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Despite Uncertainty, Philanthropy Must Persist

By Elizabeth Kohler Knuppel and Lori Rassati

Lori Skystone
Lori Rassati

As we continue to experience the seismic aftershocks of the recent Presidential election, those of us who work in philanthropy are left wondering what it all means for our industry. Even though the two of us happen to land on opposite sides of the political spectrum and harbor differing views of how a Trump Presidency might shape America, the message to our nonprofit clients remains consistent: Keep doing what you’re doing.

We acknowledge that these are unsettled times. Inevitable changes in leadership often engender angst and uncertainty, but this feels different. His rhetoric aside, Donald Trump has no track record of policy decisions that could enable us to predict the future with any degree of conviction. With a Republican Congress potentially in lock step, we can speculate about shifts in tax laws and budgetary decisions that may impact certain social causes, but it’s still akin to throwing darts blindfolded.

That said, we continue to embrace the fundamental truths of philanthropy and reject some fundamental myths, and perhaps it’s more important than ever to do so. These truths may not rise to the level of being self-evident in the Jeffersonian tradition, but they are nonetheless inviolable: People give to personal causes that match their values. People give when they trust the leadership of the organization. People give when they have a relationship with the person asking. People give when they have confidence in the organization. People give because they are asked.

Likewise, some myths persist despite mountains of evidence to the contrary: The worthiest organizations most easily raise funds. My cause is better, or more important, than your cause. The wealthiest people will always give “something” because it’s needed. If we put them on the board, they will give. This is not a good time to raise funds.

Liz Skystone
Elizabeth Kohler Knuppel

When counseling our clients, we focus primarily on that last point. If your organization is doing good work, it is always the right time to ask for money. Make your case, tell your story, maintain relationships with your donors, and don’t stop asking for support. Now is not the time for timidity; it is time to redouble your efforts and convince people yours is a mission that cannot be ignored. If you work for an organization that may be targeted for a reduction in government funding, don’t be surprised if your donors “circle the wagons” and rise to the occasion. Proceed with confidence.

Next year, as power transfers between parties and a new administration takes shape, we will begin to realize the implications, good or bad, of what our electorate has wrought. In the meantime, people should not stop supporting the causes for which they are passionate, and organizations must not stop seeking the funds that fuel their very existence. Our nonprofit sector, the sine qua non of a democratic society, remains as vital as ever. We feel privileged to be associated with so many remarkable people doing such incredible work, and we know they will continue to thrive in this new world we have created for ourselves. Our nation’s future depends on it.

This article originally appeared on the Skystone Partners website. Elizabeth Kohler Knuppel is president & CEO and Lori Rassati is vice president of Skystone Partners based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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