Friday, August 29, 2008

Why Fear the Fundraising Ask?

By Reynold Levy

Almost every American does it.

In 2007, the population of the United States gave $306 billion to charity. That sum represents 2.3 percent of the average American’s disposable income. Two-thirds of all households contributed funds to nonprofit institutions. For each of the last five years, Americans donated more to their favorite organizations and causes than they saved for themselves. And of that total, corporations gave $15.7 billion, or about 1 percent of their pretax income.

Giving is not a spontaneous act. People, corporations, and foundations donate funds largely because they are asked to do so.

It is a puzzle that while giving funds to nonprofit institutions is hardly unusual, the act of asking seems so universally disliked, misunderstood, and disdained. I’ve written Yours for the Asking for anyone who wishes to overcome the fear or simply the hesitation of asking friends and strangers for money. It is motivated by the conviction that more charitable funds are available by orders of magnitude to prevent and cure disease, eliminate poverty, expand education, and relieve the misery of the bottom billion human beings who find themselves seemingly fated to occupy the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

The capacity and willingness of Americans to support nonprofit institutions has withstood the test of time. Of course, when employment, gross domestic product, corporate earnings, and the stock market are rising at a vigorous pace, so, too, do the prospects for robust giving. But even when the U.S. economy falters, donations to charitable causes can remain vibrant.
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