Building a Culture of Giving

This past week, Republican candidates released their tax records.

While most media focus has been on tax percentage, the New York Times also looked at charitable giving.

Interestingly, the “heartless business baron” gave 13.8% of 2010 income to charity, more than five times the share committed by his competitor, the “Catholic crusader.”

What’s frightening is that the median taxpayer gives even less – only 2.1%. And that number has trended steadily downward over the past few decades.

What does that mean to organizations that rely on individual donations, especially in light of the shrinking pool of funding from government, foundations, corporations and other high-dollar resources?

It means the organization must not only seek out individuals who share a commitment to its mission … but it may also need to nurture a “tradition of giving” among some of those donors. To teach them (or help them learn!) to give.

How can you do that?

Call it courtship. Or engagement. Or education.

But it'’s a process that won’t happen with a single appeal. In fact, it may take years. And unless an organization is able to hold that longer view on donor development – both in how it speaks to donors and how it tracks their response – it may not happen at all.