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Who Asks Who? Trends in Data Sourcing

From a fundraiser’s point of view, or course, a perfect world would include all prospects coming directly to the fundraiser or her organization for advice on giving. But numbers indicate fewer potential donors are seeking advice from NPOs and their personnel. They are turning instead to legal and financial professionals.

Much of the data in the table below comes from Kevin Johnson’s The Power of Legacy and Planned Gifts (2010, John Wiley & Sons). It shows to whom donors went for advice in 2006 and 2008. The far right column shows the net change over that time period.

Source of Information 2006 2008 Net Change
Fundraisers/nonprofit staff 40.2% 26.0% -14.2%
Peers or peer networks 35.9% 16.1% -19.8%
Accountant 26.6% 44.3% +17.7%
Financial/wealth advisor 16.6% 27.8% +11.2%
Attorney 16.4% 44.9% +28.5%
Foundation staff 15.1% 14.8% -.3%
Bank or trust company staff 8.7% 16.5% +7.8%
Broker 7.1% 9.9% +2.8%

Now numbers like these can excite all kinds of interpretation, but let’s be conservative and look only at the most general trend: the drop in the numbers of people seeking advice from fundraisers, NPOs, and peers, and a corresponding jump in those going to accountants, attorneys, and professional financial advisors.

For backstory on the relationship between nonprofit fundraisers and professional financial and legal advisors, see Jeff Comfort’s article, “Marketing Planned Gifts to Financial Advisors? I Don’t Think So” in the Summer 2010 edition of Planned Giving Tomorrow.

These numbers should remind us of the importance of relationship-building with prospects.

While the professional advisors offer donors an advantage in technical areas, we fundraisers possess the unique advantage of a mission which has special meaning to the prospect. In addition, we offer special knowledge of how to ensure the donor’s charitable wishes are carried out exactly as they wish.

That’s how you guarantee yourself a seat at the table when gifts are discussed: Relationship building, selling the mission, and the unique ability to fulfill the donor’s wishes.

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The numbers in the table above are derived from two studies from Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy:

  • Bank of America Study of High Net-Worth Philanthropy: Initial Report, 2006
  • The 2008 Study of High Net-Worth Philanthropy: Issues Dividing Charitable Activities Among Affluent Households, 2008

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