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Discover Game-Changing Ways To Track Your Fundraising Sources

Discover Game-Changing Ways To Track Your Fundraising Sources tackles a potential controversial, but important subject of the best way to measure and track your funding sources.

What’s Wrong With The Way We Currently Measure Gifts?

Okay, we’re going to start a huge firestorm here by questioning a revered source of fundraising statistics.

Giving USA has been around a long time and is one of the most respected sources of giving statistics in the United States. It is certainly worthwhile subscribing to this publication, but don’t take everything you read in any journal as gospel truth. We’d like to question the statistics, and maybe even the sources of these statistics!

Our first premise is why the statistics reported have a separate category for bequests. Bequests are not a source of giving, they are a method of giving used by individuals (which is a category). We believe categories should include individuals, foundations, organizations, and businesses.

So, you may have noticed right away these are only two of these categories used by Giving USA, and we didn’t mention one of its categories—corporations.

Why didn’t we use the category “corporations?” Corporations account for 5 percent of the businesses in the United States, although they account for 62 percent of revenues. So, what happens to the other 95 percent of business that account for 38 percent of revenues? Are they in cyberspace?

Statistics show that the Fortune 100 companies are not as generous as all companies combined.  In fact, they give 10 percent of gross incomes, compared to 13 percent given by all companies. So, why are these LLCs and sole proprietorships not being counted? We’re doing a real disservice to 95 percent of businesses in this country, discounting their philanthropic contributions, and encouraging nonprofits to think only in terms of corporations when they could be raising a lot of money from other business sources.

Another thing about corporate philanthropy is that it does not include corporate sponsorships, which accounts for the bulk of money raised from corporations in many nonprofits. While it’s true these sponsorships are usually not coming from the philanthropic arm, but from the marketing budget, they should be counted. Does it help the nonprofit and go into its fundraising budget? You bet it does. So why aren’t we counting them?

Now, before we go any further, we admit that Giving USA can only report statistics they are given. So how are you counting gifts?

Are you counting gifts from corporate foundations as a business gift or as a foundation gift? Remember those corporate foundations are funded by the businesses who set them up.

Are you counting matching gifts from companies as individual gifts or from the businesses who actually give these matching gifts?

Also, Giving USA has no category for organizations, while most fundraisers accept and often depend heavily on gifts from religious institutions, service clubs, and professional associations, and even other nonprofits. So where is this money being reported? As far as we can see—nowhere.

So, when you track your gifts, we suggest having categories in your software system, foundations (which you can abbreviate FO), government grants and contracts (GV) businesses or companies (CO), organizations (OR), and individuals (IN). Within the individual giving, you can sort these gifts even further, by listing them as Board (BD) staff (ST) alumni (AL) current users of services or clients (CL) and more, depending on your organization. And please make sure you are counting all gifts in the proper category. Who knows, maybe we’ll get Giving USA to change its way of reporting and maybe we’ll show the true value of philanthropy.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to understand the sources of your funding—how much did you raise from the staff, from your board, for individuals, and the rest of the categories so you know where your fundraising focus should be.

You also should have a category for the method used to obtain these gifts received—grants (GR), events (EV), direct mail (DM), phone appeals (PA), social media (SM), and Individual face-to-face appeals (IA). Tracking your success by both source and method will help you plan you approach in the future.


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Linda Lysakowski
Linda Lysakowski
Linda is one of slightly more than 100 professionals worldwide to hold the Advanced Certified Fund Raising Executive designation. In her thirty-plus years as a philanthropic consultant, she has managed capital campaigns raising more than $50,000,000, and helped countless nonprofit organizations achieve their development goals. A graduate of Alvernia University, with majors in banking, finance and theology/philosophy, and a minor in communications, Linda is also a Master Teacher, graduating from AFP’s Faculty Training Academy. She served on the Association of Fundraising Philanthropy (AFP) Foundation for Philanthropy Board and the Professional Advancement Division for the aAFP. She is past president of the Eastern Pennsylvania and Sierra (Nevada) AFP chapters. Linda received the Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year award from the Eastern Pennsylvania, Las Vegas, and Sierra (Nevada) chapters of the AFP, was honored with the Barbara Marion Award for Outstanding Service to the AFP and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Las Vegas AFP chapter. Linda is currently a staff writer for the National Development Institute and its Major Gifts Ramp Up Program, as well as a Senior Counselor for Development Systems International.

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