Tag Archives: Foundation Support

Takeaways from the 2018 Giving USA Report

2018 Giving USA ReportNonprofits, and nonprofit consultants, have learned to value the annual release of the 2018 Giving USA Report. It has 470 pages of interesting facts and figures. And if you know what to do with them, and how to benchmark yourself against them (more on that later), they can be very useful tools. If you only look to see that giving has grown for environmental and animal nonprofits but dropped for religious giving, you are getting caught in the hype.

Here are key takeaways from the 2018 Giving USA Report and how they can impact your organization’s donations for 2019:

      1. For the first time since 2009, individual giving dropped (total giving in current dollars increased by .7%). Currently we don’t know if that is due to fewer people able to take tax deductions on charitable contributions, a large push to frontload donations to DAFs, Foundations and individual donations prior to tax law changes is unclear, or economic uncertainty at the end of the year.

        Our advice?

        Ignore the decrease in individual giving. Instead, focus on the $292.09 BILLION that was given by individuals last year. That is a lot of money available to nonprofits. Make sure you know and have a plan for your organization’s development data such as your donor retention, donor’s lifetime value, and the number of monthly donors. Click here if you would like to talk to us about calculating your important statistics and how they benchmark against others.

      2. Giving by corporations increased this past year. We don’t know if that is thanks to increased profits at those companies, increased public concern, or increased public awareness of corporate donation policies (think: marketing/social media benefits that attract younger purchasers who want to “do good” when they buy)

        Our advice?

        Corporate giving is still only 5% of all giving. Unless you are a nonprofit that has a benefit for the corporation to align with corporations’ marketing, target market, and location, you should focus your development efforts on individuals.

      3. Giving by foundations increased 7.3% in current dollars over 2017. Are more foundations paying out higher pecentage of assets? Do foundations feel an increased need, particularly among underserved populations, to which they are responding? We don’t know, but we know it is an area to keep on our radar.

        Our advice?

        Giving by foundations is now $74.86 billion. Giving USA estimates that 64% of independent foundations are family foundations (and 45.6% of total foundation giving.) That is $34.58 billion of foundation giving that should be treated like individual giving. To attract and retain these donors, see #1.

      4. Bequests grew by 14.7% in 2017 but leveled off in 2018. Was that because the organizations who put in effort years before were finally realizing gifts? Or maybe health nonprofits were more successful in extending life (positive thinking!)?

        Our advice?

        Bequest donations may have not increased last year, but 2017’s report showed dramatic results with close to $40 billion transferred in this way. These donors are often low-hanging fruit. They are donors who already care about your organization but need a little education about how impactful this kind of gift can be to your nonprofit. Click here to learn more about bequests estate gifts. Think you don’t have those high-level donors who have millions to give? Consider the breakdown of estimated bequest giving from estates with assets:

        1. Of $5 million or above amounted to $21.44 billion
        2. Between $1 and $5 million amounted to $8.36 billion
        3. Below $1 million amounted to $9.91 billion
      5. Giving to arts, culture and humanities, environmental and animal organizations as well as international affairs organizations were the big winners last year. The amount given to those organizations were either stable or increased.

        Our advice?

        I would venture to say that increased giving to the arts, environment/animals and international nonprofits may not be a coincidence. Those are areas that may be receiving less governmental support and people are worried about their ability to sustain their mission. Don’t count yourself out if you are small or niche.  Give donors a compelling reason to give again and again and they will.

      6. Giving as a percentage of disposable personal income has remained between 1.9% and 2% for the past 5 years.

        Our advice?

        If you focus on doing the right things – identifying, interesting, involving, asking, acknowledging, thanking, stewarding, creating donor-centric campaigns, surveying, investing, different ways of engaging etc., you will raise more money. Staying the same is no longer sufficient just to raise the same amount of money as previous years.  Every nonprofit needs to be considering ways to strengthen their fundraising and development.  If you would like ideas on how to do this, email me today.

Improving the Odds of Foundation Funding

Foundation funding imageDevelopment is actually my second career. My first 7+ years in the workforce were as a copywriter where I worked on national accounts like Pepsi and FedEx.  One of the more surprising elements of this move was the way in which my background helped prepare me for grant writing. Sure, in advertising I had honed my writing skills, but lots of people can write. More particularly, it taught me how to accept constant rejection without taking it personally. Just as I had to present round after round of copy before getting an ad approved, all the hard work in the world will not spare you from getting folders full of grant rejections.

There are many good causes worth funding and many foundations looking to make grants, but the amount allocated will never equal the opportunity in any given year. Foundations are forced to choose between the multiple organizations that rightly deserve their support. The real question is – how do you improve your chances? Read on—you may find some helpful tips.

Decide whether you actually want to apply for grants.
For many people grants seem like easy money. If you spend some time writing and pay a little postage, you can get thousands of dollars in return, right?

But, if you breakdown your salary into an hourly rate, then determine how many hours it is taking you to do each grant vs. your return on that investment – is it worth it for a $2,000 request? It can be, but only if you can use that proposal to respond to multiple RFPs (Requests for Proposal). I’ve seen the statistics range slightly but your odds of getting a grant, even if you are exactly what they are looking for and you filled out the application perfectly, may be as low as 1 in 5. So determine the amount you need from foundations and apply to 5 times that amount for funding. So, if you are looking for $150,000 in grants, that means that you may have to apply for $750,000 in grants.

Turn this line of reasoning around for a second, and think about where else can you be spending your time? Is working on major donor cultivations, training your board members to solicit or establishing a stronger development plan a better way to spend your time?

Why should they give to you?
Of course, you think you are the most deserving, the most appropriate, the best fit. But so do plenty of other organizations. Each grantor only offers a finite amount of money per year and there are seemingly unlimited organizations that fit their bill. Be kind to funders and keep this in mind. Yelling at a funder is not going to get you the money and may prevent you from getting money from that source for many years to come.

You will get money by being deserving, accurate, making connections and being lucky.

Only apply for a grant if your services match the funders path of giving. This may seem obvious, but if a foundation is funding research for pig-farming and you have a cow-farm that needs research, the likelihood is that they will not fund you. Yes, its still farming and it is still research, but pigs are not cows. And rest assured, there are a lot of pig-farmers looking for funding too.

Don’t try to convince them that they are funding the “wrong” thing. You may feel that way, but it’s their money and telling people what they should or shouldn’t do with their money is rarely a good idea

Still convinced you should apply anyway?
Call the Grants Officer and offer a brief explanation of your grant and ask whether it fits their criteria. If it does, ask what you could do to improve your chances of success. Most foundations will either accept calls or a one page brief to serve the same purpose. And, of course, that one page brief will be useful at multiple foundations.  But, above all, cultivating that personal relationship will serve you extraordinarily well and enhance your chances of funding immeasurably

The writing counts
Read the Request for Proposal (RFP) carefully. Follow the directions to the letter. Use direct and simple language – don’t use acronyms or any other jargon even if you know they know what it means. You don’t know who is screening the applications and the less room for interpretation, the better. Suggesting they join you in monetarily supporting a particular organization is a good idea but that should be its own article.

Do you need to be the grant writer?
Taking out the control-factor, do you need to be the person writing the grants? In a small organization everyone does everything, but if grant writing is taking you away from more important tasks, it is worth hiring a grant writer. There are plenty of ways to hire a grant writer (think: Craig’s List, Google, etc…), who is professional, efficient, and potentially has a track record (hint: they know to call ahead before submitting). They may cost money, but it costs money to make money and, again, you can spend more time raising money from other sources.

Grant seeking is both art and science.  Writing well is only a part of the process.  Contact us at infoatmerskyjaffe.com, to learn more about how you can enhance the odds to obtain foundation funding.