Nov. 15 marks National Philanthropy Day, an observance promoted by a related trade group and not a bad day to start planning a fourth-quarter charitable giving story.
Checking in on corporate giving is a must; local social, science and cultural institutions no doubt depend on support from your area’s corporate leaders. Here’s a recent report from the Chronicle of Philanthropy that notes companies are giving these days of their employees’ talent in additon to cash; that might be a fresh angle to pursue – what sort of mentoring or volunteer groups do your region’s employers support?
Another area of interest: Corporate matching of workers’ charitable gifts. This is a perk prized by employees and charities; what are trends among your region’s employers?
Crowd funding. I’d say this is the freshest topic of the year; online sites like CrowdRise allow individuals to create fundraising events for causes they cherish. Ask area non-profits how they are benefitting from crowd-sourcing and what the drawbacks are. After all, many crowdsourcing sites take a cut of the action; would non-profits prefer a check sent directly to them? Or is the net effect of extra publicity and participation a boon to fundraising?
Patterns. We often focus on how much giving goes on in a community of individuals or corporation, but perhaps this is a good time to analyze patterns. How are contributions being directed now compared to pre-recession or early recession economies? Are more social welfare and basic-needs groups receiving support, compared to cultural organizations or other “discretionary” causes? And how have dollar amounts trended? Are charities relying on high-volume, low-dollar contributors, or is aid coming mostly in the form of large lump sums from fewer donors? Sorting out these patterns, even anecdotally via questions of non-profit executives, will provide interesting insight into need and assistance in your region.
Scams. This is a perennial; check with your state’s attorney general, local law enforcement, the regional postal inspector and others about trends in charitable-giving scams. This year, predictably, fake donation sites for Hurricane Sandy victims are rife, as CNN reports.
Marketing. Giving USA is a project of the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University; they offer a variety of reports and surveys for sale and likely will share selections free of charge with journalists. The center is just out this month with a survey, in partnership with Bank of America, of charitable giving among wealthy households; among other things it finds that about one-quarter of these high-net-worth households plan to increase giving in coming years, with about half planning to hold steady. It’s noteworthy that interest in donor-advised funds or foundations were attracting more interest; a sign perhaps that contributors want more control over the use of their philanthropic dollars — this might be an interesting angle for a giving story.
The report also addresses motivations for charitable giving and, interestingly, why donors say they stopped giving to particular causes. I’ve often thought this was a little-explored facet of fundraising; the marketing campaigns that strike the right note without turning off prospective donors. For example, there’s a heart-rending animal-welfare ad that runs on area cable stations – you’d think it would make soft-hearted viewers snatch up thier checkbooks, but I’ve heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that the ad is so painful people snatch up their TV remotes instead and change the channel. If you take up a stoary about how charities market themselves – what sort of appeals work, compared with those that don’t — the Center for Philanthropy report offers interesting context.