Wow, what a time to launch our blog. After getting back from the Giving Institute Summer Symposium in Puerto Rico, I joined Wendy and Wesley in Charlottesville at the Virginia Fund Raising Institute (VFRI) conference. In between, The Curtis Group staff held our annual strategic planning session. So now we’ve got enough great info for a few weeks’ worth of blog posts.
As you might imagine, the economy was the talk of both conferences. At the Giving Institute’s, economist Dr. Loren Scott, president of Loren Scott Associates, said that while the economy may be a short-term challenge, our nation’s demographics are positive for philanthropy. An example: between 2000 and 2010 the all-important 45-to-65 age group will grow by 31 percent.
Patrick Rooney, director of Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, shared some eye-opening data from a Bank of America/Center on Philanthropy survey done on households with incomes over $200,000 or a net worth of at least $1 million. Nonprofits that meet basic needs are supported by 81% of high-net-worth (HNW) households but only 29% of the general population. The disparity is even greater for the arts — they’re supported by 68.4% of HNW households but only 8.3% of the general population. And education gets support from 77% of HNW households but only 15.6% of the general population.
At VFRI Wendy heard comments from many attendees that reflected a rising confidence in the economy. (She also reminded me to mention a client meeting the other day where a volunteer leader upped his pledge by $50,000 and brought in another $100,000 gift.) Wesley heard validation of how crucial it is to stay in touch with donors right now, noting that some are turning outright gifts into planned gifts, changing restricted gifts to unrestricted, or otherwise modifying their giving rather than not giving at all.
During my VFRI presentation, “Conducting a Major Campaign in the Current Economy,” I was asked this: “What if we’re ready for capital campaign but our board says we’re just not doing it right now?” And here’s how I responded: Even if your board is saying no, you can still be doing everything required for a campaign except making the ask. Why? Because when everyone feels better about the economy, campaigns will be launching like crazy. You’ll be in much better shape if you’ve used this time to lay the groundwork – cultivating relationships, learning the interests of your top donors, training your board. In fact, this is an ideal time for board members to get comfortable meeting with people to tell your story without having to ask for a gift.
What do you think? Was that a good answer? We invite you to help us turn this blog into a true conversation about philanthropy by submitting questions and offering your feedback and advice.