52 Tips in 52 Weeks: Charitable Giving

October 19, 2020

Good news! Charitable Giving is up in the First Half of 2020 – How will nonprofits respond to welcoming new donors?

A recent report in the Chronicle of Philanthropy showed that charitable giving was up 7.5 percent in the first half of 2020 over the first half of 2019.  This growth in giving couldn’t have come at a better time in the life cycles of so many nonprofits—grappling to meet growing demands in an all-too challenging environment.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy article describing the report by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project of the Association of Fundraising Professionals stated that those donors who gave less than $250 “were a major driver in growth.”  There was positive news to celebrate in a variety of different gift and donor categories.  In my view, the most exciting finding was that “the … number of … new donors increas[ed] by 12.6 percent.”  That means that many, many nonprofit organizations are finding themselves in the enviable position of being recipients of not only new contributions, but contributions from individuals who haven’t given in the past. What an exciting responsibility for nonprofit leaders. Many in our midst have the chance truly to impress these new contributors with excellent work and stewardship and place themselves in a position to nurture relationships with these donors in the months and years to come.

How does your organization communicate with and care for its new donors?  Do you have a specific communications strategy for expressing gratitude, getting the donors involved, or sharing the successes of your organization?  Do you work to ensure that new donors are afforded the opportunity to become better acquainted with those parts of your organization’s mission that most reflect their values and priorities?   Do you take intentional steps to treat these new donors in a respectful and ethical manner?   Do you give your donors the chance to give their gifts anonymously or limit how their contact information will be used?  These are just a few of the ways you can pursue best practices in fundraising and working with donors.

The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector states: “Nonprofits should respect the donor’s right to determine how their name and contact information is used, including providing opportunities to remain anonymous, request that the organization curtail repeated mailings or telephone solicitations from in-house lists, and have their names removed from any mailing lists which are sold, rented, or exchanged.”  As nonprofits work with their donors, especially donors that are new to giving or new to their organizations, they need to pay careful attention to cultivating a culture of careful donor stewardship and respect.  As we enter the fall giving season, I encourage you to reflect on the ways that your organization models exemplary donor practices.  Take some time to determine if your donor engagement and privacy practices can be strengthened and, where appropriate, commit to making improvements.

For more information on how to ensure donor privacy and respectful treatment of donors, we encourage you to check out the Standards for Excellence educational resource packet, Fundraising, Solicitation, Acceptance of Gifts, and Working with Donors which includes a full description of donor relationships and privacy, donor intent, acceptance of gifts, fundraising by third parties, and also helpful tools like model solicitations and acceptance of gifts policy.

This educational resource packet and the full series of all packets  – including sample policies, tools, and model procedures to help nonprofits achieve best practices in their governance and management – can be accessed by contacting a licensed Standards for Excellence replication partner, one of the over 150 Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants, or by becoming a member of the Standards for Excellence Institute.

Amy Coates Madsen is the Director of Programs for Maryland Nonprofits and the Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to standards by all organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute is a program of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations where Amy has served for more than twenty-four years. Amy is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the association’s comprehensive ethics and accountability program and efforts to replicate the program nationally. She serves as a frequent trainer and writer in the areas of board conduct, program evaluation, program replication, fundraising ethics, and nonprofit management. She has taught courses on nonprofit ethics and accountability at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies Certificate Program on Nonprofit Management.