Nonprofits Ask for Donations from Individuals and Corporate Funders

Wikipedia defines a donation as a gift for charity, humanitarian aid, or to benefit a cause. Similarly, a contribution is a gift or payment to a common fund or collection. Together these two nouns represent acts of voluntary support for any nonprofit organization ranging from social services to museums to academic and religious institutions and a multitude of other charities. 

It is no surprise that nonprofit organizations depend heavily on donations/contributions – two terms that can be used synonymously – to generate the revenue they need to pursue their mission.  In order to be successful at fundraising, many nonprofits utilize the services of a professional Development Director who understands the process of identifying, cultivating and nurturing meaningful relationships, that is, taking the necessary steps to develop a genuine connection, that will ultimately result in donations/contributions to the organization. 

Whether it is the Executive Director, the Board of Directors or a fundraising professional who make the “ask,” nonprofits often rely on a mix of initiatives to drive revenue. Individuals who share a passion for the organization’s vision are a major target. Golf outings, 5K races, galas of all types, email campaigns, silent and live auctions and other exciting variations fill the landscape. 

Online giving is assuming a more prominent role as technology continues to shape giving patterns.  Crowd funding, tweeting for a cause, and websites that encourage donations, once considered ‘nontraditional’ strategies, are all becoming mainstream tactics today as they take their place alongside other fundraising options.    

When a nonprofit connects with a major donor the leadership can try to leverage the relationship to generate a consistent cash flow. Unlike typical individual donors, major donors may be more interested in helping with a designated special project, an enhancement or a capital improvement. Occasionally a nonprofit has the good fortune to benefit from a major donor establishing an endowment, which provides future economic stability. Other major donors may consider participating in a planned giving program. These are all special situations and are handled carefully and professionally as the organization builds a compelling case for support, recognizing the potential for the relationship to have a significant financial impact.   

Corporate funders are also sought out by nonprofits who attempt to show an alignment between the nonprofit and the grant making organization. Hours are spent carefully completing grant applications with the anticipation of demonstrating the value and sustainability of their mission.

Regardless of all the fund raising alternatives, most nonprofits are reliant on individual giving for the greater portion of their revenue. 

But things are changing now! 

Nonprofit literature has always appealed to potential donors by referencing how important their “donations” or “contributions” are to the cause; how valuable their generous gift giving is for the future success of the organization; and how individual contributions are critical to the mission. 

But as Baby Boomers prepare to exit the business community, replaced by Gen Xers and Millennials, the impact of their exodus is also being felt in the nonprofit world. Baby Boomers have been proud of their philanthropy but millennials are beginning to reinvent ‘charitable giving’ as they encourage people to rethink their obligations to society.    

What does this mean for nonprofits who are accustomed to soliciting funds from individuals? 

Amy Webb, who forecasts digital trends for nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies, advices organizations to stop even asking millennials to ‘donate.’   “Younger donors want to feel more invested in a cause. Choose a different word, with a different connotation, choose to say - investment.” 

Her suggestion is well-founded. The use of the word investment implies an opportunity to be more participatory, to have the chance to provide capital and time and to be an essential part of the success of the organization.

Wikipedia puts it this way: To invest is to allocate money, or sometimes another resource, such as time, in the expectation of some benefit in the future.  

The difference between donate and invest is much more than mere semantics. It is truly a different perspective that implies a different connection between the supporter and the organization.

The trend to encourage involvement and a commitment to active participation grows, the nonprofit community will find itself becoming more aggressive in describing its mission, services, and clients in order to attract and retain the loyalty of the next generation!