Based on my 20 years developing and executing donor-centric fundraising strategies, I have a nonpartisan prediction: philanthropy will get an unforeseen Trump bump. Overall giving will certainly rise.
The new administration will affect philanthropy in five ways that offer opportunity for many and hazards for others. How can you act on these impacts right away to raise more money and improve your efficiency and effectiveness? Here are five predictions and 11 tips to answer that question.
Prediction 1: Wealthy people will give more
Uncertainty about the continuing tax deductibility of charitable gifts will spur more wealthy donors to lock in their deductions by creating and giving to donor-advised funds in 2017. These are established by generally wealthy donors to enjoy immediate tax benefits (like gifts of cash) while making onward charitable disbursements over time.
Proposed caps to the total amount of charitable tax deductions, balanced by income tax cuts, will not interrupt this upward trajectory. Passionate people on all side of thorny issues are bound to dig deep. Some nonprofits are already enjoying record support. Donors of all ages and giving levels are candidates for planned gifts.
- Tip: Who are your 25 top individual prospects? Act on a plan to meet with each and prepare yourself and others with this valuable information.
- Tip: Put yourself at ease with planned giving vehicles so that you can plainly explain the tax advantages of each. Remember that bequests are the runaway favorite.
Prediction 2: Foundations will give more and better
Foundations are often funded by wealthy individuals, and such foundations can be like big donor-advised funds with additional benefits and burdens. Many donor-advised funds are, in fact, managed through community foundations.
Rapidly evolving events in Washington are keeping foundations and all donors on the lookout for the best way to move forward effectively. Their recent trend to pivot grantmaking focus, adopt impact investing strategies, and even spend down their assets will continue and intensify.
- Tip: Review your list of top five foundation prospects and do a deep dive into their status in all respects. In what ways do you have linkage with them? What next step can you take this week with each?
- Tip: Draw insight and inspiration from daily email updates from the GuideStar Blog and newsletters that are quickly read and keep you current about the latest grant news and the broader philanthropic landscape.
Prediction 3: Corporate donations will be boosted by greater scrutiny and growing profits
White House tweets aimed at affecting corporate decision making have a discernable impact, so companies are more aware than ever about their public image. Companies often find benefit in corporate giving in a manner consistent with shareholders’ interest and influence and good public relations.
The 250 members of Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) are especially keen. Some 5,000 contributing companies can be researched for free through the Foundation Center’s Funding Information Network. Despite claims to the contrary, businesses can be reliable sponsors of events, where they are introduced to your nonprofit’s key supporters and influential constituents in a flattering manner.
- Tip: What 10 big businesses have links to your nonprofit, whether as a vendor or through other business relationships, or by their giving policies? How can you advance their public relations objectives? Identify your main contact with each and ask him or her to assist you with your request for support.
- Tip: How can each business assist you with the day-to-day operational needs of your nonprofit? Gifts-in-kind of products and services can provide helpful relief to your operating budget. Corporate volunteers bring a whole range of expertise.
Prediction 4: Federal funding will be cut
One-party control of the executive and legislative branches is bound to have consequences. Perennial hot-button nonprofits will be first in line for at least partial defunding. Funding for nonprofits receiving grants in “sanctuary cities” is certainly in jeopardy. Some are already trying to find new revenue streams, and a portion of funds will be replaced by motivated donors when cuts take effect.
- Tip: Update your database and make sure all of your federal, state, and local elected officials are receiving your communications, special invitations to attend events, and other opportunities to engage, such as providing Certificates of Recognition.
- Tip: Find out which staff members are responsible for grants in each of your elected officials’ offices. If you have a significant need (never waste anyone’s time!) ask for an appointment to meet with them.
Prediction 5: Nonprofits will become more transparent
First impressions last and image remains king. Nonprofits that are seen to operate in a transparent and demonstrable manner will enjoy a competitive advantage. Current and potential donors have a dizzying array of instantly accessible online resources to evaluate your nonprofit and see how it compares to others.
Think of your self-reported IRS Form 990 found at GuideStar as the best and most authentic way to make your case on an even playing field with others. In contrast, social media can be a black hole, but if done well and within your organization’s capacity to be on top of it, then certainly they’re fundraising allies. But what might sway your donors’ opinion today?
- Tip: Pull out your IRS Form 990 and look for ways to improve it before the next submission.
- Tip: Update your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile. There’s no charge to update, and the information you provide will appear not only on GuideStar but also on more than 200 philanthropy sites and apps that use GuideStar data.
- Tip: Take a look right now at the various charity ranking services to see whether and how your nonprofit is profiled. Find ways to get listed if that will be helpful, or improve your current listing.
Events in Washington and beyond are a great reason to up your game, engage your volunteers and leadership, and make 2017 your most successful fundraising year yet. Surely some nonprofits are facing dangers, but if your organization is run well and operated without undue dependence on government funds, the fundraising outlook is certainly manageable and even bright.
No matter what, American philanthropy is a resilient force for good that thrives within and beyond any single presidency, leading to a better world for all. Good luck!
Note: These predictions are the author’s and do not necessarily represent GuideStar’s views.
The preceding is a guest post by Ian McCuaig, a philanthropy professional and advisor to the online giving platform Abuntoo. For 20 years Ian has developed and executed donor-centric fundraising strategies for more than 50 nonprofits, as consultant or C-Suite staff leader. Ian’s opinion pieces have been published in Newsday, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner.
© 2017 by Ian McCuaig. All Rights Reserved.