All Giving Is Personal

You’ve heard Tip O’Neill’s famous phrase “all politics is local.”

Here’s the fundraising version: All giving is personal.

The latest GivingUSA report on philanthropy in the US was released last month (here’s a digest infographic of the key findings, if you’re into that sort of thing), and it confirmed what many past reports have found: individual giving is a critical and irreplaceable source of funding for most nonprofit organizations.

In 2016, total giving from all sources was more than $390 billion. Of that, individuals gave more than $281 billion — a whopping 72 percent of the total.

By contrast, foundations were responsible for just 15% of all giving ($59.3 billion), and corporations gave just 5% ($18.5 billion). We were happy to provide some insight to the Austin American-Statesman about these numbers, because they underscore the importance of having an individual giving strategy.

But when you dig down deeper, you find even more individual giving. The Foundation Center collects data on more than 86,000 foundations; more than 42,000 of them are family foundations.

And bequests — which brought in $30.3 billion, or 8% of all gifts in 2016 — well, that’s just another way that individuals make gifts.

How can you use this data?

You can start by remembering what your mother taught you: the value of a heartfelt and personal thank-you when someone has given you a gift.

And then show your donors, over and over, what their gifts do. Not how their gifts help you reach your goals — fundraising, service, or otherwise. Talk to them about about their goals. They want to help people. They want to change the world. Show them how their gifts make that happen.

If you can keep in mind that individuals make gifts for their reasons — not yours — you’ll continue to earn their trust and their gifts. The numbers show that it’s worth the effort.