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Saturday, January 20, 2018

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The Tipping Point in Fundraising
Penelope Burk

June, 2010

The moment when something unique becomes common. This is the definition of the “tipping point” and, just as in any other business, fundraising is rife with examples.

Cygnus’ 2010 survey of 15,000 North American donors might well be named, The Tipping Point of Philanthropy, for the number of fundraising and donor communications issues that have crossed that invisible line from unique to common this year.

Some issues of importance to donors have been rising in prominence for the ten years in which Cygnus has been asking donors questions about loyalty and generosity. Others were not even on donors’ radar screens a decade ago but are now fundamental to how they transact gifts and make decisions about who they will support.

How Donors' Priorities Are Changing Graph

1. How Donors' Priorities Are Changing - The Cygnus 2010 Donor Survey

The economic downturn, while not responsible for defining donors’ priorities, has certainly jettisoned some issues into the spotlight. For example, over-solicitation is now donors’ number one complaint. The recession, it seems, has given them the justification to take action like never before. Not-for-profits that still think that over-solicitation is an acceptable price of doing business are in for a shock.

But issues moving towards their tipping point aren’t always oracles of doom; they can also be under-recognized yet lucrative options for raising more money or reducing fundraising cost. 72% of donors in Cygnus’ survey said they could be influenced to give more than they had planned this year — even in an unstable economy. They pinpointed opportunities in donor communication, planned giving and staffing that can open up an untapped reserve of philanthropic generosity.

While it’s an interesting exercise to look back and identify the moment or at least the timeframe at which something reached its tipping point, it is much more important to look ahead. Recognizing warning signs and opportunities when there is still time to act is what differentiates leaders from historians.

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