End-Of-Year Guidance on Philanthropy
Thirty-five years of experience in philanthropy has taught me that the last ten weeks of the year is the most consequential time for the non-profit sector, as donors respond to increased needs for funding in their communities. Given our current environment, we want to make sure that this generosity continues regardless of whatever else is happening in the world this December.
This year’s challenges have been significant to say the least, and has caused many to pause and reflect on the type of legacy they want to leave behind. This is demonstrated in philanthropy through increased giving. It is notable with respect to an increase we’ve observed in small giving, and the data also shows that bequests have increased substantially.
Despite all the turmoil of 2020, philanthropy has been a bright point for the past five months. A recent New York Times article summed up this sentiment. Additionally, small gifts ($250 and under) increased by six percent in Q1 2020, compared to Q1 2019, according to an AFP survey. Finally, a Fidelity Charitable Survey in March showed that almost 80% of donors didn’t anticipate reducing their philanthropy due to the current environment. Indeed, a fourth of them planned to increase their giving. We have seen the spirit of philanthropy endure through this data and through our interactions with our clients, and are working to ensure they finish the year strong.
Far from retreating from their philanthropic commitments amidst hard times, the American Spirit of Generosity is soaring. That spirit of generosity must be nurtured, though. We said in March that in order to thrive in this environment, it will be vital for organizations to stay involved and engaged in the philanthropic life of their donors and the community. We said that family matters now more than ever, and that by being proactive about your donor communications, you can endear yourself to your community in such a way that they view you as part of their broader family. Indeed, several of our clients have seen increased annual and major gifts since March thanks to cultivating that type of relationship.
If you haven’t already instituted a system to stay engaged in the lives of your donors, we highly encourage that you do so and stand ready to assist however we can.
Positive Trends in Philanthropy
I hope this finds you safe and healthy as we move into the second half of 2020. As you likely know, Giving USA recently released its numbers which showed that in 2019, Americans donated almost $450 billion to charity. Furthermore, in comparison to 2018, individual giving increased by 2.8%. As good as this news is, most in our industry are deeply curious and even concerned about the outlook for 2020. I am optimistic about this year, and am reaching out to share with you some data The Hodge Group has been tracking, as well as some anecdotal information from our clients.
- Though the stock market has taken some hits and unemployment is still over ten percent, the conversations we’ve shared with our clients and their stakeholders, suggest optimism toward recovery. We’ve also found that the non-profit community has a significant opportunity to emerge as a leader in this recovery by optimizing their strategic partnerships and remaining relevant and flexible in the current environment. To date, The Hodge Group has facilitated or is in the process of facilitating a half-dozen major gifts this year. In fact, we recently secured a transformational gift through a Zoom solicitation.
- A Fidelity Charitable Survey from March showed that almost 80% of donors plan to continue or increase the size of their gifts even in the midst of the COVID-19 Crisis. This is in contrast to the AFP survey data that shows an overall 6% decrease in charitable giving during the first quarter of 2020. The AFP survey also showed a bright spot of a 6% increase in smaller gifts of $250 and under. We celebrate these because we all recognize how deeply sacrificial these are under our current economic circumstances.
- The desire to help is something many hope to carry beyond this life, and according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, FreeWill, a company that provides free online estate-planning tools, “saw a 600 percent increase in bequest commitments” in 2020 compared to 2019 for the last week of March. Bequest commitments in April 2020 were up 150% compared to 2019, and May commitments increased by 40% compared to 2019. This is consistent with everything The Hodge Group has observed about philanthropic tendencies during major life events. The entire second quarter of 2020, beginning with COVID-19 and ending with one of the most era-defining social justice movements of our time, has certainly set the stage for the desire to leave a legacy.
- A recent article in the New York Times makes clear that people are looking to help during these challenging times. Indeed, the article cites a study of thirty-two community foundations that found that donations from those organizations increased by 80% from March – May 2020 compared to that same time period in 2019.
I am privileged to do this work and look forward to observing profound recovery and change through the continued spirit of philanthropy.
American Philanthropy Continues to Excel
Americans donated almost $450 billion to charities in 2019. Giving from individuals was up 2.8% compared to 2018. Through the data and our own experiences as practitioners with philanthropists, we are seeing that the American spirit of philanthropy is continuing to soar and thrive.
Guidance on COVID-19 and a New Normal
As we continue to monitor information regarding the not-for-profit sector, the most recent data from a Fidelity Charitable Survey backs multiple data points coming from Indiana’s School of Philanthropy and real-time information we’ve gathered from our clients and webinars across the not-for-profit sector over the last several weeks. Below are six key takeaways from this survey, but we encourage you to go directly to the report here.
Almost 80% of donors plan to maintain or even increase their level of giving
A clear majority of donors plan to continue supporting their usual charities
Communication is more essential than ever as donors struggle to understand where their dollars can do the most good
Baby boomers, in particular, need organizations to tell them how they can be helpful
Almost half of millennials plan to increase their giving in response to the current environment
Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) remain attractive vehicles to seek out for support
In addition to the above data points, we believe the following should be considered in your donor communications:
- Make your appeal as early as possible. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if your case for support was valid two months ago, it is valid now. In fact, it is probably more valid now given our current environment.
- Make it easy to donate (offer multiple channels, such as email, social media, phone, and mail). Any of these channels can be applied to P2P appeals, which will create a more rapid response.
- Make it fun! The ALS Ice Bucket challenge is just one example of a successful P2P fundraiser because it was simple and engaging. Similarly, some organizations have used platforms like Tik-Tok and Instagram to design creative fundraising appeals.
- Emphasize the CARES Act’s limited-time benefit of a $300/$600 tax write-off for individuals/couples who don’t itemize their taxes. As the polling shows, people want to be responsive to organizations’ needs in this uncertain environment and being able to donate to an organization they love allows them to demonstrate that agency. If there is a tax incentive to go with that, so much the better.
Stay safe, and we hope to see you in-person soon.
Hyper-Philanthropy: Library Edition
The Hodge Group is a national leader in facilitating public-private partnerships. Through our work with dozens of libraries, we’ve seen how private philanthropy can unlock government funding and vice versa. In our experience, the most exciting library projects are successful with a good mix of both public and private support. It was heartening, then, to see this week’s election results in Ohio.
Fourteen Ohio libraries had levies on the ballot this Tuesday, and all fourteen passed. In fact, the levies passed with an average of 71% support for them. People appreciate how precious libraries are, especially in our current environment, and they are responding in kind by voicing their endorsement to ensure libraries can remain state-of-the-art facilities for life-long learning. That levy support, displayed below in overwhelming terms, can now be leveraged to secure private dollars.
When government and the private sector collaborate, amazing things can happen. Americans are hyper about philanthropy, and this week’s levy results speak to the lasting impact community support can have for continuing vital public-private partnerships.
Sophia’s Hyper about Philanthropy!
As we all continue to work from home amidst this new normal, we at The Hodge Group feel it's important to celebrate the great successes we're seeing around the country, and there are many. Despite all the bad news on TV, people are proving they are more hyper about philanthropy than ever before. We trademarked that term, Hyper-Philanthropy, because we believe the American spirit of generosity endures and thrives during even the darkest times, and we want to share some of our observations from the last month with you now.
Annual Appeals are UP!
THG sat on a Lilly School of Philanthropy webinar just last Friday and heard from them what we've been hearing ourselves from our clients. Aggressively communicating with empathy and resolve at this time is appreciated, and this kind of outreach has led to a general trend of nonprofits surpassing their annual appeal metrics compared to a year ago.
Donor communication is evolving for the better!
Behavioral psychology and technology are more important today than ever, and using platforms like TikTok and YouTube has allowed our clients to remain authentic and relevant in the eyes of their stakeholders. This switch in communications also allows for improved Peer-to-Peer fundraising, which also leads to better fundraising. Our clients are innovating like never before to communicate their message in relevant ways, and the Lilly School agrees that the result has been increased efficiency that will last beyond the current environment.
Teams are becoming stronger!
Pressure makes diamonds, and it's no secret that these are challenging times. All organizations are being forced to be more honest and vulnerable with each other as we strive to create a new normal that works for all of us. As a result of these conversations, we've seen organizations across the nonprofit sector establish new standards for building psychological safety and trust. An organization that welcomes these types of changes becomes more authentic, more efficient, and more relevant than they were previously.
This is all great news from a 30,000 foot view, but it's even more incredible when you see how it's impacting change on a case-by-case basis. That's why we wanted to share Sophia's story with you today. Sophia is a 6-year old philanthropist who put what resources she had together to donate $14.77 to Grand View Health, a nonprofit hospital in Pennsylvania. Watch this video to hear Sophia's story. She's hyper about philanthropy, and you will be too after hearing from her.
The Hodge Group –
Tips for Engaging Donors amid Social Distancing
As we settle into a new normal, The Hodge Group recognizes that nonprofits are facing enormous challenges in the current environment. Our team is monitoring best practices in the field, listening to webinars and reading blog posts. We’re also advising clients about a number of new opportunities presented in the current environment, including virtual tours and opportunities for “viral” video creation. Donor communications is no longer about reading the room, you have to be able to read the Zoom.
With that in mind, we wanted to send along some tips for engaging donors while also respecting the need for social distancing:
- There is no such thing as overcommunication in this environment, and make sure you communicate across multiple channels – text, phone, video, email, etc. Your donors want to hear from you. They donate to your organization because they care about what you are doing, so let them know what you’ve been up to and that you are here to support them as well in this difficult time. With everyone cooped up, we’ve found that people really appreciate just having another person to talk to.
- Now is the time to refine your digital strategy. Make sure your donation page is optimized for mobile, and take time to gather email addresses for your stakeholders if you haven’t already.
- Include surveys and polls in donor communications to spur engagement.
- The Hodge Group is facilitating a number of virtual events right now, and we’ve identified some best practices around that:
- Have an engagement plan to make any experience with a donor interactive – that includes a live chat option on whatever video platform you use to communicate.
- Have a donate option available on whatever platform you use – a link to direct people if it’s held on Zoom, a Facebook donation button on your page if you do Facebook Live, etc. If your organization creates an awesome video that goes viral, but there isn’t an easily accessible donate button on the page, you’re leaving money on the table.
- Create a hashtag for virtual events to create a greater sense of community.
- Movie night? Share screen and stream an appropriate movie to keep your community engaged. Use any of these free resources to host it. Remember not to charge stakeholders money for the viewing unless you’ve secured licensing permissions.
- Virtual trivia night? Design a fun, interactive quiz around your organization’s mission and/or history, and pick a fun prize for the winner.
- When filming videos, worry about lighting and sound quality of course, but keep editing to a minimum for the sake of authenticity. Don’t be afraid to wear sweat pants or whatever you’re comfortable in.
All of this is centered around being able to provide stakeholders with a three-dimensional holistic experience given our current two-dimensional constraints. We’ve found that stakeholders will thank you for calm, reliable, constant contact that can adapt to shifting realities during times of crises, and video is a vital part of creating that experience. We’re all living amidst great uncertainty, and during times of great uncertainty people enjoy being able to exercise control over something in their power, like their giving. So, tell a compelling story and you might be surprised how people receive it.
Thank you, stay safe, and we hope to see you when this is all over.
The Hodge Group – Further Guidance on Philanthropy and COVID-19:
I was on NBC4 Day Time Columbus to discuss how the nonprofit sector is responding to the threat of COVID-19.
Click here to watch the interview, and read on to learn how your nonprofit can emerge from this situation stronger than ever.
- Stay involved and engaged in the philanthropic life of donors and the community
- Tell your donors and friends to give only to trusted charities. There will be scammers
- For example, use some of those great photos you’ve got stored away of your organization in action and make them into postcards using Vistaprint or another inexpensive service. Send these postcards to donors and check in on how they’re doing. Or, you can use the images digitally for your social media outreach.
- If you have to cancel an event and you’ve already paid for the food or space, consider donating that food to a homeless shelter or donating that space to a nonprofit hospital in need. If you arrange this, make sure your stakeholders are aware of the donation. Paying it forward will be important.
- Calibrate requests and appeals based on the immediate environment;
- Did you have a solicitation visit scheduled for March or April? Keep it if possible, and let the donor know that you understand this is a trying time and are happy to work with them through whatever challenges arise.
- Be transparent with information and communication
- Assign a single point of contact within your organization to communicate with your community. It’s important to speak from one voice during a crisis to ensure consistent messaging. The lead person should be the CEO/Executive Director. Regular email blasts and individual phone calls should be coordinated as appropriate to Board members, staff, donors, and prospects. You should be communicating with stakeholders now more than ever.
- Maintain relationships, activities, and everything else that demonstrates you are viable today and will be viable tomorrow
- In this time of social distancing, do not cancel Board meetings. Zoom and other video platforms make virtual communications easier than ever, and it is important to demonstrate that your organization is not closing its doors. Though this is not business as usual, it is still business.
- Don’t be afraid to be thinking about making your next ask.
I have worked through crisis management with clients for decades. This is the third unprecedented situation I have witnessed. Through these, I have observed organizations who stay still during tumultuous times, and know that these are among those who do not fare well when a crisis ends (and, I assure you, this will end). Now is the time for nonprofits to prioritize flexibility, creativity, and responsiveness to those who will assist them most in pursuit of their mission.
Principal, The Hodge Group
The Hodge Group – Guidance on Philanthropy and COVID-19:
The Hodge Group recognizes the need to rely on best practice and steady leadership during tumultuous times. That is why we wish to share with you some lessons learned from our experience practicing philanthropic fundraising during two prior significant economic events (9/11 and the Great Recession).
In dealing with COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, our first obligation is to follow the directions of the public health community and be vigilant when it comes to issues of health and safety. Moving beyond health concerns, though, questions remain on how the coronavirus and its impact on the economy will impact our communities.
Although no two crises are identical, we can learn from each. Looking at what was successful for the community post-9/11 and post-Great Recession, four points rise to the top for me:
- we stayed involved and engaged in the philanthropic life of donors and the community;
- we calibrated requests and appeals based on the immediate environment;
- we were transparent with information and communication;
- and finally, we maintained relationships, activities, and everything else that demonstrated we were viable today and would be viable tomorrow.
During the Great Recession, those institutions that did not continue to maintain engaged relationships and simply stopped their activities fared very poorly after the dust had settled. Looking forward, we have an expanded set of relationship tools aimed at facilitating continued engagement with stakeholders, from enhanced CRMs to video-conferencing. These tools can help us not just maintain but build upon relationships with prospective and existing donors and clients.
The bottom line is that we must carry on our work with urgency, calibrating it to be responsive to threats posed by the coronavirus and the public’s response to it. As the important work of philanthropy continues, The Hodge Group stands ready to assist wherever we can.
Principal, The Hodge Group
Hyper-Philanthropy™ Spurs IDEA Growth
By: Bharat Krishnan, MBA
The Hodge Group recognizes the urgency of the philanthropic sector to address the continued issues of income inequality and racism facing America. Philanthropy has always tried to ameliorate these issues, but in recent years the community has redoubled its efforts to address barriers of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA). Like other partners in the philanthropic world, The Hodge Group is committed to ensuring that the nonprofit community is pulling its weight in terms of making sure we are inclusive, making sure we are not just serving diverse clients but are also diverse ourselves, ensuring equity through our funding and partnerships, and ultimately increasing access between philanthropists and the neighborhoods they serve. That is part of the reason why we developed our trademarked methodology of Hyper-Philanthropy™.
Hyper-Philanthropy™ recognizes transformational shifts in how communities operate, and those shifts each serve as opportunities for enhancing how nonprofits can better enable inclusive ideas, promote diversity in all forms, achieve equity by ensuring that all relevant voices in a decision-making process are heard, and ultimately allow for better access across our communities. The Hodge Group recognizes these shifts as:
- A rise in people power;
- A shift from hierarchal to horizontal decision making;
- An increase in competition for dollars as ten percent of U.S. jobs are now tied to the nonprofit sector
Each of these shifts speak to a changing country that is hungry for innovation. With fewer people making decisions from the top-down and so many people working in the sector, opportunity is ripe for inviting diverse viewpoints to serve on a Board. This approach enables greater inclusivity and diversity as Boards make important decisions concerning the communities they serve. Furthermore, the rise in people power fueled by new technologies encourages greater access and equity since approximately 90% of Americans use the Internet and approximately 80% of Americans have smartphones according to Pew Research. By inviting new people into a process and enabling them to contribute to that process holistically in a meaningful way, the questions of how to best address these critical issues becomes clearer. Ultimately, hyper-philanthropic cultures emerge through the identification of shared core values, and those core values can be identified quicker than ever before by taking advantage of these shifts. Through technology, Hyper-Philanthropy™ creates a platform for greater access, which leads to more inclusive, diverse, and equitable communities. In this way, Hyper-Philanthropy™ spurs IDEA growth.
What is a Capital Campaign?
A Capital Campaign is a dedicated effort by a nonprofit organization to raise money for a large capital expenditure (like buildings, property, or something physical that is going to last a long time). A capital campaign will have a specific dollar goal to be raised within a specific amount of time.
The Hodge Group has assisted with many capital campaigns, including a multi-year effort by Rhodes State College to establish a new building in downtown Lima, Ohio. You can view a good example of the messaging and scope of work that goes into a capital campaign effort here:
You can find out more about Rhodes State College's efforts in this news article.
Hyper-Philanthropy™ Begins with a Good Strategic Plan
By: Kim Horton, MA, CFRE
The Hodge Group leads organizations towards the strongest philanthropic response possible by tying that response directly to an organization’s strategic plan. Furthermore, we coordinate that plan with the strategic alignment of resources, messaging, and outreach, in order to customize our trademarked methodology of Hyper-Philanthropy™ for our clients.
The Hodge Group has a long history of facilitating successful strategic planning sessions with organizations of all sizes and missions. Organizations experience a session(s) which may run between two-four hours and is interactive and collaborative. We encourage attendance to be a combination of Board and staff leadership and begin our process with advanced research and discussion with the respective leadership groups. This assists all to reach consensus on the current state of the organization, its potential within its current structure, and further potential with the establishment of enhanced resources. The Hodge Group believes that a strategy that is not shared will not last, and one of the most crucial outcomes of this strategic planning situation is that the Board adopts ownership of the planning process and its result.
Organizations can expect to reach any combination of the following objectives through our initial session and subsequent sessions:
- Consensus on opportunities and challenges
- Established understanding of the mission and vision and its relationship to your values and service delivery
- Established understanding of the relationship between Board and Staff Leadership and their respective roles in the creation and implementation of strategic planning
- Understanding the relationship between the key planning components:
- Areas of Focus
- Assignment of the Areas of Focus
- Discussion and Assignment of Goals
- Discussion and assignment reasonable measures and tactics
- Assistance with the writing of the full plan
- Assistance with the celebration of the plan’s approval and adoption
All of this is tailored towards unlocking a Hyper-Philanthropic™ culture among your Board and Staff Leadership. Two actions necessary to achieve that culture are that, first, your organization has to empower its Board to become brand ambassadors for that organization; next, new initiatives the organization wants to implement have to be socialized within the community. The Hodge Group’s unique strategic planning process accomplishes both those goals by naturally creating a value-embued brand for the organization which can then be socialized through strategic messaging and invite a powerful strategic response, thus attaining a Hyper-Philanthropic™ state.
Contact The Hodge Group today to find out how you can embark upon a strategic planning process to unlock your Board’s Hyper-Philanthropic™ potential.
Driving Hyper-Philanthropy™ Through New Technologies
By: Russ Hodge, CFRE
Experts tell us that the face of philanthropy is changing rapidly. The Giving Institute’s data reveals that individual giving makes up less than 70% of our $400 billion industry for the first time ever, and online/mobile giving rates are up almost three times the rate of overall giving. Despite these changes, though, it’s crucial to remember that the fundamentals of this field remain constant. Giving is about personal connections, now more than ever in an increasingly impersonal world, and the only thing that has changed is the medium. With that in mind, The Hodge Group (THG) has trademarked a term, Hyper-Philanthropy™, that we believe can define giving in the modern age.
Hyper-philanthropy™ is about taking advantage of resources within your organization and your community at large to foster an environment where staff, board members, and community leaders all feel passionately about serving the public good through philanthropy.
Northwest Arkansas, for example, is a hyper-philanthropic™ community in large part thanks to a culture fostered by Walmart. What actions create a strong culture?
- Empowering community leaders to become brand ambassadors for an organization.
- Socializing a new initiative.
- Streamlining operations in an organization through the use of new technologies, such as advancements in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Such elements make it easier for a hyper-philanthropic culture to exist because they create convenience for a community. Approximately 70% of Americans live online lives today through social media, blogs, and more, and by meeting these people where they live the promise of becoming a hyper-philanthropic organization becomes achievable.
Hyper-philanthropy™ recognizes three seismic shifts in how communities operate:
- A rise in people power (i.e. globalization shown through increased crowdfunding and social platforms);
- A shift from hierarchies to horizontal decision-making (i.e. the rise of telework and the popularity of open offices);
- And a fierce increase in competition (nonprofits account for over 10% of all private jobs in 2019).
Far from being scary, these seismic shifts represent outstanding opportunities that can be leveraged to create that hyper-philanthropic culture we all want to embody.
Hyper-philanthropic™ cultures emerge through the identification of shared core values, and such values become easy to identify through the use of new technologies.
A large social presence online makes it so that a nonprofit can offer digital and immersive tours of their facilities and/or programs to donors from anywhere in the world. The fight for philanthropic dollars is more intense than ever before, but new AI tools allow development offices to have one staffer do the work of three when it comes to prospect research and identification. By focusing on bolstering your SEO strategy through a use of blogs, social media, and other platforms, your organization achieves brand penetration that socializes initiatives. Using new technologies in these ways means more time for executive directors, Boards, and development teams to do what they do best – forge stronger relationships.
As American culture evolves, so must our philanthropic culture evolve if we are to meet donors where they live in an increasingly digital world.
Whether you are conducting a feasibility study or embarking upon a capital campaign, your organization needs to know how to make the most of scarce resources and how to best engage, excite, and empower your most promising volunteers. Watch our video on hyper-philanthropy™ here, and then send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a free consultation to determine how to make your organization hyper-philanthropic™.
Recession Proofing Your Non-Profit
By: Kim Horton, CFRE
Though the economy expanded at a rate of 2% in Q2 2019, there is emerging evidence that economic growth is slowing, causing many to brace for another recession. Considering that our non-profit industry makes up 2% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, we need to pay attention.
Many in our industry are haunted by the recession of 2008, which did not discriminate and left many non-profits with considerably less operating revenue and flexibility. The Weingart Foundation cites some relevant research from the Chronicle of Philanthropy here: https://www.weingartfnd.org/files/ChronicleRecessionin2019.pdf
While the article suggests non-profit organizations aren’t thinking much about a recession and are forging ahead under an assumption of business as usual, we at The Hodge Group recommend a pro-active approach to recession-proof your non-profit by following these steps:
- Encourage Hyper-Philanthropy™ by diversifying your resources
By using data and going through a strategic planning process, you will align your constituents to a predictable and sustainable philanthropic response that allows you to continue to be impactful. Strategic use of your volunteers and technology enhances this and helps drive your organization toward a hyper-philanthropic state.
- Create a Useable Strategy
Many non-profits engage in Strategic Planning to appease accreditation requirements or to remain in compliance with a grant-making organization. THG believes in creating a strategic plan that is regularly referenced. By having this type of tool available, all resources can be directed effectively without compromising mission delivery.
- Know Your Value Proposition
Several non-profit organizations mimic services, sometimes inside the same area of expertise. When individual donors are faced with making decisions during a time when their philanthropic dollars are limited, you want your organization to stand out as one they should choose over others. That’s where THG can offer vital aid with our proprietary formula for crafting a branded, donor-centered value proposition.
- Establish Flexible Funding
Now is the time to bolster your annual giving efforts so that you have more unrestricted dollars accessible for remaining agile through tough times. Testing specific variables within this fundraising stream is most effective before a recession and the data acquired will help direct a more predictable response should you be faced with having to make difficult operational decisions.
- Gather Data regarding Organizational Capacity
A Feasibility Study is not only for Capital Campaigning. THG offers an enhanced, proprietary assessment model which delivers to organizations information about specific attributes which exist to support them through any conditions. These measurements come from both internal and external resources and offer insight regarding expectations and assumptions.