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The Giving Pledge, the effort by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett to increase giving by the nation’s wealthiest people, missed a key opportunity, fund raisers say. Instead of simply reaching out to billionaires, they should have promised to match donations of people with a lot less money.
That’s one suggestion offered in a new report by Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, two scholars who study and teach fund raising at Indiana University.
The report is based on ideas to increase charitable giving that were offered by influential nonprofit leaders and other executives.
Besides suggesting that billionaires offer matching gifts, the report includes 31 other ideas for improving giving, which has been stuck at 2 percent of average household income after taxes for the past 40 years, according to “Giving USA.”
Other ideas from the report:
* Encourage charities to develop productive ways to handle complaints from donors, which would reduce negative word of mouth, build trust, and provide ideas to improve fund-raising operations. Charities could take a lesson from the business world, the authors write, where “complaining customers are the firm’s biggest asset.”
* Place more fund raisers on nonprofit boards so they can educate fellow trustees about the best ways to raise money.
* Persuade fund raisers to stop talking to donors about annual funds, capital campaigns, endowment drives, and other such insider approaches and instead urge them to focus on what their money will accomplish.
As an example, the reported noted that Harvesters, a Kansas City, Mo., food bank stopped asking its donors for annual gifts or capital donations. It now uses appeals that ask people to help it feed children, families, and the elderly and to promote healthy eating habits. “The new approach is immensely more powerful,” the authors write.
“No one supports a single nonprofit because they happen to have an annual fund or an endowment,” write Mr. Sargeant and Ms. Shang. “It is not the vehicle that matters to donors; it’s the difference they can make in society.”