Webinars: listening in anytime, anywhere and taking the philanthropic pulse

Webinars: listening in anytime, anywhere and taking the philanthropic pulse

What do sitting on a train and ironing have in common? Not much – apart from being pastimes that lend themselves to listening to webinar recordings and staying in touch with happenings and trends in not-for-profit land! It’s multi-tasking of the right kind, I reckon, and a habit I got into during the first two years of COVID and the endless lockdowns. I’ve just signed up to attend IFC (the International Fundraising Congress held annually in Amsterdam) 2023 online. I suspect I may have to get up very early or stay up very late to join live but I can always listen to the recordings…

But you don’t need to sign up to IFC to gain access to international speakers and global perspectives. Last week I tuned in live to a breakfast webinar facilitated by Catalyst Management’s Philanthrocrat featuring US specialists Nathan Chappell and Brian Crimmins, Co-Authors of The Generosity Crisis: The Case for RADICAL CONNECTION to solve Humanity’s Greatest Challenges. More about that later.

The previous month I had listened to the recorded version of another excellent Philanthrocrat conversation, Australia’s Big Ticket Philanthropy Trends, presented by John McLeod of JBWere Philanthropic Services. I was on a train returning to London from Edinburgh, loving looking out at the sweeping expanse of North Sea beaches as I listened in.

Decline in mass market giving and volunteering

John talked us through some current – rather worrying – trends, namely the decline in mass market giving and volunteering. While there has been some recovery since COVID, it’s still left a huge fundraising deficit. The subtitle of the JBWere NAB Charitable Giving Index 2023 says it all: “Recovery from COVID but then stalled by cost of living pressures.”

Given the plateauing of the mass market donors, it was really interesting to hear Generosity Crisis co-authors Nathan and Brian share their insights on what has led to the crisis and how we can address it. Among the causes they listed were the tendency to conflate generosity with wealth and the failure by not-for-profits to value small donors as much as larger donors, taking instead a transactional approach – grabbing low-hanging fruit and filling leaky buckets.

Other issues they included were donor fatigue and donors feeling bombarded, which, with trust levels at an all-time low, need addressing. Especially given it’s such a crowded market place with savvy corporates –such as Ben and Jerrys – competing for mind share and wallets with their strong mission- and values-driven approach: We love making ice cream—but using our business to make the world a better place gives our work its meaning. There’s much we can learn from them.

The power of technology and radical connection

Lots of challenges but so many opportunities. Nathan outlined the transformative power of technology, including generative AI, when used responsibly, as the “only scalable solution that has the power to reverse these trends.”  Technology, (when underpinned by relevant levels of security, privacy and ethicality), enables us to look at hundreds of data points, to develop a deeper understanding of where our donors are at, and to engage in what they term radical connection. That is applying a relationship-first lens, a longer-term and more meaningful connection with our donors, measuring not just the dollars. Nathan and Brian argue that paying attention and doing a deep dive into the data, being authentic, not just sounding authentic, looking at donor lifetime values and engaging with our boards to trial new approaches and change the way we measure success are the way forward.

High Net Worth and Corporate Giving are increasing

Going back to John McLeod’s presentation – the flipside of the decline in mass market giving and volunteering is the continued growth in High Net Wort Individual giving and corporate community investment, mirroring similar trends in the UK and the US. The donors that are giving, are giving more, and here in Australia the growth in larger giving extends to a growth in PAFS (Private Ancillary Foundations) with almost 150 established in the year to June 2022.  John, as I’ve written about previously, continues to argue there should be ten times as many PAFS. In terms of growing awareness of structured giving, I was surprised to learn that some financial advisors to wealthy individuals don’t know about philanthropic giving or giving through PAFs.

The power of philanthropy to enable change

Although philanthropy only makes up 7% of sector income, it’s a very important part of the pie – and very different in what it can achieve compared to the other 93%.

Professor Kirsty Muir, CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, in a recent interview titled The Future of Giving, eloquently described the power of philanthropy to go where Government can’t, to act with speed and agility, take risks, innovate, fund and test new models and advocate and lobby for change whether around climate, social justice or mental health. This time I was doing the ironing at home – as you do – and tuning into a series presented by Griffith University’s Home of the Arts (HOTA) with seasoned interviewer Kerry O’Brien in the chair.

The Paul Ramsay Foundation (PRF) is one of Australia’s largest philanthropic foundations and a trailblazer in tackling disadvantage and engaging in long-term funding contracts to achieve systemic and generational change. And they collaborate and co-invest with other funders to achieve greater impact. The PRF, for example, was one of 31 philanthropic funders that pledged a combined $17m in support of the Yes campaign for the Voice.

Don’t undercook the overheads

And I love this from Kirsty– a big takeaway: “An efficient charity is not one that skimps on overheads.” The PRF support paying what it costs (referencing March 2022 research from Social Ventures Australia (SVA) and the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) finding that not-for-profit organisations across Australia are, in general, not funded for the actual cost of what they do.) The PRF include up to 30% for overheads with flexibility for lower or higher indirect costs where a rationale can be shown.  Let Kirsty’s advice be your mantra for the week!