Too Many Campaigns Occurring…Not Enough Money

Have you ever heard such comments from board members or reluctant volunteers? As fundraising consultants, we’ve heard that many times over.  In fact, a friend of mine recently heard that objection, so I decided to do some research.

Data on Giving

In recent years I was a member of the Giving Institute, and I served on the editorial committee of their annual survey, Giving USA. It’s the authoritative report on giving in the US. It shows the collective giving from individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations.  Last year alone giving in the US totaled a record $410.02 billion.

I realize there are variances in state populations and therefore state giving. Still, doing quick math gives us an average of $8 billion per state. Now again California, New York, Pennsylvania and a host of other states have a greater population than Kentucky. However, I figured there had to be a way to calculate or at least approximate our giving in Louisville, so I went to work.

I first had to find what % of households give to charity each year. While the Philanthropy Roundtable indicates that 70-90% of households give, Giving USA indicates that only 56% give. However, giving also increased substantially over the last two years from $390 billion to $410 billion. Traditionally about two-thirds of households have given to charity.  However, I’ll stay with the more conservative 56%.

Conservative Estimates Still Produce Big Numbers

Yet, even if I use the conservative number the amount of giving in your area will be substantial, so let me show you how I calculated it for Louisville. The metropolitan area here has a population of 1.34 million people. On average there are 2.58 people per household. Dividing 1.34 million by 2.58 gives us 519,379 households, and Americans gave about $2,650 per household.

Now I want to stop right there for a minute, because in a story about the most generous cities, the Chronicle of Philanthropy indicated that people in Louisville gave an average of $4836 per household. However, for the sake of this blog I want to stay with the more conservative number of $2650 per household. Likewise, instead of going with the typical 67% of households who give, again I used the more conservative number of 56%.

I next calculated the number of Louisville households that gave by multiplying .56 X 519,379 total households. That gave me 290,852 households who gave last year, and then I multiplied that by the average gift of $2650, which added up to $770,758,436 (70% of the total) given by individuals. Then when I calculated giving from corporations, bequests, foundations and donor advised funds (30% of the total) it added up to another $230 million.

With very conservative calculations total giving for our area last year was a little more than $1 billion. If I use the traditional two-thirds number (67%) of households that give, it adds up to $1.285 billion. Either way it’s a substantial number.

True, some of that giving went to organizations outside of Louisville, but many donors from outside gave to Louisville organizations, so I considered that to be a wash. Well then, if people give that much what’s the difference? Why are some organizations able to raise millions while others struggle to get by?

Leadership is Key

First, it has to do with the kind of leadership coming from the board chair, CEO and full board. The good ones don’t make excuses; they get busy making the case, cultivating and asking others for help. Second, they have a well-thought out vision behind their case that serves and/or helps people. And finally, they believe in what they’re doing and they plan to win at fundraising and not lose.