On Philanthropy: Foundations and Nonprofits Seek New Alignment for Challenging Times

image of two sets of train tracks merging into oneContributed by AFP SEWI
Milwaukee Business Journal
February 10, 2017 issue

One would think that Wisconsin’s foundations and the nonprofits they fund would strongly agree about what those organizations need to thrive.  Turns out that is only partly the case.

Wisconsin Philanthropy Network (WPN), a statewide membership association of funders, published the Wisconsin Gives Report in 2016.  The report compiled information from national studies and data sources to help guide all those who support and promote effective philanthropy in Wisconsin. The 2016 report was enhanced by a qualitative and quantitative study of Wisconsin grantmakers, seeking feedback on the type and level of support they awarded, their projections for the upcoming fiscal year and their perceptions of the status of Wisconsin nonprofit service organizations.

Grantmakers identified nonprofits’ top four challenges as:  recruiting new donors, succession planning, building an endowment and meeting the needs and interest of clients and members.

The same questions were asked of Milwaukee-area nonprofit leaders in a 2016 survey by the Public Policy Forum.  Their most commonly cited challenges were recruiting new donors, enhancing visibility and reputation, building an endowment and initiating capital improvements.

Clearly, both sides are in alignment about the financial stresses that nonprofits face – a positive sign for the sector’s future.  However, mismatched concerns suggest that grantors and grantees still have a way to go to fully understand each other.

The gap in understanding will be explored – and narrowed – later this month, when the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter and WPN bring these two groups together to continue the discussion.  At Breakfast with a Grantmaker on February 23, grantors and grantees will discuss how to achieve greater alignment – and make a real difference for our community.

AFP’s monthly column in the Milwaukee Business Journal is edited by Doug Diefenbach, principal of Diefenbach Communications Strategies, a full-service consultancy specializing in philanthropic communications. Please contribute ideas for future articles here.