A spirit of understanding in the season of giving
Our members who are involved in managing corporate giving programs may be getting very busy with grantees as we approach the end of the calendar year. I wanted to pause and thank you for all of the important causes you support and the good work that you do in our communities all over the world.
We recognize that your job is hard. It is difficult to make decisions about how to invest limited dollars. You are often behind the scenes absorbing many points of view from colleagues and others, making sure that your cause partners and executive leaders connect successfully, while managing issues on “both sides of the aisle.” You also have to say “no” to many worthy causes –an unenviable task. For all of those trials and for the good results that come from them, thank you.
Giving USA estimated that total dollars given by corporations in 2010 exceeded $15 billion (about 4 to 5 percent of all gifts given in the U.S. each year) and the Chronicle for Philanthropy estimates that corporate giving will stay level in 2011. Charity Navigator recently invited donors and charities to take part in a survey about year-end giving trends for 2011. The survey was completed by 565 donors and 101 charities. Charities responding to this survey noted that they receive 41percent of their annual contributions in the last few weeks of the year. That is a huge proportion (and a potentially huge vulnerability and source of stress) if you are in a nonprofit trying to manage an annual budget.
The Charity Navigator survey also asked both the donors and the charities how important they considered various issues to be in considering which charity to support. There were some interesting differences between the perceptions of donors and charities. Donors and charities are mostly aligned on the importance of a charity’s financial health and effectiveness at achieving their missions. When questioned about the importance of a charity’s accountability and transparency (this includes ethics, good governance, disclosure practices), the majority of donors (87 percent) indicated that this issue is very important to them. In contrast, fewer of the charities (73 percent) believed donors considered their accountability and transparency important when considering whether or not to make a donation. The study also showed that donors are very concerned about nonprofit executive compensation. Fifty-six percent of donors rated this as important when selecting a charity to support. Charities’ didn’t anticipate this as an important issue for their donors, with only 12 percent identifying it as such. Similarly, Guidestar’s “Money for Good” study released in November of this year notes that all donors, despite different motivations for giving, identify effectiveness and impact data as the areas where users say the information is important and is not meeting their needs.
Donors were asked if they planned to give at year-end. More than 90 percent indicated that they do plan to give in this quarter – about the same percentage as in 2010. Most will give about the same amount. Some will give more and some will give less. Thankfully, this matches closely the charities’ expectations of what they will receive.
The season of giving is driven, in large part, by empathy. This study made me think that we might benefit from extending that impulse not only to those in need, but also to those who work alongside us to serve those in need. At year-end, when the pervasive messages of the holiday season remind us to be thankful for what we have and to remember those who are less fortunate, and with the recession putting more pressure on many nonprofit organizations (and their corporate partners) to serve more people in need with even more constrained resources, it would be a shame to have potentially effective partnerships derailed by misunderstanding or misalignment of partner priorities.
The Charity Navigator study presents a terrific opportunity to initiate a conversation with nonprofit partners who you value, but who might not understand the pressures that corporate giving professionals can encounter when advocating support for specific charities. Appreciating others’ perspectives is the first step toward being able to meet others’ expectations. We all have time constraints and want to make most efficient use of our time together to achieve work goals. Securing the needs of the partnership only helps to create a stable base for serving your philanthropic mission more effectively.
Having a hard time justifying time out of the office to have a conversation about your partnership? Think of it as an investment. A recent study from the Academy of Marketing Studies shows that in order to realize fully the brand equity that can come with longstanding sponsorships and philanthropy, the relationships need to illustrate both a compatible partnership between brand and cause and a long-term commitment. Spending time not only on the needs of the people you serve, but also on your partners’ needs can lead to even more stability and better outcomes for the recipients of your philanthropy that can benefit all of us. So have a friendly holiday lunch, or make it a New Year’s resolution to invest in your partnership. It will only give us more to thank you for.