Reader Panel Poll
Q: What do you feel is the most important issue facing nonprofit fundraisers as we approach the end of 2008?
“It seems to me the changing face of philanthropy is the most important issue. We have older, first-generation philanthropists dying and the second generations spending more and not giving as much. We have a new, younger, first-generation wealthy set who were not raised in philanthropic families and really need to ‘learn’ more about giving. And then there is the fact that, with the Internet, we are competing not just against the organizations in our towns, but every nonprofit out there!”
— Anne Steuer
Children’s Museum of La Crosse
“I think the biggest issue facing fundraisers is the sheer abundance of philanthropic options available and the challenge of not only understanding the impact these options have on one’s own organization, but also of prioritizing. The high-profile and very public dialogue centering on Bill Gates’ recent discussion of ‘creative capitalism’ has put us all in a position of having to rethink what constitutes philanthropy, and this isn’t the only new approach we’re trying to wrap our brains around.
On the other end of the spectrum is the concept of microphilanthropy. We’re also learning the role social networking can play in our development plans; we’re being exposed to wild concepts of venture philanthropy, text-message campaigning and more cause-marketing options than we’ve ever before seen.
It’s great news for the sector. Offering consumers and donors more opportunities to support nonprofits is undoubtedly to our benefit. But, like each of these consumers and donors, we must now all explore our various options and create a plan for dealing with them.”
— Dani Brzozowski
director of development,
“Integrating and ramping up online giving (and taking advantage of new media technologies) is one of the most important issues facing fundraisers right now. If we don’t get it right, donors will be giving one way and we’ll be asking for money another way. The nonprofit industry may also be forced by the ailing economy to find cheaper ways to raise our operating and program budgets.”
— Joan Woods
director of development,
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
“Appeal/campaign integration is now our most critical challenge. Donors are demanding to be able to give by mail, by event, by Internet and by phone. They require all the options for their gift transactions. In addition, the majority of donors are asking for personalized URLs and personal Web sites to manage their gift designations. Donors now require more ease of giving and more control over designating a gift by the institution. General fund gifts are a thing of the past. A $50 donor is just as likely to designate where their money is to be specifically used as a $50,000 donor.”
— Roy C. Jones
chief development officer,
“The No. 1 issue is finding ways to communicate in more personal ways to donors and potential donors. People are so busy and concerned with the economy and their careers. Finding a way to break through this is a challenge. However, at the same time, people more than ever are looking for meaning in their lives and for inspiration.”
— Richard Bray
director of donor and community relations,
Society of St. Vincent de Paul Council of Seattle/King County
“For those of us in the higher-education world, working on annual giving, in my opinion, is [the most important issue]. The transition from a social structure based around a home telephone system to one centered around a mobile or ‘personal’ phone number is currently having a larger and longer lasting effect on the ability to raise annual gifts in the economic conditions that we are currently facing.
As larger portions of our constituent bases move away from having a home phone, we are faced with two challenges. The ability to purchase and call cell phones is mired in moral and regulatory challenges that we have never faced with home phones. This is on top of a climate where technology in the form of caller ID and screening has already reduced the contact rates for phone efforts.
The second piece of this has to do with households — cells are inherently individual phones rather than household phones. Thus, couples, parents, any constituency where there are multiple individuals in a household become a much greater challenge to us — we end up calling both the same night or on consecutive nights and have a very difficult time properly matching responses, be it yes or no. A second call rarely produces positive results when the caller is unaware of the results from the first call.
In the long term, there is a silver lining to all of this — software can be updated to manage the household versus individual number issues, and contact rates for those who might consider giving are likely to remain the same with or without technological screening, as those folks are actively choosing to engage the charity.
The number issue is also a short-term challenge with long-term benefits — the biggest benefit being that once we have a confirmed number with permission to contact it, that number will remain the contact number for that record on a regular basis for years, regardless of home location or the prospect even being at home when you are calling.
The still unknown aspect is texting. We have opportunities here to connect with our younger constituents in the way they communicate with one another and only need a cell number to both speak with and text with them. How we make those messages relevant, case-driven and actionable is still an open question.”
— Scott VanDeusen
director of development for annual campaigns,
St. John’s University
“For our institution (a small, public, liberal-arts college), the biggest issue right now is how the national economic crisis is affecting our students. In the past, we have been able to personally call a major donor or two and ask for an additional gift to cover emergency situations. (For example, we have encountered situations where a student’s family had to cover unexpected major medical bills that left the student without financial support for the year.) Now, there are too many requests, and we’ve formed a special committee to respond to emergency financial circumstances that an increasing number of students are facing.”
— Denise M. Krumenacker
donor relations manager,
St. Mary’s College of Maryland
“Throughout government scandal, economic downturns, inflation, and costly foreign and shoddy domestic policy, government funds are increasingly less accessible to smaller not-for-profits, which desperately need these crucial funds to meet the needs of growing residential communities. This dire situation for nonprofits is a call to action for individuals and corporations who are willing to commit to long-term investment in our communities.
The biggest issues are related to charitable contributions from the corporate sector and individual donors. It is imperative that nongovernment funders understand that monies coming to nonprofits are not just gifts or tax deductions, but also investments in the future of our communities. Donating money now to a school, museum, hospice, youth center or clinic means that you are spending less money later for incarceration, special education, welfare, Medicare and public housing. Nonprofits are ways to invest in social capital that will undoubtedly yield a return of a better quality of life for all.”
— Nicolas P. Gaudreau
director of development,
Church Street School for Music and Art