Giving USA’s 2016 Annual Report on Philanthropy has shown an overall increase in giving to $373.25 billion in 2015—that’s just over a billion dollars a day. While this information reinforces the trend that we are in the midst of a tremendous philanthropic opportunity, it also reflects many changes in attitudes and behaviors.

Data from 2015 revealed that support for non-profit general operations has slowed, while support for specific causes has increased*. This points to the fundamental donor desire to give meaningfully. To donors, meaningful philanthropy tends not to be TO the organization to sustain operations, but THROUGH the organization to create impact.

Combine this desire to give to specific causes with the fact that organizations report a continued low donor retention rate (46%), and it is evident that, while people are continuing to give, they may not be getting in return what they want or expect.

Donors tell us that they measure the return on their philanthropic investments based on three key factors:

  1. Did the contribution make an impact?
  2. Was the effect in line with my expectations?
  3. Do I feel respected by the organization?

When working with donors, keep in mind that truly meaningful contributions tend to be passion-based, rather than loyalty-based. Donors want to make a difference in a way that is meaningful based on their life experiences. This outcome is most likely when donors are able to make contributions to specific projects or programs that relate to their philanthropic passions.

Does your organization offer the opportunity for donors to give in a way that they find personally meaningful? Do you make an effort to establish and meet realistic expectations? Do your donors feel appreciated and respected?


To have news, insights, and updates delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for our Monthly Philanthropic Newsletter.

*Grants provided by foundations have favored specific causes over general operations.