the importance of harnessing the industry’s momentum while remaining cautious of economic fluctuations. Panelists suggested that nonprofit professionals continue to think about the lessons we learned from the Great Recession and continue to apply them in order to sustain the industry’s positive growth. Other challenges identified by nonprofit leaders included difficulty in authentically communicating mission and impact, effectively promoting organizational growth, fostering and managing new and current donor relationships, and successfully securing large gifts. Nonprofit leaders also discussed the difficulty in not only diversifying sources of giving (i.e. individuals, family foundations, corporations, etc.), but also in identifying which areas to dedicate funding to in order to maximize a gift’s impact.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
Organizational representatives described steps their institutions had taken to ensure their sustainability and growth over the past year, including:
Differentiate your mission and define your impact. Impact means different things to each organization. It’s important to identify exactly what it means for your organization and learn how to effectively communicate that externally. Our panelists suggested that organizations reflect on what makes them different. They posed the question, “What do [you] do that nobody else does?” Individuals give to impact. People give to success. As a result, organizations must identify how their impact differs from others to successfully communicate and attract support.
Leverage volunteers and donors. Increasingly, individuals are requesting the opportunity to experience hands-on philanthropic work that exhibits tangible impact that they can hear and see on a personal level. Provide volunteers and potential donors with opportunities to take part in transformational work that speaks to your mission. By providing opportunities to engage with your mission on a more personal and deeper level, volunteers and donors will feel more connected to your work. If donors feel more connected to your mission, they will likely give more.
Understanding AND stewarding not only your largest donors, but also those who make smaller contributions. Donors who contribute at lower levels could potentially become larger donors in the long-term.
Exploring new opportunities for giving. Corporate giving continues to increase. As a result, don’t hesitate to identify and develop new partnerships.
Communicating with policy makers. Local, state, and federal officials influence the environment in which impacts nonprofit organizations, so it is important to reach out to policy makers and communicate the needs and importance of the causes that you are serving.
Diversify donors. Explore untapped communities and engage new donor groups. Identify potential groups that may have particular interests or values that relate to your organization’s work. Learn how to connect your mission to the values of individuals in these groups and implement strategies to effectively engage them.
A LOOK TO THE LONG-TERM
Panelists and attendees alike were excited and optimistic about philanthropy’s continued growth. Panelists expressed admiration and recognition for fundraisers and philanthropists. The positive results are not only an indication of Americans’ generosity, but also of the hard work and dedication of our nonprofit professionals nationwide. Panelists also suggested organizations to show resilience. Although the results are strong, markets and economies will continue to have ups and downs. So, it is fundamentally important to think long-term and plan strategically.
Campbell & Company thanks all of the organizations and non-profit leaders for their involvement in the Giving USA events. Click here for a list of all of the events.
Click here to listen to Campbell & Company’s Giving USA 2015 webinar.