When donor capability goes down, look up.

According to Giving USA 2016, generosity is at an all-time high in America. Happy days are finally here for our nation’s nonprofit community, or so the report suggests. But dig deeper into the numbers and there’s another story to be told.

An analysis by the research team over at the Institute for Policy Studies of recent tax filings found that

Over the past 10 years, charitable giving deductions from lower-income donors have declined significantly, at almost the same rate that charitable giving from higher income donors increased. Itemized charitable deductions from donors making less than $100,000 a year declined by 34% from 2005 to 2015, while the same deductions from donors making $100,000 or more a year increased by 40%.

The study helps explain why the majority of small to mid-size nonprofits – organizations that live by the generosity of bread-and-butter donors — are struggling to make ends meet despite sky-rocketing giving totals overall.

custom_pot_of_gold_14015Gifts from “lower and middle income donors . . .  have declined by as much as 25% between 2005 and 2015. . . This rate of decline “correlates strongly with overall economic indicators, such as wages, employment and homeownership rates,” the study said.

Simply put, the desire to give among families in the less than $100,000 a year camp has been thwarted by stagnate wages and diminished financial options.

But while alerting us to trend lines, the analysis doesn’t suggest what smaller nonprofits and ministries without the contacts or clout to attract big-money donors can/should do with the information.

MORE THAN CRUMBS

Truth be told, many days I scratch my head along with the folks with whom I consult at how to deal with the inequity built into our nation’s philanthropic patterns. I’m tempted to fret, to whine, and to rail against “the system.” But just in time, I pull myself back to the foundational truth of my faith and of my approach to fundraising.

This is it. Our God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to God’s power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).

Of course, we have our part to play. The surety of God working on our behalf isn’t a free pass to inaction. We must:

develop a compelling case for support.
plan our work and work our plans.
ask often and in as many ways as possible.
stay close to long-time friends, even as we seek new.
thank, thank, and thank again.

In short, the fundraiser’s work isn’t easy, but then nothing worth doing is. However, staking our claim on the amazing promise of God’s power and presence enables us to push on with hope, courage, and confidence. This promise is what gets fundraisers of faith up in the morning, out of the office, and in front of the generous folk who’ve stood by their organizations through thick and thin.

As we invite God’s people to join us in imagining what God will do through their gifts, the immeasurable happens — regardless economic trend lines. As we look up to God’s goodness, there is enough for all, including small to mid-size ministries. Including yours.

Comments

  1. Hi Rebekah – I printed out the second part of this blog starting with “foundational truth…” and it’s on the wall next to my computer. I so needed the reminder! I encourage you to create another post – “Inspiration to get Christian fundraisers get out of bed” or something like that. You have given us a good summary not only of what to do, but why we do it. Thank you!

  2. Thank you, Lori, for the great suggestion for a future Generous Matters article — “Inspiration to get Christian fundraisers out of bed.” I’ve added this to my “idea file” for 2017.

    I’ve appreciated your comments and encouragement in 2016 and look forward to more in the year ahead.

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