PMA Consulting, LLC

Is the Recession Changing How Donors Think?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in its online column Prospecting,  posed this interesting question: how is the recession changing the ways in which donors think about their giving?

On a conference call organized by Bank of America, Ellen Remmer of the Philanthropic Initiative — a donor-advising group — suggested that more donors were assuming a “beginner’s mind” approach to their charity.

“We do really see a new openness,” she said. “We’re calling it the beginner’s mind, in thinking about how they can be helpful and acting in a different way.”

She said donors were moving away from supporting “the latest, greatest new program” and instead thinking about how their dollars can help charities the most. They are giving more to operating costs and trying to understand “what a nonprofit needs to be sustainable,” she said.

Ms. Remmer, who is president of the Philanthropic Initiative, said philanthropists are going on “listening tours” and speaking to more experts and charity leaders to inform their giving. They are also supporting more programs that have been hurt by government cuts, she said.

Gillian Howell, head of private philanthropy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said donor-advised funds are continuing to grow in popularity among donors and that many people are converting their foundations — particularly those under $5-million — into such funds.