Recession’s Impact on Donor Expectations

It’s encouraging to see the growing trickle of positive economic reports.

But resist the temptation to rely too heavily on John F. Kennedy’s observation that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

This recession may have changed those tides forever. Not just in terms of dollars available for philanthropy, but also–and more importantly–in terms of donor expectations. 

A recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers offers some interesting food for thought.

“The recession has tempered both the rampant excesses and overzealous idealism extremes of consumption.”

Consumer goods marketers are beginning to think in terms of “purposeful shoppers” who give greater consideration to spending patterns.

“There will be a stigma associated with wasteful, impulsive spending, while thoughtful, responsible spending will be more socially acceptable.”

If that’s the standard by which donors are judging themselves, will they expect any less from the causes they support?

"Items that make shoppers feel like they are getting something that will hold its value for the money (rather than something that is going to go out of style next season or has limited, narrow usefulness) will be judged worth the investment."

Sounds a lot like stewardship. Conscious and consistent. But also demonstrated and communicated.

If giving trends correspond roughly with income (as they have in the past), we may see giving increase as income increases.


 And donor cautions will not be limited to economic considerations … but to other expectations of value as well.