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Dig Deeper When Examining Fundraising Results

January 9, 2013 By Jeff Jowdy
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I was surprised last week when I saw postings of a Chronicle of Philanthropy article headlined "America's Wealthiest Donors Slow Their Giving." It seemed to indicate a trend.

When I dug deeper and read the article, I found it was actually based on a listing of the gifts that billionaires publicly announced in 2012.

Digging further still, it read, "Thirteen of the commitments in 2012 were for $100 million or more (counting Mr. Buffett's), three more than in 2011 and seven more than in 2010." So, actually the headline could have read "$100 Million Gifts Increase in 2012."  And, it noted that three of the $100 million gifts had been announced in December and "that could be a positive sign for 2013." How this was determined was not clear.

Just reading the headline could draw one conclusion, but a more thorough read could draw a totally different conclusion — and the article doesn't account for any anonymous gifts (some of which are publicized and some not).     

During the 2008 presidential election cycle, I received an e-mail from a trusted friend citing a candidate's record on an issue. While the content surprised me, the forward cited an article in The Wall Street Journal — and even had the newspaper's masthead and the date it was published. Curious, I dug deeper — and there was no such article to be found.

When I was a young CEO, I recall meeting with staff on fundraising events and blindly accepting the report that our events were going well. I felt that if they said so, surely it was a fact. After the first round of events, the actual results came in and some of the reports of events doing well were justified, and many were not. I learned then to dig deeper and ask specifics about the status of a project!

In major campaigns we hear from time to time that "they" are not happy with the campaign for some reason. When you begin to dig to find out who "they" are, it is often just one person who has expressed a concern. And usually, that one person isn't really relevant to the campaign's outcome.  


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