- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
For professionals in philanthropy, June 9 was important this year because it was the official launch date of “The Numbers”* - Giving USA 2010, The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Because of its 54-year history of proven accuracy, Giving USA has become a gold standard for its reporting and analysis of giving. And, without question, it is a big deal - people anticipate the publication.
Consultants, media types and not-for-profit numbers-junkies want to be the first to read and report about how the nation’s philanthropy is growing (or not). Some reporters try tricks to get “The Numbers” first, but the researchers at the Center on Philanthropy and colleagues at Giving USA Foundation hold fast to the results until the release day. Giving USA requires year-round research and thousands of hours to create, so a coordinated announcement about “who gives, how much, and to whom” is merited.
Those who know Giving USA use and appreciate the numbers-crunching that goes into this online resource that was once a brick-of-a-book worthy of a door-stop (we’ll circle back to this in a minute). Others want to learn how to get the most out of it.
First, the Skinny
For those with a short attention span, the bottom line on giving in ’09 is that it was down. But - according to researchers’ calculations - things weren’t as dire as some speculated they would be. The Giving USA 2010 executive summary and full report fleshes this out.
If you need a benchmark for an evaluation, you can find a comparable example outlined in the Giving USA report. Need to assess your PR efforts? Giving USA can help you determine the confidence rating in your area of giving. Even if you need to supplement a talking point for the boss’s speech, you can use the report to locate a fact or two about giving in your industry.
Next, About Technology - and that Brick-of-a-book
Anyone who has read or used Giving USA can tell you it has always been distributed as a big, printed book - always. But, in the spirit of Glasspockets and the open data movement, the publishers of Giving USA were set on making “The Numbers” both more affordable and easier to access. Moving it online addressed both of these goals, so the commitment to an all-electronic version was made.
As suspected, a few Giving USA readers resisted. They have made clear that they value the tangible, brick-of-a-book and would prefer to pull it off of their wooden bookshelf, not their (perhaps nonexistent) virtual one. Why is this important? Just as in recognizing the digital divide in our grantmaking and in the services that not-for-profits provide clients, publishers still need to make sure that they are at least acknowledging the folks that feel left behind. This is a key take-away this year for the staff at Giving USA and it deserves more consideration.
If you are immersed in the technology environment - reading tech blogs and active on Twitter - it may seem as if the world has adjusted to the electronic revolution quite nicely. But without stepping out of the cities and out of this country (and sometimes even just out of the NGen crowd) we may forget that revolution can be more like evolution - in actuality, it is slow in happening.
In any case, the publishers of Giving USA are committed to joining the charge in making research available and easily accessible online.
Finally, Making The Numbers Work for You
Those of us who are electronically savvy have our own challenges. In this age of quick fixes and lightning fast technology, we can be guilty of giving in easily to “feeding the blog beast” as Mitch Nauffts of Philanthropy News Digest refers to the pressure of content-production all human bloggers feel. We skim the top to find and spread information and don’t dig deep enough or reflect long enough on the data. Author Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows offers more on this.
When pressed for time and turnover of that blog posting - or even that grant request or memorandum to the board - Giving USA is a resource that can help you satisfy the beast. Once you dive in, you can find specific information for your organization that covers the numbers and extends well beyond.
*What is meant by “The Numbers:” Among other products, the Giving USA 2010 estimates report includes graphs, tables, and bullet points for annual results and historical data giving information from all sources of contributions - including individual giving - and all types of recipient.
Guest blogger Melissa Brown is Managing Editor of Giving USA and Associate Director of Research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.