Did you happen to catch the Parkland, FL students onstage at the Tony Awards broadcast Sunday evening, June 10? It was a very touching moment as the teacher who protected them was honored. The song they sang, “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent, is a superb reminder that we have only so many minutes in a year to “remember the love” and “to measure a life.”
How do you measure the impact of your life? Giving to others is a tried and true strategy. Americans are a generous people. The Giving USA Foundation presentation in Cincinnati on June 12 confirmed that total U.S. dollars given to charity are increasing. In fact, in 2017, U.S. giving achieved an all-time high of $410.02 billion, a 3% increase in inflation-adjusted numbers. However, big red flags are going up because fewer citizens are giving. In its June 8 issue, The Chronicle of Philanthropy cited a study from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy that indicated: “The number of donors giving to charity in the US has declined from 66% to 56% since 2000 across all age groups.” The inevitable conclusion is while fewer donors are giving, the donations are larger. The Chronicle believes this is an alarming trend. Volunteerism rates in many cities, including Greater Cincinnati, have also declined, according to data from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Local nonprofit, Inspiring Service was created to address the declining local volunteerism rates through their efforts, such as Cincinnati Cares.
Big gifts are every fundraiser’s dream. The trend toward success with large gifts could mean even more organizations shift resources to major gifts fundraising. At Ignite, we concur that large gifts are more frequent and according to our CEO, Scott Provancher, “The 80-20 rule is fast becoming the 90-10 rule.” “In fact, a staggering one percent of households give 49% of all contributions.” If this trend continues, the outcome could be a decline in the cultivation of smaller donors who sometimes (eventually) become big donors or bequest donors after decades of loyal support. It could mean a lack of attention to the Gen X and Millennial donors who are coming of age as serious volunteers and donors. This would be a mistake, in our opinion. Bottom line, you have to go after large and small donors with persistence and creativity. Engaging smaller donors as volunteers is one way to step up their giving.
Giving USA: Trends in 2017
The tax law of 2017 drove a significant amount of the increase in total 2017 giving. Billions poured into donor-advised funds. The generational transfer of wealth from the silent generation and now the baby boomers to younger generations is estimated at $9 trillion. These are positive indicators. Other trends cast a more cautious note for the future – giving remains stuck at 2.1% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), where it’s been for 40 years. The decline in the number of donors mentioned above consists mostly of middle-class givers who increasingly have trouble making ends meet. The income disparities between rich and poor, black and white grow larger and larger. Giving to religious organizations is down; giving to foundations is up. Rage giving is a new term. Some of these trends are not new, however, they signal a continuing shift in our American culture.
Are you an intentional and strategic giver? Just what is your giving capacity? And how do you want to be remembered? Ignite can help you think through your giving strategy if you’re not sure how to approach these questions. You have the power to make your “Seasons of Love” moment about generosity.