Nonprofits Must 'Raise the Bar' in Fundraising, Commonfund Whitepaper Finds
Press release (Sept. 4, 2012) — Nonprofits have to “raise the bar” in fundraising, according to a new Commonfund whitepaper, “Essential not Optional: A strategic approach to fund-raising for endowments,” by John S. Griswold, executive director, and William F. Jarvis, managing director, Commonfund Institute. In an era when many believe that returns from financial markets will be lower than in the recent past, endowed nonprofits no longer have the option of treating fundraising as a tactical resource. Fundraising has become an essential strategic capability that endowed institutions will have to build or acquire in order to thrive — or, perhaps, to survive.
Griswold and Jarvis offer a look into the current state of giving to endowed institutions and the forces that may influence it in the future. Perhaps most important is the structural change that has occurred over the last 20 years in leading institutions’ thinking about the development process. Whereas fundraising was at one time viewed as a tactical function for the organization, taking the form primarily of annual fund drives supplemented by occasional larger-scale but discrete capital campaigns, it has now become the norm for leading endowed nonprofits to staff and manage the fundraising function as a strategic contributor to the long-term health of the institution, with annual giving, endowment giving, planned giving and bequests each forming a part of the whole.
Some themes from the white paper include:
- In the process of rebuilding endowment, donations will, if anything, play a more important role than in the past.
- “A Golden Age — for those who can grasp it.” The current period is one of the most favorable, in historical terms, for endowment fundraising.
- “The permanent campaign.” Now, at many large nonprofit institutions there is no real beginning or end to campaigns; instead, a “permanent campaign” is always running in the background, with continuous cultivation of major gift prospects and a prioritized list of defined projects at the ready for negotiation with donors.
- The core campaign model. A significant development has been the transition to a strategic or “core” model, which focuses on providing endowed support for the core mission of the institution and for a specific number of areas that have the potential to make a major difference in the institution’s future.
The full paper is available at: Commonfund.org under “Commonfund Institute Corner.”