Posted January 1st, 2009

Alternatives for 2009

Now is the time for maintaining perspective. Despite all the negative news, many reports conclude that charitable giving in America is resilient. Historical records indicate that after initial declines, giving grew steadily even during the Great Depression. According to IRS data, Americans actually increased the percentage of income they gave to charity during this period (see www.sharpenet.com/uncertaintimes).

In our view, the reasons for continued giving are many, but boil down to one simple fact: those who make charitable gifts in any economic environment do so because they place a high priority on giving. In good times, as well as bad, charitable gifts come from discretionary resources that could only have otherwise been spent or saved.

That being said, we can expect major differences in how various charitable organizations and institutions will fare. Some will be flat, some up, and some down.

Now, as always, it is our role as fund development professionals to help motivated donors make the gifts they want to make in ways that, where possible, also allow them to meet other high priority needs.

Beyond terminology

Fund-raising activities are organized in many ways. We have annual giving, major gifts, special events, planned giving, capital gifts, endowment development, direct mail, and numerous other revenue “channels.”

Some disciplines emphasize the size of gifts, some timing, some the use of funds, while others focus on the methodology employed to raise the funds. Remember, however, that donors are more interested in the work that you accomplish with their gifts than your internal organizational structures and jargon.

Walking in the donor’s shoes

Over the past 45 years, Sharpe has consistently communicated the need to focus on donors and view the world from their perspective. Many donors would like to give more but are regrettably stymied by what seem to be insurmountable competing needs.

Now more than ever donors need alternative ways to make their gifts while recognizing the reality of the responsibilities they face in other areas of their lives.

The right planning tools can help donors make gifts that are “alternatives” to current gifts, “alternatives” to cash gifts, or “alternatives” to gifts at death—that all provide useable funds for charitable purposes in the near term.

In this issue of Give & Take we address major developments including lower interest rates and proposed changes in the laws governing retirement plans. While esoteric to some, these and other changes will dramatically impact the way donors make their gifts this year and beyond.

All of us at The Sharpe Group look forward to helping America’s nonprofit community continue to raise the funds that are the lifeblood of the vital services it provides.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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