June’s Chronicle of Philanthropy article, “Good Intentions,” by Marc Gunther (link) that focused on the impact of the first decade of the Giving Pledge started me thinking about the role the nonprofit sector plays in connecting donors to the specific causes that motivate them to give. In 2010 when Melinda and Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and several other super-wealthy philanthropic minded individuals started the Giving Pledge, the national buzz was the initiative would turbocharge philanthropy, making significant impact to drive social change in areas of growing inequality, opportunities for the less fortunate and ensuring the future of the American Dream. The intention was not just to give but to drive effective philanthropy. But, according to Gunther’s article, ten years later the vast majority of the ultrarich have taken a pass and giving is still stuck at two percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
In my view, there are several reasons why the Giving Pledge has not quite taken off. A common thread is that giving money away can be as hard, or harder than it was to make. From deciding what types of charities to invest in, to understanding the impact their gift may make, donors at all levels struggle with how to give, when and where. Therefore, the organizations with larger and more sophisticated fundraising departments by and large receive the most gifts.
So what can nonprofit organizations do to help drive giving?
Beyond their own relationship management and stewardship activities, nonprofits can market ways to give to the broader community by communicating about how philanthropic impact is appropriately measured, where donors can find this information and which “watchdog” organizations are keeping the information most relevant.
Gunter’s article points out that there is no shortage of nonprofits that have been properly vetted. Here are just a few of the resources available:
The Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania
GuideStar by Candid
IRS Form 990 – (Completed in its entirety as if it were a communications or marketing tool)
So, how do you help potential donors connect with your mission and choose an organization to receive their much-needed dollars?
- Have you checked to see if your nonprofit is listed with these vetting organizations and that information about your organization is accurate, timely and complete?
- Understand and be able to easily communicate which issues in your community your organization is prepared to impact or better yet, help solve.
- Go the extra mile by promoting in your own publications where donors can find you in a greater context by comparing you with others who have similar missions.
In my opinion, people who want to give will find a way and a place to do so. More and more though, I see donors opting instead to either stand on the sidelines or create their own nonprofits because they can’t seem to readily find or trust an existing charity to invest in.