Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Motivates Giving?

Jason Dick, blog author of A Small Change - Fundraising Blog, is hosting the February 2008 Giving Carnival (group blog session). Jason asks a great question of anyone who would like to either email a response to him or blog about it on their blog, and send Jason the link (he will post all of the responses that he receives on Monday, February 25th. Be sure to return and read others' responses and respond to them. Let's get a dialogue going!). You can join us and respond at infosmallchange at gmail dot com by January 21st.

If you can not join us this month, in the discussion, you can join the Giving Carnival group blogging sessions (once a month) to blog or simply email a response to various philanthropy questions. We always need hosts, too. Becoming a member of the Giving Carnival Google group by clicking the link. We would love to have you when you are able to contribute and respond.

Jason asks, "What motivates giving? Is it compassion, good fundraising, desire to make a difference in the community? What is it?"

As is often the response, I say, 'it depends'. Here's the dirt...

Individuals give because they are affected by a cause or issue, they believe that something can be done and that the nonprofit sector provides viable solutions, and because they have located a nonprofit providing a solution that they believe in, towards the issue, and the nonprofit is effective, reputable, successful, transparent in its operations and reporting, well run, and accessible. I wrote more about today's savvy, less whimsical, individual donors in my post A Shift In Giving: Proactive Philanthropists Instead of Passive Donors Nonprofits do not just get to pass GO while being handed donations for the year. Today, nonprofits must meet a real need in our community, address the need successfully, operate efficiently while reporting honestly, and must work with the community and its resources - rather than trying to be a lone agent. Results are everything today.

Families, trusts, community foundations and their members, and foundations give because they have amassed a lump sum to dedicate to the issue(s) that also concerns them. These entities exist to give. It is arguable that, as legal 501(c)(3)...etc. organizations, they give because it is federally mandated that they give a specific percentage of total holdings, annually. It is also sometimes the case that these kinds of philanthropists are set up for the tax benefit. I do not believe that these are the REASONS, though, that most charities are set up, or why they give. I think that families, trusts, community foundations, and individual foundations give because someone saw a need in our community and again, believed that the nonprofit sector, specifically, could provide effective solutions.

Private foundations give for very specific reasons. Often private foundations are set up to support a singular specific cause, organization, or the private foundation only accepts grant applications by invitation (and does not accept applications for grants from just anyone). For instance, some private foundations are set up to singularly fund one hospital. Or, other private foundations only give to organizations serving one religion and its work. Other private foundations may be set up to support a single private school.

Donors are researching how to make the greatest impact in our communities and this post links to a recent published study that discusses this phenomenon at: Yet Another Example of Donors Expecting Results; Non Profits, You Can't Just Take the Money and Cross Your Fingers Anymore

To determine what foundations are looking for and why they engage with nonprofits by donating read Grant Writers, Get an Inside Peek On Where Our Foundation Donors' Heads Are which highlights Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, interview on Charlie Rose in which she talks about what one of the most preeminent foundations in the world looks for when donating.

A more general, overarching discussion on why grant donors give is at Why Do Donors Give Grants At All?


Anonymous said...

I run a large non-profit day care and have several employees and have been moved to another property that is in need of much work to meet codes, etc;
before we can become fully functional by-law. Can the Salvation Army fund a grant to help with expenses?

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Dear Anonymous,
Hello! Thank you for reading Seeking Grant Money Today and for posting your comment.

It's great work that you and your organization do.

When a nonprofit is refurbishing, building, or buying a new building this specific funding need is called a Capital Campaign. Some entites who donate grants give to Capital Campaigns and some don't. It is definitely not uncommon for donors to give to capital campaigns, and it's a great way to not only raise money, now; but capital campaigns are also good at providing nonprofits with the opportunity to form relations with new potential future donors for their organization.

I do not know if the Salvation Army provides grants for capital campaigns. You'll need to call your local branch and ask.

I can recommend, though, that you research "capital campaigns" under The Foundation Center's Foundation Directory tool (on their website at: ) The Foundation Center is a very respected and up to date resource for nonprofits seeking grants. They will often provide anyone new to their tools with a free trial subscription to try it out, if you do not want to buy a subscription. You could search which foundations give to capital campaigns this way.

You can also find the same Foundation Center database at several local public libraries around the nation, and those can be used at any time for free. Perhaps there is one near you? To find out, go to:

I know that one of these two resources will help you locate foundations who give to capital campaigns. Narrow and firm up who may give to your nonprofit by making sure that the foundations you approach not only give to capital campaigns, but ALSO give to the cause your organization serves (children or day care), and ALSO gives to nonprofits in your geographic region. Only approach foundations who meet all three criteria for your nonprofit.

Learn more about how to seek grants on The Foundation Center's site - they have a lot of great tools and education modules for free.

Good luck in your important work!