The fall issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review features an article titled “Eight Myths of US Philanthropy.” Written by the faculty of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, the piece attempts to dispel misconceptions about who gives, and why, and aims to shift the focus away from large donations in favor of smaller, more consistent ones.
From the article:
…one of the biggest myths about philanthropy is that it only refers to the giving of enormous sums of money by wealthy donors—the bigger the better. This myth is somewhat understandable: Large gifts garner the most public attention. But it is also terribly misleading. It misses the significance of all kinds of actions, idolizes individual donors, and fails to recognize collective contributions. It can also blind us to how social change really happens.
And in sum:
Nonprofit fundraisers should move beyond encouraging people to give more dollars and instead toward encouraging them to give more frequently. This shift will lead to greater outreach to different segments of funders in order to connect with a variety of donor profiles that have been overlooked or misunderstood, or that have changed over time.
Here are the eight myths the article debunks:
1. Religious Giving Is Declining
2. Women Are Less Philanthropic Than Men
3. Immigrants Take—They Don’t Give
4. African Americans Are New and Emergent Donors
5. Millennials Are Disengaged
6. Small Gifts Don’t Matter
7. Endowments Just Tie Up Cash
8. People Give Because They Are Altruistic
The last one is particularly counter-intuitive.
Were you surprised by these findings? Which ones? Does this change your perspective on fundraising and philanthropy in a meaningful way?