At a recent meeting, while discussing external forces that could impact one of our client organizations, a participant said they heard philanthropy is forecast to be down 40% next year. My ears pricked up, and my eyes got big. Naturally, I wanted to know more! After the meeting, I sought ought the source. No luck. As a result, I began poking around to get a sense of our philanthropic environment so we can be prepared to navigate these seemingly rough seas.
By the numbers
Understanding the story behind the stats
Using my “googles” I scoured the interwebs to see where this 40% number came from. While I couldn’t track down that specific data point, I found plenty of other intriguing stuff worth considering. According to the crowdfunding platform Kiva, among a group of 2,000 Americans surveyed, many planned to give less to charity this year than last year. What I found most intriguing is that 42% of those surveyed said donating was for the privileged.
GivingTuesday and the Association of Fundraising Professionals said the number of donors nationwide fell steeply in the second quarter, driven by declines in donations of less than $500. Nonetheless, gifts were up. This trend of fewer donors giving more has been happening for some time.
Year-over-year, philanthropy is consistently about 2% of GDP. And even with inflation, giving is still 2.1% of GDP, according to Giving USA 2022.
All these numbers made my head spin, so I took a step back to reflect on just what it is we’re trying to accomplish through philanthropy. It is, after all, about helping our fellow humans. As Prince said:
“Dearly beloved, we’re gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”
And the only way we get through it is by helping each other and recognizing our collective humanity.
In times of uncertainty, it can be especially tough to make sense of data, coupled with transactional thinking, and we can easily lose sight of the end game. Don’t get me wrong; data analytics keep us honest, and good metrics help us be more effective. At the same time, especially in rough seas, it behooves us to tighten up the fundamentals, focus on the horizon, and navigate using our north star. Here are three tips to help:
3 fundamentals to stay focused amidst uncertainty
Focus on the fundamentals: Fundraising is a human experience—grounded in relationships. Speak to your supporters as people (not ATMS), offer them a welcoming place to make a difference, give them ownership of their impact, and help them see themselves in your work. Donors, especially small donors, are so much more than money; they are a powerful current that fuels the change you seek to make in the world.
Set your sights on the horizon: In the short term, it could be rough. But as a nonprofit leader, you have a vision for the future. While gloom and doom may feel like the natural response, evidence suggests that spending 10% of your communication on the problem, and 90% on how you’re addressing the problem, inspires people to jump on board. Paint the picture of what’s possible and help people envision the course ahead.
Navigate using your “north star”: There’s a lot of confusion about the “north star.” Some say it’s a goal, others call it the vision. We’ve found that the best way (meaning the most helpful way) to think about your “north star” is as your MISSION. It’s always with you, guiding you no matter the circumstances. It never wavers, and when all your high-tech navigation gear breaks down, you can pull out a sextant and navigate by that most celestial object, your north star. Let it be your guide.
’m not trying to sugar-coat the moment we find ourselves in as nonprofit leaders. Yet, in times of uncertainty, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we’re playing a long game of transformation. Building and nurturing networks of people engaged in meaningful relationships ensure that even as things flux and change, organizations have the support networks necessary to sustain their work and impact over time.
Let your spirit be your guide this season; lead with grace, compassion, and love. May your holidays be filled with all the things that make them worthwhile for you and those you love.
Thank you for being a part of our community!