Effective Fundraising Strategy is Rooted In Fundraising Fact

Everyone Is entitled to their own fundraising opinions but not their own fundraising facts. That’s what the brilliant Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, without the reference to fundraising, of course. And imagine how much more we could achieve if we did a better job of aligning fundraising strategy with fundraising fact.

The trouble is that so many people come into this field or sector with presupposition, wishful thinking and, in some cases, varying degrees of delusion.

One of the more persistent myths attempts to equate giving behaviors with wealth and by extension, tax breaks. As you can see below, those assumptions couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Adherence to that myth leads to:

  • Organizations chasing wealth rather than screening it first through philanthropic history
  • Ignoring or under-valuing those who make $50,000 or less (the segment that is migrating away in droves)
  • Trying fundraising appeals to the wrong motivators
  • Assuming “the poor” are not philanthropic
  • Denigrating philanthropy by tying it exclusively to wealth

We have more information than every before about the nature and dimensions of philanthropy, but so few organizational leaders or “experts” avail themselves of it thereby cosigning their organizations and clients to expensive, ineffective, off-putting and erosive fundraising approaches.

If we are to correct the course, we need more fundraising leaders and practitioners to educate themselves and to share their learnings with their bosses and their boards – as soon as possible. Those who are looking for new positions or have recently accepted them should, as their first order of business, strive to engrain the facts of fundraising in their organizations – lest they continue to endure the consequences of myth and delusion.

Philanthropy 101: Myth Busting Statistics
  • Those making less than $50,000 a year give more in relation to total income than those in all other income ranges except the highest earners
  • Those making between $100,000 and $500,000 are the least in total charitable giving in relation to gross income
  • The least likely reason for people to give is so they can get a tax break
  • 84% of Millennials give to charity and nonprofits; they give modestly ($481 average gift) but consistently and prefer online platforms
  • Millennials’ top giving preferences are children, health, local places of worship, human rights, and international affairs
  • 59% of Gen Xers are regular givers and are more likely to start fundraising campaigns and volunteer their time and talents
  • Gen Xers giving preferences are local human service organizations, animals, children and local places of worship
  • The average American gives $17 weekly to their local place of worship. However, 37% of the weekly “faithful” don’t give anything at all. Only 5% of congregants give annually
  • Moms aged 35-44 are the top volunteer group


Jim Langley is the president of Langley Innovations. Langley Innovations provides a range of services to its clients to help them understand the cultural underpinnings of philanthropy and the psychology of donors and, with that knowledge, to develop the most effective strategies and tactics to build broader and more lasting communities of support. Jim has authored numerous books including his most recent book, The Future of Fundraising: Adapting to New Philanthropic Realities, published by Academic Impressions in 2020. 


Related Resources:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Get smarter with the SmartIdeas blog

Subscribe to our blog today and get actionable fundraising ideas delivered straight to your inbox!