Dig Deeper When Examining Fundraising Results

I was surprised last week when I saw postings of a Chronicle of Philanthropy article headlined “America’s Wealthiest Donors Slow Their Giving.” It seemed to indicate a trend.
When I dug deeper and read the article, I found it was actually based on a listing of the gifts that billionaires publicly announced in 2012.

Digging further still, it read, “Thirteen of the commitments in 2012 were for $100 million or more (counting Mr. Buffett’s), three more than in 2011 and seven more than in 2010.” So, actually the headline could have read “$100 Million Gifts Increase in 2012.” And, it noted that three of the $100 million gifts had been announced in December and “that could be a positive sign for 2013.” How this was determined was not clear.

Just reading the headline could draw one conclusion, but a more thorough read could draw a totally different conclusion — and the article doesn’t account for any anonymous gifts (some of which are publicized and some not).

During the 2008 presidential election cycle, I received an e-mail from a trusted friend citing a candidate’s record on an issue. While the content surprised me, the forward cited an article in The Wall Street Journal — and even had the newspaper’s masthead and the date it was published. Curious, I dug deeper — and there was no such article to be found.

When I was a young CEO, I recall meeting with staff on fundraising events and blindly accepting the report that our events were going well. I felt that if they said so, surely it was a fact. After the first round of events, the actual results came in and some of the reports of events doing well were justified, and many were not. I learned then to dig deeper and ask specifics about the status of a project!

Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.

Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.

Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.

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