Why and how we give
The giving season in the last months of the year is a time when nonprofits can increase transactional gifts that may lead to relational opportunities throughout the next year. As a sector, it is important to understand how and why people give.
We value individual and collective action in the United States. Giving feeds the immediate response to a call to action. As highlighted in the 2017 Giving USA Annual Report on Philanthropy, faith-based giving is the largest form of giving — people want to be a part of something large.
Our changing economy, environment and global issues are changing how we give. We are not just giving through global institutions. We want to give time, talent and treasure directly to the organizations working on the ground.
How we give is becoming easier, as technology has advanced and radically influences how we give. We have seen dramatic changes in giving technology that allows for impulse-giving opportunities. Technology has accelerated the speed of access and response to issues and causes and, moreover, has accelerated the ability of a small donor to join with others to have major impact through giving circles and crowd-funding sites. This advancement is a highly disruptive force that is enhancing donations and the volunteer experience.
When virtual volunteering began, it was feared that it would lose out to personal interaction. What we actually found was technology could expand the volunteering experience globally and mobilize causes around the world by using Skype and various social media platforms. If the Ice Bucket Challenge taught us anything, it is the power of technology to accelerate giving and volunteering.
Generations that are coming into the workplace now have a strong need to blend vocation and philanthropy. They want to do good while doing well at work. They want to affect social change and social causes that benefit others through their work at for-profit companies. That could be through the old model of corporate giving and gift matching or through the new model of organizations adopting causes and working hand in hand to solve community issues.
We are able to be far more engaged and informed contributors than we have ever been before. The access to information, the call for action, the demand for transparency makes givers far more informed than ever before.
The strategy for each relationship-building plan is dependent on the type of nonprofit. Know your audience and drive your giving vehicles toward those audiences. A human services organization is going to have a very different appeal than a political nonprofit. Nonprofits are diverse, and it is very hard to have one universal appeal to donors. The more vehicles you have for smarter giving options and opportunities, the better informed, engaged and connected to your organization your donor will be.
Nonprofits can employ all learning and giving styles to engage impulse donors, methodical planned-giving donors, family donors and new workforce donors. Remember that we give to advance our values and to advance the things that we feel are important.
Nonprofits can use this information to communicate value to potential donors on why they should give, the results of the giving and share the varieties of ways they can give. Thank donors before your event and ask for a gift by articulating the value of a donation. How will donations provide more value to the cause it benefits?
While none of this is new information, nonprofits can use this knowledge in practice. Nonprofits have a great opportunity to make the giving season a continuum throughout the year. By understanding the motivations of those giving their time, talent and treasure, nonprofits can tie in more thoughtfully with donors.
Kyle Caldwell is executive director at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy in Grand Rapids.