How do I offer a fresh perspective on this historic view of giving last year, beginning now almost 18 months ago?From this report, we learn that Giving by Individuals is still the most promising source of philanthropy. Hmmm. That’s been true since the report was initially published in 1954.Corporate Giving is still 5% of the total. Yeah. That’s been true for a long time (as long as I have been studying this report).Estate Giving is up by nearly 20%, to over 8% of the total. Darn. It figures. Just when you wanted to report giving was flat, dead people’s philanthropy soars.Individuals control Foundation Giving through family foundations and donor advised funds. Not new news, but something that few understand. Some say it is half of all foundation giving.Okay, before we file this report under “Nice to Know, but So What?” let’s consider a few observations.1. To all of our clients who were hitting home run fund drives and capital campaigns during the past three years, here’s a huge “attaboy.” You did it in an even worse environment than you thought.2. Two hundred and ninety-one billion dollars is a huge amount of money no matter how you count it.3. We are up 4% in gifts and that means we are flat. Remember, when we were down 3% it was earth shattering.Sorry, friends, there’s not much of anything I can glean from this report to help my clients in their fundraising. Other reports, like Blackbaud, are giving us monthly updates. Servish in Boston is giving us a quarterly update on individual giving, and hundreds of independent organizations are providing their take on philanthropy all the time, even though most of those are not scientific.The Giving USA Report has become a historic document that is probably good so we have a record of long-term research trends and data, but it’s of little use to practitioners on an annual basis. I want to be wrong, but that is how I see it. I encouraged the Center last year, along with the Giving USA group, to figure out how to give us more contemporary data that is useable. We get a jobs report on a monthly basis, we get reports on the status of manufacturing, services, etc. at least monthly. Think what our national conversation on joblessness would be if the statistic we used was at best between 6 and 18 months old?Well, at least the report gives us a moment to pause, reflect and say, “That’s a hell of a lot of money!”
Will You Be There When John Shamberg Calls?
A big part of fundraising is showing up and being available. I learned this lesson on a very memorable New Year’s Eve, a very long time ago.
As an eager young fundraiser working for Washburn University, I didn’t know that it was unusual still to be at work in the evening of December 31st. But, there I was.
Earlier that year, a graduate of Washburn University School of Law told me he was going to give a gift of land to his synagogue, a private K-12 school and Washburn. John Shamberg, who has since passed away, made millions of dollars for institutions all over the world, and he wanted to give a significant gift to organizations he valued. His 40 acres of land on the outskirts of Kansas City were valued at $450,000, and his intention was to give $150,000 each to three organizations.
He’d left the task to the last day of the year, but now he was ready to make it happen.
He called the synagogue. No answer.
He called the K-12 school. No answer.
Then, he called Washburn and got me.
“Bob,” he said, “you just won the jackpot!”
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