How to engage your board in major giving
(via Charity Choice)
Major giving in the UK is still falling far short of US levels. Tobin Aldrich looks at why this is the case and how UK charities, through changing their approach to trustee board engagement, can rectify this.
For a very long time, it seems, we have been waiting for major giving in the UK to grow to the levels of the US. Much ink has been spilt on the subject by sector commentators. A series of reviews, think tanks and roundtables have discussed the subject in all its permutations. And there has been enormous investment by UK charities in developing major gift programmes – to the extent that all but a very few of the larger fundraising charities have whole teams focused on securing big gifts from individuals.
The results of all this activity have been, well, underwhelming. As with all areas of fundraising, we don’t have any really definitive figures, but the data we do have shows that major gifts from individuals are typically a small proportion of the income of most charities. The Fundratios study over many years showed that major giving was between 2% and 3% of the fundraising income of major charities.
A conservative estimate would suggest there are a few hundred major donor fundraisers in the UK today. That’s a lot of fundraisers chasing really not very many large gifts. In fact one wonders if there might not be more major gift fundraisers than actual major gifts in the UK today.
So what’s going wrong?
There are lots of potential reasons why major giving in the UK has not developed (proportionately) to US levels. Different histories have driven very different cultures regarding philanthropy, as with many things. Giving is more expected in the US, and more public when it occurs.
One of the ways in which the US and UK philanthropic cultures are different is the role of the board in fundraising. On most UK charity boards, trustees see their remit as governance, not fundraising. Whereas to join a non-profit board in the US is, usually, to expect to be asked to support the organisation financially as well as with time.