Read the Giving USA Free Executive Summary
I attended a briefing today at the Cincinnati Museum Center in which Melissa S. Brown, former Managing Editor of Giving USA, gave a keynote presentation on the findings. There were two key points to come out of the presentation:
- Individual donors comprise the majority of giving to 501 (c)(3) s in the United States, somewhere close to 88% when you consider bequests and family foundations. Corporations only give around 5% and somewhere around half of this is in-kind donations.
- Life events often help define a person's giving. This can be an inheritance, a disease, a tragedy, or other situations. Not-for-profits need to be there for potential donors to help them determine the best use of their money.
Government Reduction in Dollars Toughest Issue Facing Not-for-Profits
The toughest issue both panelists and attendees saw in the current scene and in the future is the drop in the availability of government funds. Throughout the presentation, numerous people reiterated that they did not think any one area could make up for this loss. It will take increases in many areas to bring monetary support back to where organizations need them to be. The need to look at possible partnerships and mergers was stressed by Charlene Ventura, President and CEO of the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati.
Social Enterprise One Promising Area of Increased Revenue for Organizations
Lee Carter, a panelist during the presentation and current Vice-Chair of the 2012 World Choir Games, mentioned that he thought not-for-profits should explore more seriously opportunities to sell what they do best and create a revenue stream apart from giving. This piqued some curiosity and an audience member asked a further question about how to do this. Rick Hulefeld, Executive Director of Children Inc., described how his organization had developed a niche market for research-based children's music which helps them create patterns of positive self-talk to increase chances of success later in life. They sell this music around the world.
At the same time, Hulefeld still insisted that individual donors are the key to successful fundraising.
Trend of Individual Giving Known, but Not Always Easy to Act On
Though the trend of individual giving is known, the event helped attendees who need evidence like this to take back to board members and use in strategic planning. As one executive director mentioned after the event, boards can often focus too much on immediate returns and forget the essential component of cultivating relationships with donors, real people with real interests that organizations must know and care about.