Debunking Philanthropic Myths

Just a quick blog today, as I start teaching the new intake of students on our Masters-level class in ‘Fundraising and Philanthropy’ this afternoon.

But I couldn’t resist sharing this link to an article called ‘Debunking Philanthropic Myths’ in the new edition of Alliance magazine. The title is a bit grandiose, as it only presents findings from a survey of US private foundation donors (it took me years to realise that many people use the word ‘philanthropy’ when they really mean ‘foundation philanthropy’). But nonetheless the report is worth a look.

Two main findings  jumped out at me:

Firstly, when asked, ‘How do you typically identify organizations for potential grants?’ 85.6% of respondents said, ‘We mostly find and choose organizations ourselves’ and only 7.9 % said, ‘We mostly fund organizations that submit proposals/requests to our foundation.’ If this situation is any where near comparable in the UK, that’s a lot of trust and foundation fundraisers who are on a hiding to nothing.

Secondly, impact is simply not as high a priority for the surveyed donors as we might imagine. To quote directly from the article:

Many in the philanthropic sector believe that if non-profits could provide hard evidence of results, donors would give more to the best-performing organizations. [But] our survey indicates that this isn’t necessarily the most important criterion. While 37.4 per cent cited ‘personal knowledge of/previous experience with the organization’ as the most important factor in determining whether to grant to a non-profit, only 25.6 per cent cited ‘clear evidence of demonstrable impact’.

This article is from the current online edition of Alliance magazine, if you’re not familiar with them, they will send a free sample edition for potential subscribers.

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