Independence, MO – A local nonprofit board member asked a question last week that raised my fundraising ire.
“Is this a good time to start a campaign?” he ventured doubtfully.
Were he a mind reader, he’d have had heard the unspoken questions of exasperation blaring beneath my patient demeanor:
“Did ‘can’t’ ever do anything?”
“How can you expect to receive if you don’t ask?”
“Do you understand that another organization will receive the charitable dollars you’re leaving on the table?”
Instead, I smiled and nodded reassuringly, uttering the same empathetic response I always do when the “cold feet” question confronts me.
“I understand how daunting the thought of a campaign can be. It will propel you and your organization into new, uncharted territory.
“But don’t forget what you already know: You’ll never raise more money if you do the same things to generate philanthropy you have in the past.”
On the ninth anniversary of 9/11, after which many nonprofits retreated from fundraising, I’m grateful for the thousands of organizations in the United States that choose to grow their missions by intentionally asking more people to give more significantly to their important work. Because of them, more hungry families were fed, more homeless families were sheltered and more uninsured families received healthcare.
All told, Americans gave nearly $304 billion in 2009, according to Giving USA. More than 82 percent of that was given by individuals – people just like you and me.
And while philanthropy has grown in all but two years since we began tracking it in 1949, its nature and complexion are changing. Today, the average donor supports two or three nonprofit organizations; the number used to exceed five. And in most campaigns, 10 percent of the donors give 90 percent of the charitable dollars; in years past, a quarter of contributors gave 75 percent of the gifts.
Competition for philanthropy is on the rise. And with inflation minimizing the real impact of giving’s expansion over the last 61 years, you’ll never hear me tell an important nonprofit organization delivering essential services to respond to a strained economy by hunkering down and weathering the storm.
Signs of fundraising conviction and success are evident in Eastern Jackson County:
- Hope House is completing work on additions and improvement to its Independence facility. The successful campaign made its mark despite the recent period of economic strain, proof that presenting an invitation to give honestly and compellingly can lead to fundraising success in every economic season.
- Community Services League continues to experience success in its campaign for a new Central Resources Building in Independence. Having secured some of its largest gifts ever, it’s safe to say the campaign’s success to date would not have been possible without a commitment to intentional, strategic fundraising.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City recently embarked on its Four Pillars of Hope Campaign, which seeks more than $8 million in operating and capital support. In its early months, the campaign already has raised more than $1.3 million.
To grow philanthropy, we must invite others to join us in supporting the important work of the organizations about which we’re passionate.