Looking Toward the Continued Rise of Philanthropy in 2015
Jeffrey D. Byrne President + CEO
2014 was a wonderful year for philanthropy.
Giving USA 2014 reported that charitable giving hit another plateau, with Americans donating more than $335.17 billion to charitable causes in 2013. After four consecutive years of increases in giving, the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is optimistic that total giving will surpass peak levels seen in the past and that it will only take a year or so for total giving to approach the pre-recession level of 2007.
As happy as I am about 2014, I am even more excited as I look ahead to 2015.
Philanthropy is about relationships: ties to our co-workers, collaborations with our peers, connections to those who shape public policy, bonds with our volunteers, partnerships with our funders and–most importantly–our commitment to those we serve. Relationships among nonprofits, funders, volunteers and advocates were obviously strengthening in 2014.
Philanthropy is also linked to factors such as economic activity and tax law. Giving rises as the economy improves and the economic factors that affect giving decisions are rebounding in 2014: consumer confidence is up, unemployment is down, disposable personal income is increasing and the S&P 500 Index is climbing.
So, these early indications – bolstered by feedback from our clients and peers – tell us 2014 has been a strong year for giving. And, if these trends continue and nonprofits persevere in developing and sustaining relationships, we have even more to look forward to in 2015.
We can reasonably anticipate tax reform in 2015, with a new Congress in place. Through our membership in The Giving Institute, JB+A belongs to the Charitable Giving Coalition, created to protect America’s strong tradition of charitable giving. The Coalition and its members know that economic recovery in America requires a strong philanthropic sector, and to this end, we are monitoring and working on tax reform (most notably preserving the charitable deduction and making permanent the IRA-Rollover) with our elected officials, as well as educating them about the role of the nonprofit sector as an economic driver.
So how do we develop and sustain the critical relationships with those who will help us advance philanthropy? Through meaningful communication.
It feels like there are countless ways to communicate these days. We’ve seen an absolute explosion in the use of social media, and JB+A was proud to continue our participation #GivingTuesday this year. This phenomenon (which seemed to come out of nowhere three years ago) set another milestone in giving: an estimated $45.68 million in online donations were made on December 2, an increase of nearly 63% over 2013. This giving was accompanied by significant growth in the voice of #GivingTuesday, through 32.7 million Twitter impressions, more than tripling the impressions from 2013.
As social media grows, so is its use in fundraising. We see increases in crowdfunding, text and email campaigns and we can reasonably anticipate that online giving will continue to grow. Yet online giving still only comprises less than 10% of total giving. That tells me donors appreciate personal contact and more traditional means of appeal.
Yes, I am on Facebook and LinkedIn and I have sent more than a few emails (OK, maybe more than a few thousand) this year. But I also still enjoy perusing the cards I receive in the mail. I value those gatherings where I can reconnect with my friends and colleagues. I cherish those once or twice a year phone calls – and even better, the personal visits – in which I can really catch up with those closest to me.
Similarly, I believe our donors, volunteers, stakeholders and advocates appreciate all the means of communication we have today. We should continue to embrace the new methods, but let’s not obsess over them and throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to remember the tried and true: personal visits, phone calls, handwritten notes. More importantly, we must focus on our message and communicate our missions in clear and compelling ways. Most importantly, we must listen. Listening tells us what is important to those with whom we have relationships (and helps us as fundraisers know what to ask, when to ask and how.)
No listening: No giving. Know listening: Know giving.
And here’s to a most powerful year of giving in 2015!
On behalf of all of us at Jeffrey Byrne + Associates,
Happy Holidays + Happy 2015!
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