PMA Consulting, LLC

Maintaining Hope in the ‘Individual’: the Foundation of Local Philanthropy

Looking back on 2011, it’s easy to feel a bit schizophrenic about philanthropy where emotions ranged from ominous to optimistic. There were glimpses of a transition from economic recession to recovery, but the direction of man’s compassion and charity was often unclear, leaving our social purpose workers somewhat bewildered and skeptical.

The Individual Donor

Despite an apparent apprehension about the potential offerings of 2012, there is evidence from 2011 that individual donors are increasingly aware of the unwarrantable situation nonprofits face and of the growing needs of communities across the country.

As opposed to their corporate, foundation, and public funding counterparts, the individual donor appeared to be more flexible and responsive to the needs of nonprofits than in recent years. At the same time, individual donors are expecting greater accountability from the recipients of their generosity.

Philanthropic organizations will need to manage this balance, but ultimately are advised to look to individual donors to carry the torch, as they have done time and time again. In 2010, according to GivingUSA and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, $211.77 billion (73% of all charitable giving) was provided by individuals.

Individual Donor Concerns

Where and how much to give are concerning to individual donors. Reduced resources are forcing donors to rethink their charitable priorities and even scrutinize the operations of the organizations they support. Accountability is key, including:

  • Measurable results
  • Efficiency in terms of cost per dollar raised
  • Evidence of a return (in terms of social/programmatic change) on their charitable investment.

Thus, the individual donor requires that our nonprofits be transparent, flexible, and always engage them in open dialogue about the greatest needs of the organization.

Moving Forward

Individuals are increasing their support of local causes – giving more than in previous years to health & human service organizations. Also, more gifts are being provided in the form of general operating support to enable organizations the flexibility to allocate funds to the areas of greatest need.

More nonprofits will most likely be forced to close doors and decrease the quality of critical programs and services in midst of declining resources. Yet, those individual donors who have been called upon in the past can be called upon again. More savvy and discerning than before, certainly, but perhaps also more eager to meet needs and provide meaningful and effective support than ever.