According to an article in today's Chronicle of Philanthropy, America's top 50 donors gave over $7-billion dollars more in 2011 than they did in 2010 ($10.4-billion vs. $3.3-billion). 29 individuals gave $50-million or more to their foundations or causes, up from 22 in 2010. The list was topped by the estate of agribusiness heiress Margaret Cargill, followed by deceased steel executive William Dietrich II, co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen, financier George Soros, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
It also appears that larger, more well-known charities are receiving the bulk of the larger charitable gifts. 36% of the dollars went to higher education, 35% to private foundations, 15% to hospitals, medical centers, and medical research, and 7% to museums, libraries, and historic preservation. Additionally, the concentration by larger donors on higher profile, well established institutions may be in part because donors are worried that some of the newer and smaller charities may not be around in 25 or more years.
Should smaller nonprofits consider soliciting large or even "mega-donors"? Some consultants and charity heads believe they can. But big donors certainly won't consider an organization they don't even know exists. It is therefore critical that each charity consider the following:
- Consistently get they word out on the work of your organization. Court the media, create compelling print and electronic communications, utilize social media, involve community leadership, share successful outcomes.
- Provide an informative, inspiring website. Many donors research institutions on their website prior to making a gift.
- Connect donors directly to your programs and beneficiaries. Have them visit a classroom, take them to a project site, invite them to join your board. Don't just tell them about your good work show them.
- Be realistic. The number one ranked billionaire may have loved cats but she is likely already connected to a favorite charity. Don't allocate all your resources for that one big donation "hit". Like anything else diversify your cultivation.
Although 2011 experienced a significant increase in large donations in comparison to 2010, giving was still well below pre-recession contributions. Moreover, many believe corporate support has been permanently changed by the bad economy.
Those charities that fared better in 2011 such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), invested heavily in often overlooked but lucrative revenue sources such as monthly credit card or direct debit donors. They have also concentrated on building connections with donors through social media where they have obtained a million Facebook supporters.
Be creative. Toot your own horn.
Be persistent. Your cause is worth it.
Be aspirational. Shoot for the stars.
The only thing that ensures failure is not trying!
Check out this info-graphic from the Chronicle of Philanthropy article: Link to info-graphic