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Trends in Philanthropy for Higher Education

Today’s trends in philanthropy must appeal to millennials, be technologically apropirate, and geared to specific projects or outcomes.

Charitable donations hit a record $390 billion last year, according to Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016.

This represents a growth of 4% over 2016, and the trend is expected to continue in 2017 with the economic recovery coming out of the Great Recession creating a favorable backdrop for nonprofits wishing to capitalize on the generosity of Americans at both the corporate and individual level.

Christian colleges and universities strive to gain supporters of their mission along with thousands of non-profits, convert those supporters to donors, and then maintain and increase that level of support. To achieve this support, a thorough analysis of the current marketing landscape and emerging or changing philanthropy trends may hold the key to your school’s fundraising success.

Technology Trends in Philanthropy

Online and mobile-enabled giving is likely to continue gaining market share from more traditional philanthropy outreach methods, rendering it crucial for school administrators to thoughtfully consider their systems and communications as technology evolves and donor behavior changes.

A proliferation of social media applications and platforms are gaining momentum as well. For example, the practice of crowdfunding, a method of raising capital in small denominations from a large number of people, is experiencing significant growth and can become an alternative form of revenue for schools.

Two trends in philanthropy that bear a relationship relate to technology and millennials.

Millennial Trends in Philanthropy

As millennials continue to enter the workforce and accumulate money to spend, it is prudent that schools and alumni departments revisit philanthropy outreach efforts to best engage this fast-growing demographic. In fact, millennials will represent approximately 75% of the workforce by 2025–2030 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Volunteers often become consistent donors and millennials in particular are broadening the definition of philanthropy to include not only financial gifts, but contributions of their time.

Employee Trends in Philanthropy

Over the past decade, a growing number of corporations have committed resources to encourage employee philanthropy including employee assistance to match volunteer opportunities and even offering paid time off in order to give back to their communities and support causes important to them.

If your school has not already done so, consider aligning with one or more corporate employee volunteer programs. Encouraging donors to share something other than solely financial gifts can help cultivate lasting, committed relationships.

Billions of Unclaimed Dollars in Matching Gift Programs

When it comes to financial gifts, an estimated $6-$10 billion in matching gift funds go unclaimed per year according to Double the Donation’s analysis of matching gift participation rates.

Nonprofits frequently miss out on these charitable dollars because many donors are simply unaware of their employers’ matching gifts programs. Some employers have a preapproved nonprofit recipient list, while others offer open programs. Generally, the larger the company, the more likely a matching gift program exists.

Since this benefit often remains unnoticed by employees, it falls on the school’s development officers to proactively increase awareness of these programs among potential donors.

Projects, Outcomes and Relationships

The trend in philanthropy continues to shift from a general appeals campaign approach to a focus on funding specific projects and outcomes. Today’s donors want to know the direct impact that their charitable dollars have, and engaged donors are more likely to keep giving if they know exactly where their money was used the first time.

Successful philanthropy is ultimately grounded in building relationships. A donor’s relationship with your nonprofit is based on how much trust you can build. That trust plays an essential role in achieving your mission’s success if you can quantify meaningful outcomes with donor gifts.

With an increasing number of causes pleading for support, donors face tough decisions about where they spend their charitable dollars. Clarity related to your mission’s success can set your nonprofit apart from the rest.

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