AFP NYC Chapter Meeting: Fundraising Insights From Folks on the Front Lines

Following Association of Fundraising Professionals CEO Andrew Watt’s keynote at the AFP New York City Chapter’s annual meeting last week, three fundraising professionals on the front lines discussed a multitude of issues surrounding the fundraising sector, including corporate trends, major donor concerns and changes to the tax law.

Here are some quick-hitting quotes from discussion panelists Timothy McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation; James McClelland, philanthropic advisor at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; and Jason Lee, director of government relations and general counsel at for the AFP.

  • “The nonprofit sector hasn’t invested much time or money on leadership development.” —Timothy McClimon
  • “The trends I’m seeing: There’s a push from donors to see impact and quantifying them, but there’s also an understanding that stares are still important. Marrying those is vital. Have statistics, but have stories too.” —James McClelland
  • “Where media used to focus on good deeds, now media switched to a gotcha model to sell papers.” —Jason Lee
  • “Government is good at two things: doing nothing and overreacting.” —J.L.
  • “There’s not a great sense to defend the sector like in the past. There’s more cynicism.” —J.L.
  • “We have to be so strong within ourselves and within the sector because if you go to Google right now there are 400-500 stories on charity fraud.” —J.L.
  • “Saving the charitable tax deduction was good news, but it just hit the pause button. It will come up again.” —J.L.
  • “There’s a sense in the corporate world that giving is important, but sector uncertainty on giving, the financial crisis, the fiscal cliff are still affecting growth.” —J.M.
  • “Always communicate with foundation partners — the good and the bad. We always are in touch with grantees and potential grantees. There’s no excuse for no communication. We want real-time communication, more communication, not less.” —T.M.
  • “The continued sluggish growth in the economy is affecting donors, but there will be more donations.” —J.M.
  • “If you could figure out the economy, you could make lots of money. It’s a crapshoot. But generally in slow growth, people are very cautious about spending. If you can’t control revenue, you can control expenses.” —T.M.
  • “We don’t see the revenue growth that we’d like to see, so corporations cut back. That’s the environment we’re in, and it will affect corporate philanthropy. There will be no huge growth. It’s a period of instability, insecurity and caution.” —T.M.
  • “Our giving will remain flat. As a friend of mine says, ‘flat is the new up.’ We’re hoping to grow.” —T.M.
  • “We need to open the dialogue about the sector as a whole.” —J.L.
  • “You can always be an advocate. Keep contact with your legislators and councils. Fundraisers are best suited for advocacy because it comes down to two things: building relationships and building a case for support.” —J.L.
  • “Government needs your input. If it works in a vacuum, there are unintended consequences. This is an opportunity to come to the table, and you can do it directly or indirectly. Make your voices heard — government wants to hear from you and needs to hear from you. Give them dollars and data, but also give them your stories.” —J.L.
  • “There is growing philanthropy abroad, especially in China and India. Keep an eye out on that.” —J.M.
  • “Global philanthropy is affecting U.S. nonprofits’ ability to attract money because corporations are increasing contributions to organizations outside the U.S. More than half of the employees at American Express are outside the U.S., and we tend to give where our employees are. The squeeze on U.S. funding is happening and accelerating as more business is conducted outside the U.S.” —T.M.
  • “Every fundraiser should look at their organization’s 990. As advisors, we go to GuideStar and check that out. The new 990 has a lot more narrative components to it, so check it out. It’s something simple organizations can do.” —J.M.
  • “Yes, the 990 is critically important.” —T.M.
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