In the New Year 2014 issue of In Trust, Greg Henson and Gary Hoag provided data on charitable giving. Their conclusions, and their advice to schools, are still timely. Regarding trends in general, they concluded:

  1. North Americans have become less charitable within the last 40 years.

  2. Since 1971, the number of charitable organizations seeking contributions has increased from about 200,000 to 1.5 million. Thus there are many more groups competing for fewer dollars.

Sobering statistics for nonprofits. But how does the picture look for seminaries in particular?

To get answers, Henson and Hoag conducted research with a group of 8-12 seminaries over a period of ten years. Details about their findings should be of interest to every school’s advancement office and board. One conclusion was that six major channels of giving (direct mail; mobile devices and social media; Internet; phone appeals; events; networking) should be analyzed by every school. You need to know which channels work with which age groups, and which channels will repay increased efforts.

Finally, the article ends with three questions for board members and administrators:

  • What are your seminary’s giving trends?

“Take an honest look. If you were to plot your school’s 10-year contribution numbers on a graph, what would you conclude?”

  • Is your school engaging people through multichannel communication?

“Since different channels require different amounts of time, do you have adequate staff for rallying constituents to participate in the mission of your school with consistent multichannel messaging?”

  • Are you discussing findings with your peers?

“While . . . information helps place your school in the context of the industry, we have found that developing a strong group of peers is even more valuable. Through peer study analysis and data sharing, our schools have benefited and our programs have improved.

To read more about Henson and Hoag’s findings, read “Charitable giving & your seminary.”