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Rethinking charitable giving in the Fox Valley

Mark Germano shares giving statistics August 7 at the at the Fox Valley Technical College D.J. Bordini Center. The event, Charitable Giving: Glass Half Full or Half Empty, was hosted by the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region and United Way Fox Cities

When it comes to people investing in their communities, what drives the spirit of giving? And how can nonprofit organizations better understand their donors and the trends in philanthropy?

In December 2017, our nation’s tax laws changed causing many to fear that charitable giving as we know it would end.

“Not so,” says fundraising expert Mark Germano of Creating Solutions, who shared some eye-opening trends with more than 100 members of local charitable organizations yesterday at Fox Valley Technical College. His presentation, titled “Charitable Giving: Glass half Full or Half Empty,” provided the latest giving trends comparing the national trends with giving in Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Shawano, Waupaca and Winnebago counties.

He noted that when it comes to that question, there’s a third answer:

“Actually, the glass is overflowing,” says Germano. “In the last two years Americans gave more money than in any other time in our history.”

Germano shared statistics from a variety of sources, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, Chronicle of Philanthropy and Giving U.S.A.

Locally, the counties with the highest income didn’t necessarily align with the counties giving the most.

Germano explained that families in the mid range of income were the most affected by the new tax laws, but they were also the ones who gave the most. Additionally, trends among people groups are shifting.

“Women and Millennials are changing the landscape of philanthropy,” Germano says. “Women are most keen to understand the impact and are willing to make venture philanthropy gifts, and Millennials are more likely to be project focused rather than agency focused.”

One of the bigger “aha” moments was the revelation that online giving from email campaigns has been declining, in spite of the 8 percent increase in emails sent to potential donors. Surveys show that donors would rather not receive emails from nonprofits, but instead receive personal notes of appreciation, or better yet, a phone call or in-person visit.

“We are in a world where technology is driving us away from interacting,” he told the crowd. “For the staff and volunteers who are helping to raise money, I can’t say this strongly enough: Less screen time, more face time. Put down the phone, stop looking at the computer, Go out and say, ‘Hi, how are you? Thanks for giving. We appreciate what you do. Here’s how you are changing lives.'”

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