Wise Giving Wednesday: The Need for Broader Support of Charities

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calendar icon May 22, 2024

The Need for Broader Support of Charities

At the Donor Participation program hosted by BBB Wise Giving Alliance on March 21st in New York City, the second panel focused on the need for broader and pluralistic support for charities at a time when the number of U.S. households that contribute is declining. The full panel discussion can be viewed here.   

This topic was introduced by Jane Wales, Vice President of the Aspen Institute and Executive Director of the Program on Philanthropy & Social Innovation at the Aspen Institute. She also serves as the Co-Chair of the Generosity Commission, a nonpartisan group of leaders committed to celebrating and supporting America’s spirit of generosity as expressed through everyday giving, volunteering, and other forms of civic participation.

Wales noted that democracy can be described as having two core attributes: (1) commitment to pluralism, and (2) self-governance involving three sectors (public, private and social). In turn, civic society is powered by engaged citizens. What happens if/when there is a concentration of agency in fewer hands? What happens when the sense of agency decreases in a system that is by the people and for the people? Wales explained that while there has been an overall increase in the total amount donated to charities in the U.S., there has been a decrease in everyday giving and volunteering. Can anything be done to reverse this trend? There are many contributing factors, including an increase in economic uncertainty, the concentration of wealth, social isolation, and the decline in societal trust.

In May 2023, The Generosity Commission released a report on How and Why We Give: Research Insights on the Aspirations and Motivations That Inspire People to Give and Volunteer. This report states it “…seeks to help leaders in the social sector, business, policy and beyond reach, communicate with, and engage current and potential givers.”

The next panelist, Page Rice, Director of Research at Hattaway Communications, expanded on this report, starting with some of the guiding questions:

  • How do people practice generosity?
  • What does generosity mean to them?
  • What motivates people to donate and volunteer?
  • What gets in their way?
  • How can we better connect with current and potential givers based on what matters most to them?

Rice noted that researchers segmented donors into reimagined categories that reflect the audience’s mindsets on giving, volunteering and other prosocial behaviors. Individuals were asked a series of 50 questions about such things as religiosity, donation behaviors, and other factors. They were then segmented into six categories:

  • Super Givers 17% - champions of generosity with both desire and means to be generous
  • Connection Seekers 16% - investors in building community and seeking to make social connections to make an impact
  • Next Generation Doers 15% - youngest givers, looking for recognition and leadership opportunities
  • Civic-Minded Hopefuls 20% -  donors who want a just world and are engaged in civic actions, but feel stuck and not sure how to make a difference
  • Show-Me Scrutinizers 12% - skeptical donors who do their own research to help them make giving choices, generally older donors
  • Apathetic Non-Givers 20% - least likely to give, apathetic to giving, volunteering and other prosocial activities

Armed with this information, organizations might be able to help expand engagement opportunities and increase donation participation. Additional information can be found in the report.  

Heart of Giving Podcast

This week’s Heart of Giving Podcast features Valerie Green, who helped found a nonprofit dance organization in 1998, Dance Entropy, which “seeks to plant creative seeds in communities across the world.”

Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to give.org/charity-inquiry if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

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