Individual Contributions and Volunteerism
According to Giving USA, a publication of Giving U.S.A. foundation, in 2009 individual contributions, including bequests accounted for 83% or slightly more than $251 billion of the philanthropic dollars reported in the United States. While this percentage of overall individual giving continued as it has for decades, it is likely that that total amount of individual giving may not increase in 2011. With unemployment exceeding 10% in some states, individual giving decreased. The impact which the economic downturn is having on each person's capacity and willingness to give varies considerably based on their personal circumstances. With the increase in unemployment, the emphasis on volunteerism in times of need, and the Call to Service and United We Serve initiatives by President Obama, volunteer hours from individuals are increasing substantially.
Recent survey findings include:
Here are some further recession considerations:
Donors will continue to give what they can to the causes they care most about. Those not currently in a position to give dollars may want to volunteer their time. It is more important than ever to understand your individual donors' situations, their capacity to give, and the degree to which your cause is a high priority for them. Then figure out ways to best engage them in contributing their money and/or time.
This is a more challenging but not impossible time to recruit new donors. As always, people receive many appeals for contributions and respond to those appeals that they care most about. The grandeur and enduring legacy of National Park units and their connections to people, places and stories resonate strongly with many people. Some parks are experiencing record visitation. The Ken Burns' The National Parks - America's Best Idea and other park featured TV specials heightened public awareness about and interest in their national parks. People will be more motivated to emulate the early supporters of national parks profiled in the series to become involved and offer their participation and support. Parks and their partners need to be position themselves to take advantage of this interest and make it easy for the public to learn through park websites, the media and in-park information how they can get involved.
Your core donors and supporters are your strongest funding prospects. Your organization's first priority should be to communicate a convincing case that your park causes are, and will continue to be, a worthy investment for their more limited giving. You want to fine tune your donor case statements and lists of giving needs and opportunities. It is important to clearly present these needs and opportunities to give and make a difference, and communicate the impact of donations on the park and its programs.
Connect, or reconnect, to core donors in the context of how much you value their continued support and how their support has and will continue to make a difference.
Personal connections will make a difference. No donation is too small during difficult times to acknowledge. A timely, personal response and quick thank-you calls, card or email from staff or volunteers will encourage and reinforce a donor's continued support with whatever means they can afford. Continue to cultivate your relationship with your donors.
If donors perceive that you are solely contacting them for money, you may experience a negative response. In this more competitive fundraising environment, timely and frequent updates and personal connections make a big difference in holding on to your donors. This may require more staff support work but volunteers can be recruited to help with donor communications.
Many donors are doing basic research on how they might support parks on-line by first accessing the nps.gov websites and navigating to park and partner websites. It is crucial that park websites be inspiring and provide clear directions for giving and volunteering. Many park and partner websites need to be upgraded. Suggestions for these upgrades reformats will soon be available on this website.
Online giving has become a valuable resource for many nonprofits. Increasingly, individual donors are becoming more comfortable giving money, becoming members, and making payments online. Because online giving requires little overhead, provides a quick way to donate and is more cost-effective, its use is expected to continue to increase over the next few years. Through online giving donors can contribute to restricted and unrestricted funds. (Link to Online Fundraising.)
Some Friends Groups have noted a recent resurgence of people contributing by mailing checks. This may be a result of increased concern about computer hackers seeking to capture online financial information. Encourage donors to give whichever way they feel most comfortable.
With many under-employed people and the heightened interest in volunteering from students, recent graduates, baby boomers and seniors, a challenge is to develop park staff and partner capacity to offer rewarding volunteer opportunities. Based on national statistics, two thirds of volunteers do not stay engaged largely because they don't feel effectively utilized, respected and appreciated. Park volunteerism is the entree to cultivating a lifelong commitment to park stewardship. People who donate their time and expertise often end up as philanthropic donors because of their enhanced awareness, appreciation and commitment to parks.
In the current environment where there is more capacity to give time than money, most agencies and organizations are bending over backwards to accommodate and engage more volunteers. This is partially to take advantage of available support and partially to cultivate engagement, a sense of park stewardship, and commitments for the future when the economy eventually improves. This should be part of your strategy to grow your donor base.