Time to say Buh-Bye to Donors Acting Badly?
Per the Economist’s most recent edition, America is in the middle of a “piggy-bank boom”. The publication’s stats show that “Americans have accumulated $2.5 Trillion Dollars in “extra savings” compared with pre-Covid.” It turns out that American “households’ balance sheets are healthier today than before the pandemic, regardless of their level of income.” The article continues, “they thus have scope to borrow and spend more.”
Wow. Music to a nonprofit’s ears? I hope so. I hope you’re listening.
There are many reasons for this surprising economic landscape (which you should read about in the article), but the point is that many Americans have more cash than they’ve had in a very, very long time.
If people have these “extra savings” and healthier balance sheets, then maybe, just maybe, it’s time for a change in how we do (our) business. I don’t mean to suggest that we go after donors in pitches saying “we know you have extra cash now, so give us some.” Not at all. (If you’ve read any of my other articles or my book, you’ll know that I never ever think you should say or even think that.)
One of the most difficult conversations that nonprofits have relates to donors behaving badly. Should you accept the money, knowing that your benefactor is giving it to try to stay out of jail? Should you return the money when you find out that they are interacting inappropriately with your staff, or are acting illegally in their business dealings? Of course, Epstein and the Sacklers are extreme examples of this, but what about donors that fundraisers encounter more often than they’d like to admit?
It isn’t unusual for a donor to give a gift with difficult strings attached. Examples include gifts that force you to fire an employee, endure verbal abuse of staff, or insist that you change (or create) a program to fit their needs. What if those restrictions/demands are in direct conflict with your strategic plan, mission, or values?
We all know the answer. We need the money to fund our organization and accomplish our goals/mission. Sometimes it’s a Sophie’s Choice, right? Get rid of the donor and threaten your organization, or put up with the donor and keep moving forward in your pursuit of good?
Unless. Unless there’s a big pile of money out there that you’re not even beginning to access.
Today, because of the economic climate in the US, you might not have to make those difficult choices. The “piggy-bank boom” means, among other things, that there are more donors who have the means to give than ever before.
If you’re not going after new donors, looking beyond your “usual suspect” lists, and seeing your volunteers as prospective investors, you’re missing the boat. Is it difficult to successfully solicit new donors — maybe even those that don’t meet your standard screening criteria? Yes, it is. But when you’re thinking about how tough it is to go outside of your “comfort zone”, think about how much you’d like to say ‘no thanks” to the donors behaving badly. Let that motivate you to expand your donor community.
More people have more cash than maybe ever before. Recognize the unusual opportunity this is. Carpe diem!
I’m Saving Giving by providing a clear path to success, supported by data, statistics, and interviews. You can find more great newsletters like this one here on Philanthropy 451, in my bestselling book, Philanthropy Revolution, or on socials at Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to learn more.