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The Season to Give

Geoff Campbell.

Geoff Campbell.

By Geoff Campbell
Louisville Collegiate School

What non-profit doesn’t want to receive a gift of highly appreciated stock this Holiday Season?  It may be more a matter of timing related to year-end tax benefits than it is the spirit of the holidays, but that is of little consequence to the donor and the beneficiary. For the past several years, non-profit donations have been on the rise. According to Charity Giving, a web based non-profit clearing house for information about thousands of non-profits, total giving to charitable organizations was $335.17 billion in 2013, up 4.4 percent from 2012. Based on the growth of the markets and, in turn, discretionary income, that number is likely to go even higher by the end of 2014.

If you are in the business of fundraising, institutional advancement or development work, this is good news and, of course, you have lived it. But you also understand that the numbers are just half of the story. The availability of discretionary income is just a fact until it is combined with a donor’s enthusiasm for his/her passion. Matching donors with their passion is the key that unlocks the resources that fund gifts.

Fundraising is far more art than science. As an art it is about judging, gaging and nudging, not unlike a painter bringing an image forward from a blank canvas using short brush strokes and a carefully angled pallet knife. As a science it’s soft, more like social psychology than chemistry. Institutions rarely receive surprise gifts that come out of the blue. Gifts are almost always the result of highly cultivated relationships.

Cultivation is a special place: the intersection between fundraising and philanthropy. Philanthropy, the donor’s aspiration to do well for others, runs into fundraising, the institution’s desire to match the donor’s willingness to do “good” with an institutional need. A donor’s passion, their reason for giving, is ultimately discernable only through a process of cultivation.

There are two kinds of cultivation, that which succeeds resulting in gifts that fulfill both the donor and the non-profit, and that which fails, disappointing the institution and the donor. Successful cultivation is genuine, honest and heartfelt. It is best presented as an opportunity for two parties to focus on a shared goal – to meet in the middle matching needs with resources.

During this giving season think about your passion and which local non-profit serves that passion best. Find the intersection of philanthropy and fundraising, and make a generous gift in this season to give.