Americans are generous. Considering both contributions of financial resources and volunteering of time, we are among, if not the most, generous nation in the world.1 American philanthropy is primarily manifested through gifts given by individual persons. In 2021, Americans gave more than $480 billion to charity; 77% of those gifts came from individual gifts and bequests. Total corporate and foundation giving accounted for 23% of charitable gifts.2 American adults volunteered an estimated 5.8 billion hours in 2019.3 The resiliency of American generosity was also evidenced through the trials of the pandemic as total charitable giving grew by 2.2% in 2020 and 4% in 2021.
The aggregate of American philanthropy is an enormous sum to be sure. But for nonprofit organizations, who often operate on tight budgets, each gift is meaningful. In a former life, I led a “soup kitchen” in a major U.S. city where a ten-dollar bill provided three people with a hot and healthy meal in a safe environment. Every dollar, and every donated hour, matters to a nonprofit.
It is the giving season. Approximately 30% of annual giving occurs in December.4 With more than 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States, how does one decide who, what, and how to make an impact through the sharing of their resources?
A significant amount of philanthropic activity is reactive. A mailing from an alma mater, a nonprofit’s event, a humanitarian crisis, and emails from entities all over the world generate dozens, if not hundreds, of requests to support worthy causes. Often gift decisions are dependent upon proximity; does a person have a small window of time, with convenient access to their phone, credit card, and their reading glasses? In 2021, 12% of total fundraising came from online sources and 28% of those gifts were made on a mobile device.5
Creating a charitable giving mission statement is one way to bring coherence to one’s philanthropic activity. The small investment of time creating such a statement for an individual or a family establishes a lens through which hundreds of decisions can be made more efficiently, effectively, and purposefully. Often the process of creating such a statement is as impactful as the statement itself.
A charitable giving mission statement is composed of two to three sentences. Its simplicity arises from sorting and layering one’s values, experiences, and aspirations. That organization need not be done in one sitting. Starting tends to be the highest hurdle.
A robust resource for people engaging in philanthropy, created by the Stanford PACS Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, provides a toolkit complete with progressive exercises that cover topics ranging from finding focus to vetting organizations. While The Stanford PACS Guide to Effective Philanthropy has much to offer, one of their exercises leads users to complete this sentence: We aim to address [WHAT] for [WHO] [WHERE] because this aligns with our commitment to [WHICH VALUES].6
The project of creating a charitable giving mission statement can be self-guided. But often it is helpful to have a facilitator or conversation partner. I would be pleased to spend time with you or your family to help initiate that process. If you are interested in drafting a charitable giving mission statement, please reach out to me or anyone on the Becker Team for more information.
Becker Capital is committed to supporting our communities’ nonprofits. Our firm gives 1% of our gross revenue to nonprofits each year and our employees volunteered over 1,400 hours of local service in 2021. The Portland Business Journal ranked our firm 4th among the most philanthropic companies in the medium company category for 2022.7
Wherever you share your time, talent, ties, and treasure, thank you for your generosity.
7Rankings provided by the Portland Business Journal’s Corporate Philanthropy Awards - Medium ($10 million to $50 million annual revenue). Companies were ranked by cash contributions to Oregon & Southwest Washington nonprofits during 2021. Rankings are based on information obtained by the Portland Business Journal from firm representatives through questionnaires and were not independently verified. Becker Capital Management did not pay a fee to be considered for this ranking and is not aware of any facts that would call into question the validity of the ranking.