To fundraisers who work with major donors, these profiles of budding philanthropists will probably ring a bell:
1) A business person who has been donating to charity on an ad hoc basis comes into a sizable lump of money. 2) The younger generation of a wealthy family begins taking a more active role in the family foundation, which has received new money. 3) A couple acquires wealth through the success of a business; the spouse takes the lead in giving to a cause that he or she knows through work or volunteerism.
All are poised to up their charitable giving, but each needs help deciding how to feel fulfilled rather than frustrated while doing so. The more the nonprofit world understands about their different “giving journeys,” a new report argues, the better it can move them along.
“Philanthropy in the U.K. has achieved a great deal, but it has the potential to have a bigger impact—which may involve changing the sector so that it more closely meets the needs of philanthropists,” says “Giving More and Better: How can the philanthropy sector improve?”
Yes, the report is about the U.K., which lags behind the United States in charitable giving. In fact, the U.S. leads the world in individual contributions as a percentage of GDP. But that doesn’t mean we have nothing to learn. Many philanthropic experts think people could donate more over here too – and give more effectively, another theme of the report.
“One of the things we wanted to show is that there are lots of differences in how people give,” says Angela Kail, head of the funders team for New Philanthropy Capital, a think tank and consultancy in London that prepared the report. But the common theme, she says, is: How do we encourage people to both give more “and enjoy it more.”
The group based its conclusions on expert interviews, workshops, and information from philanthropic organizations. It traces the steps that the three types of donors mentioned above typically take to become engaged philanthropists, charting some of the frustrations or questions they grapple with along the way.
For example, after starting to give more money away, the business person in example one becomes uneasy about whether charities are spending his or her money wisely. The foundation trustees in example two aren’t sure whether to expand their current grant making or branch out geographically. The spouse in example three begins to question whether the charity’s solutions are the right ones.
“For most people the philanthropic journey is not a straightforward path,” the report says. “The journey requires self-reflection, willingness to learn from others, and the ability to find sources of information.” It outlines steps that can help usher donors through such doubts. For example, they can get expert advice, join boards or donor networks, attend workshops, or engage with peers.
More generally, fundraisers, advisers, philanthropic organizations, and others should work to create a climate that encourages wealthy people to give in a way that has impact, rather than doing so for prestige or because they were asked by friends. “Dissatisfaction with giving,” it notes, “is often triggered by a feeling that their money is not making much of a difference.”
Fundraisers can play a critical role in that mission given their close interaction with major donors, the report says. While they naturally feel pressure to bring in more money to their own organizations, says Kail, they can also offer critical insights into how to increase the level of overall giving.
New Philanthropy Capital now plans to spearhead further discussions among interested parties about how to transform philanthropy in the U.K. If the campaign succeeds, it says, it could unlock an additional 4 billion pounds (about $5.25 billion) a year from wealthy donors. Stay tuned: Perhaps some of what they learn can be applied on this side of the Atlantic.