Magazine article Management Review

Fundraisers Face Increased Challenges

Magazine article Management Review

Fundraisers Face Increased Challenges

Article excerpt

Fundraisers Face Increased Challenges

The message on the bumper sticker was terse and its logic difficult to refute. It read, "Fundraisers are asking for it."

Throughout America more fundraisers, or "development officers" as staff funders are usually called, are asking for more money than ever before. And they're getting it--an estimated $114.7 billion in 1989, according to Giving USA, an annual report published by AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy. This is a rise of 165 percent from 1979's level of $43.36 billion.

But more money isn't the only change in the field. In the past decade, the philanthropic face of America has been changing dramatically with major new causes, technological advances, shifting donor priorities and new kinds of involvement by key funding sources. Now, with the toppling of communist regimes, the rise of a new political order in Europe, global concerns over the environment, AIDS, and the continuing Mid-East crisis, the funding scene may change even more drastically as major donors broaden their funding perspectives.


Some funding professionals mark the beginning of the Reagan era as a turning point for American philanthropy. Not only did the government cut back billions spent on human services, but tax reforms enacted by Congress in 1986 ended charitable deductions for millions of Americans who didn't itemize tax returns. Also, the Alternative Minimum Tax placed an increased burden on donors who gave gifts of appreciated property.

"When the new administration cut back its funding to nonprofit causes in the early '80s, everyone was upset and rightly so," states William Olcott, editor of Fund Raising Management, the oldest independent periodical in the field. "But it really was a boon for the field. Funders went out and did the job," he says.

If the government cutbacks and tax changes were key changes in the past decade, they certainly weren't the only ones. One might argue, in fact, that the only constant in the funding arena was change itself. Witness these developments, both positive and negative:

* A host of new causes demanding vastly increased funding;

* The negative impact of television evangelists on donations;

* The growing commercialization of funding as corporations began linking donations to help boost the marketing and sales of products;

* Technological advances and increasingly sophisticated approaches offering funders new ways to reach donors;

* Increased government regulatory actions;

* The rise of giant funding campaigns that dwarfed past efforts;

* The growing professionalism of fundraising with new training opportunities available in higher education;

* Tax changes redefining donation deductability;

* A changing donor base;

* A takeover by nonprofits of services once provided by the federal government.

As fundraisers look into the '90s they see an arena vastly larger than and different from the one that existed a decade ago. Not only has the number of charities soliciting funds grown--447,525 are registered with the IRS today compared to 319,826 in 1980--but the field has attracted a new army of professionals, both staff development professionals and independent consultants. The National Society of Fund Raising Executives (NAFRE) has seen its membership grow to nearly 12,000 members, from only 2,200 ten years ago. Perhaps more striking, the number of funders it has accredited as Certified Fund Raising Executives has grown tenfold to well over 2,000. "We're seeing a maturation of the profession," claims Raymond Crabbs, president and chief executive officer of NAFRE.

Also helping the profession mature are the growing number of college and university programs focusing on philanthropy, including several centers on philanthropy established at major universities in recent years. Another key educational development has been a program initiated by the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy, the philanthropic arm of the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel (AAFRC), an organization of fundraising consulting firms. …

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