“Please don’t let this happen to us!” Charity Fatigue and the Cost of Not Having a Giving Strategy

The Boston Globe is reporting that myriad charities are falling short of fundraising goals as financial support for Marathon bombing victims is re-directed to the newly established The One Fund.  

Competition among non profits for cash donations has already been intense in this recovering economy – fewer dollars available from and greater competition for government grants, lesser gift amounts from individual donors, and corporate sponsors are always considering new charities to match their brands. So when a sudden event creates a new cause like The One Fund occurs, well, let the publisher of MassNonProfit.org Peter Lowy say it- it has “sucked all the oxygen from the fund-raising air.”

This is setting up a scenario that pits terror victims against the hungry against the mentally ill against children, etc. It underscores the cost of giving without strategy, especially a lack of loyalty which can set a non profit and its community of beneficiaries into a tailspin.

Companies and foundations, whether they have $10,000 to give or $10 million to help everyone when their donations follow a larger strategy to reach a common purpose instead of a reactionary scatter shot:

          What do you stand for? It’s more meaningful to the donor as the receiver if there is a purpose for charitable giving. Defining the company’s or foundation’s values allows the giver to be proactive instead of reactive. A mission statement will provide a roadmap for the long term.

        Budget Where are the charitable funds coming from? Profit? Endowment? Events? Cause Marketing? Employee matching? Does budget also include volunteer time, pro bono services and in-kind gifts?

  Create a giving plan A plan makes it easier to say no to requests for donations, just as much as it does to say yes. Within the plan, start with a tangible and achievable goal that’s not about money but social outcomes, like increasing graduation rates or preserving natural spaces. The right collection of non profits and even corporate partners will emerge, along with events to turn vision into reality. Plus, If you are invited to participate in a sudden cause, like The One Fund, you have guidance to stay on plan or find the funds elsewhere.

        Leadership Companies whose CEOs and Presidents help set the giving strategy are the most successful. That leadership keeps corporate giving an enterprise-wide priority, motivates the staff to keep the giving plan on task and provides a face for the cause, legitimizing the cause and inviting broader support.


About christengraham

President of Giving Strong, Inc. Christen advises businesses, foundations and families for how to make a greater social impact.