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2013 Giving USA Report Leaves Nonprofits On The Fence About Hopes For The Future

The results are in, so what’s everyone saying about them? The day following the release of Giving USA 2013: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, a panel representing NPR, Campbell & Company and the Chronicle of Philanthropy took a “first look” at the findings from 2012. Tap in to their initial thoughts regarding the report and how YOU will be impacted by the results.

AFP Members: Learn how you can purchase the 2013 Giving USA report at a 30% discount!

The 2013 Giving USA report was released on June 18, and as AFP’s President and CEO Andrew Watt, FInstF says, the findings are just “more of the same for giving…which isn’t a bad thing.”

Patrick Rooney with the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy—a partner in the study—suggests that at the current rate of growth, giving won’t reach pre-recession 2007 levels for another six to seven years. “That aligns with what we’ve been hearing for a while now—that giving will be pretty flat with cautious growth for the rest of the decade,” agrees Watt.

At the panel discussion, First Look: Giving USA 2013, hosted by the AFP DC Chapter and Campbell & Company, the panelists took to the audience to see if their sentiments matched those of Watt and Rooney.

Stacy Palmer, Editor for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, polled the audience, “How many of you here were ahead of the numbers reported by Giving USA for 2012?” No hands were raised.

“How many of you were below the numbers reported?” continued Palmer. About twenty-fivce percent of the audience reluctantly raised their hands.

When asked how many in the room fell flat, majority of the audience raised their hands, proving that the findings were spot on with the majority.

Weighing-in On the Highpoints

Diving in to the impact of the findings, the panelists discussed the highpoints and their initial thoughts of the Giving USA report:

  • With $316.23 billion donated to charitable causes in 2012, giving was up by 3.5 percent. “At the very high-end, yes, giving is back. But at the mid-level we need to push on,” says Palmer.
  • Giving by individuals rose to $228.93 billion in 2012, an approximate 3.9 percent increase. It only takes a little from each individual to go a long way—“How we increased numbers in 2012 was to ask donors to increase their giving by 10 percent—and it worked!” says Palmer.
  • Giving by bequest was the only source of giving down in 2012 among individual, corporate and foundation giving. Palmer finds that this is because so many organizations are focused on current giving and the cash flow that it brings, but they are losing sight of future giving—planned giving. “You can’t count money you don’t have, but you still need to plan and scout it for the future.”

How Did We Get Here?

The numbers may speak for themselves, but some people want to know how we got here, and what exactly it all means?

As for individual giving being on the rise, it’s clear that an uptick in social media and crowdfunding has a hand in the ease of giving for donors. “There are several changes over the last five years that have lent to the shift in giving, and online giving and social media is one of them,” says Monique Hanson, chief development officer at NPR.

Along with the increase of online giving, you’re also seeing a bigger investment in fundraising staff, finds Palmer. Investing and restructuring the development staff to realign their priorities with today’s giving needs makes an impact on individual donors.

Hanson also finds that boards are becoming more and more interested in method planning—the best practices and operations behind the scenes. Additionally, fundraisers are breaking out of their comfort zones and concentrating more of their efforts on stewardship and research. Fueling the newfound concentration for research is the new donor attitude of “impact”—they want to know where their donations are going, the metrics wrapped around them and how it’s affecting something specific, not just the bottom line.

“Donors are becoming really savvy philanthropists,” quips Hanson.

Capital campaigns are also back. All panelists agreed that capital campaigns had taken a backseat during the recession, but those that had previously been postponed are now back in full swing. However, they don’t come without complication. Before the question was, “Is this a good time, because of the recession?” Now the new campaign question is, “Is this the right time, because there are so many campaigns out there?” The competition is thick—with local campaigns gearing back up after being on hold for so long, it’s a tough market to get your campaign noticed and on top.

Already Looking Forward to the 2014 Report

Few in the audience were concerned with how the 2013 report looked—more were concerned with how the 2014 report would turn out. Meaning, what’s in store for the year 2013, will giving continue to rise, and what will impact the numbers?

The facilitator of the panel, Jeff Wilklow, vice president of Campbell & Company, lent some ease to the audiences’ questions about the future. “The nonprofit world seems to always be one year behind the economy, and last year I think people were really staying low to see what was going to happen. Now that things are rebounding nonprofits will be more comfortable and start to catch up, so we should see an even bigger rise and shift in 2013.”

Some major factors that could impact 2013 giving, and therefore the 2014 report, were discussed by the panel:

  • ‘America’s Worst Charities’ List – Palmer stated that it would be interesting to see if the release and heightening of this list will impact the overall sector in 2013. With the recent coverage on CNN and beyond, the list has clearly made an impact thus far, but will it trickle down to the donors?
  • Sequestration – The topic that still keeps people up at night because its fate is still looming in the dark shadows for most. “We see some local effects [in Washington, D.C.] but we’ve been continually asking nonprofits if they’ve been affected and they have yet to see any affects of the sequestration,” says Palmer. “It remains to be seen how nonprofits will be affected in 2013.”
  • Charitable Deduction – The panelists agree that this is a subject that will remain on the table for Congressional consideration. Charities cannot shrug it off and must continue advocating for it to remain. “Most people aren’t affected by tax deduction in a big way—it’s more symbolic than impactful,” says Wilklow. Hanson urges fundraisers and charities to follow through with the calls for action to keep the charitable deduction alive.
  • Donor-Advised Funds – If only we could unlock them! There are tools for charities to use to make it easier for a donor to make a gift from their donor-advised funds. It’s a simple widget that nonprofits can place right on their website. For more information, read the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s article highlighting donor-advised funds.
  • Online Giving – Use for cultivation AND acquisition. Many donors are giving by way of the Internet, but nonprofits aren’t necessarily treating them as they would a “regular” donor. Nonprofits are encouraged to give online donors, and even social media followers, the same attention and appreciation as they would any other donor. An automated “thank you” won’t do—follow-up and show the impact of their gift in order to keep them coming back to give again and again!

 When it comes down to it, up is up, and it’s certainly better than down. But with such a small increase in giving in 2012, it’s mostly just a tease for nonprofits. However, there’s nothing to be up-in-arms about, or majorly fret about.

As Watt says, “Don’t be too optimistic or pessimistic about the numbers. We are living the situation. We know we can succeed. It’s up to us—using the resources, knowledge and community that we have developed—to make that happen.” 

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