Four Ways to Engage Donors in the New Era of Philanthropy
Key Takeaways from this year’s Virginia Fund Raising Institute
By Marissa Monell
“The new era of philanthropy is focused on demonstrating the impact of giving. Now more than ever, giving is recognized as influencing our economy, driving social change and empowering more women and communities of color to lead through giving. To me, a key gauge of this new era of philanthropy is better demonstrating impact by understanding diversity and investigating what motivates giving in our generous country.”
Keith Curtis, President, The Curtis Group
The diversification of donors was a common theme throughout the conference. For example, in the keynote, “Women in Philanthropy: A Force To Be Reckoned With,” Claiborne Mason, president of the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls, discussed the importance of strategically engaging women donors and addressing the common misconception that the decision to give is made by the man of the household. She later illustrated some of the different ways that women want to be engaged. At her organization, she strives to create educational gatherings specifically for her female donors to engage with other women philanthropists and learn about the work that the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls is doing to help children in crisis.
So, what does the research say about the role of women in philanthropy?
- Women control more than 51% of U.S. wealth. That amounts to $14 trillion (Women of Wealth, Ettinger, H. and O’Connor, E., Family Wealth Advisors Council, 2012).
- Women are driving or are equal decision-makers in 98% of all philanthropic decisions (The 2011 Study on High-Net-Worth, Women’s Philanthropy and The Impact of Women’s Giving Networks, December 2011).
- As women’s wealth increases, they are becoming more prominent philanthropists. Women’s fund and foundation donors give higher amounts to charity and to more charitable organizations. They’re also more likely to give at capacity to women and girls and be satisfied with their gifts to these causes (IUPUI Women’s Philanthropy Institute).
- Donors to women’s funds and foundations are more motivated to give by being on the board or volunteering for an organization and believing their gift can make a difference. Only 11% say they are motivated by tax benefits, compared to 23% of general donors (IUPUI Women’s Philanthropy Institute).
Practically, what does the new era of philanthropy mean for your day-to-day fundraising?
- Embrace diversity: Ensure that your board is composed of diverse members, including diverse race, ethnicity, age and gender. Research conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that nonprofit boards with more women members are more involved, engage more in fundraising, and participate more in public policy advocacy. Their CEOs also rate these boards’ fundraising performance higher.
- Create diverse opportunities for engagement: As you create donor engagement plans, make sure you consider the different motivators. Do you have opportunities to volunteer? Do you communicate the impact of a donor’s gift? Do you also calculate and share the impact of a donor’s investment in your organization (budgets, efficiency, effectiveness)? Do you have collaborative opportunities for donors to engage with your organization, leadership, board members, other donors, those served by your organization?
- Be direct: As you spend time building relationships with your donors, be direct in your conversations and ask:
- How do they want to be engaged?
- Why do they choose to support your organization or that specific program?
- How and about what do they want to be kept informed?
- How do they want to be acknowledged for their support?
- Educate and communicate: Make sure your entire staff, not just the development team, is educated about your organization, the role of philanthropy in supporting your work and how to engage diverse supporters. Use new research and findings to educate your board on the new era of philanthropy. Use national trends and your organization’s results to educate your donors on the impact of their support and the difference it is making.
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