Drakes Bay Fundraising
A Next Generation Fundraising Company

Archive for May, 2011

Question Authority

Posted by Christopher Dann
Tuesday May 3, 2011
Categories: Fundraising, Statistics

One longstanding and respected authority on American charity fell from grace last week while a newcomer with highly questionable data drew a pass from the trade press.

New IRS data tells us that the recession did greater damage in 2008 and 2009 than GivingUSA reported. It may be that the percentage drop in individual giving in 2008 was 5 times worse than GivingUSA reported and will end up being something between 8 and 14 times worse in 2009.

We hope the trade reporters stay on this story for two reasons. One is that GivingUSA’s authors and modelers, acknowledging the errors, promise to fix the model they use to make their projections. The second – and I think more important – reason is that if the recession dealt such a blow to individual giving, recovery from the recession is going to take longer. That great majority of nonprofit organizations already well into budgeting for fiscal years that begin July 1 need more reliable information.

Almost simultaneously last week the nonprofit sector’s trade press gave welcome and a free pass – as, regrettably they are wont to do – to a study from Johnson Grossnickle Associates and Achieve on “millennial” donors, those between the age of 20 and 35.  The authors welcomed comment, and we did.  The main problem with the report is that is based on an online study that, because participation is voluntary, is fraught with both non-response and response error. The second biggest problem with it is that it is available for free and will therefore be used by many unsuspecting people.

While the authors noted they had “normalized” their sample to the general population, there are at least two data points that show otherwise.  One is age, and since age is the reliable demographic predictor of giving, it’s a significant one.  The data appended to the report showed that 94% of the respondents had completed Bachelors or higher degrees.  But something fewer than 30% of the general population has attained Bachelors or higher degrees. The other data point – also a predictor of inclination to give – was the 79% saying they had volunteered in 2010.  The Urban Institute, with sounder research methodology, reported in 2005 that 23.1% of adults 25 to 34 volunteer.  While it is possible that recession-caused unemployment has resulted in more volunteering in 2010 among millennials than was the case five years earlier, it’s doubtful the percent increased more than three times.

In this case, we hope the reporters rediscover their reporting skills and question the press releases they get.

Next Generation Fundraising and Drakes Bay Fundraising merged in the fall of 2013, bringing the longstanding professional acquaintances of their four principals – Tim Oleary, Carol Leister, Cindy Germain, and Christopher Dann – into a single company and combining the special resources and experiences of each to provide clients greater breadth and depth of service.

For more information about Next Generation Fundraising, click here.