A look back, a look forward: possibility

January 17, 2017

We’ve recently discussed the ways that the themes of promise and challenge shaped the philanthropic landscape for 2016 and set the course for 2017. In our conclusion today, we discuss the possibilities ahead.

With the promise of demonstrated philanthropic growth yet an uncertainty about societal attitudes toward giving in a post-Brexit and President Trump world, it is important to keep focused on data and donor behavior. Grow your donor pool by understanding your donors.

  • The Pew Research Center reports that Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation in the U.S., and they are catching up in the U.K. (numbering 13.8 million behind Boomers at 14.8 million). Not only does an institution acquire and retain donors, it also inherits donors’ attitudes and experiences about giving. You can help “train” your younger donor base to be engaged advocates who are financially generous. By building more relationships with Millennial prospects, providing them with opportunity for volunteering and sharing feedback, crafting compelling stories for investment in your institution, and broadening your outreach to include robust social media strategies, you have the opportunity to grow a broader and larger base of prospective donors long into the future as your Baby Boomer population begins to decline.
  • Educational development teams – and indeed, educational institutional leadership – must start changing their fundraising mindset. Donors are not giving to your school. They are giving through your institution to accomplish their philanthropic goals – like giving girls the confidence to lead, offering underserved youth a step up, finding cures, solving world problems, maintaining an institutional mission of faith or access or servant leadership.
  • The majority (55.1%) of high net worth donors intend to continue giving at the same level over the next three years and 28.2% intend to increase their contribution levels, according to the 2016 U.S Trust® Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy Report. But that is not permission to put your fundraising strategies on autopilot. While you may be focused on prospect movement and major gift metrics, remember that sharing a value proposition/investment impact within your case for support and bolstering stewardship efforts is critical to donor retention.
  • That same study also found that 53.5% of high net worth donors are not certain their gifts are having the impact they intended. While 78% of wealthy donors do not monitor or evaluate the impact of their charitable giving, this vacuum can too easily be filled by unplanned negative publicity or “shinier object” philanthropic causes. High net worth individuals also identified three public policy issues that mattered the most to them; the top three were health care (29%), education (27.7%), and terrorism/national security (26.9%). Tailor your messaging and co-create your big ideas with these potentially generous donors.

Building donor loyalty is hard work that pays off. Affordable technological innovation, richer data, better metrics, and more research on donor behavior are at every institution’s fingertips. Make good use of it and remember Graham-Pelton’s post-Brexit and U.S. election mantra: “Keep Calm and Carry On Asking!”

– Pat House, Ed. D., Senior Vice President, Client and Consultant Development


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