by Brandolon Barnett
Philanthropy as a practice combines a strategic way of thinking about giving with a set of tools to carry out that strategy. This combination has been leveraged in a myriad of ways over the decades to engage communities with causes and fund the hard work of improving our world. As the team at Global Impact continues working to democratize philanthropy so that more individuals have access to these same tools, it’s really interesting to see how individual organizations are incorporating Growfund to lead in the social impact space.
Over the past couple of months I’ve had the opportunity to discuss Growfund with many amazing people: first by hosting a meetup at South by Southwest (SXSW), then addressing volunteer coordinators at the Volunteers of America conference, and more recently, presenting to colleagues at the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference. In talking with so many folks at these and at the Council on Foundations conference, I’ve been heartened by all the ways in which leaders in our space are discussing ways to use Growfund. As with the nature of philanthropy itself, Growfund is really flexible! Below are snippets of some of the conversations:
Creating a Culture of Giving from Kindergarten to Adulthood
One of the things that really excites us about Growfund is its ability to expose more diverse populations to philanthropy. Imagine how pleased I was to hear some of the ideas of a private K-12 school based in California. When discussing Growfund, the Vice President of Development at the school was immediately taken with the idea of giving students the chance to put away a few dollars a year beginning in kindergarten. As the students grow, the school could engage with them and their families around Giving Tuesday or their own giving day to encourage them to support charities in the community. Throughout their time together, the school could educate the kids on the importance of charity and teach them to put aside funds for the causes they love. And as these students take their Growfunds with them and grow in their careers, the school could continue to access data on how much their alumni are putting aside and granting as well as what kinds of causes they like to fund. Imagine being a student steeped in a culture of philanthropy from kindergarten! Imagine how a school, informed by its students’ grantmaking histories, can be empowered to reach out to alumni who care about the environment to fund current student projects benefiting the environment! That’s a gamechanger for both sides.
“Add a Dollar” Strategy
In another conversation, an organization embraced the idea of offering donors a way to “add a dollar” to their giving by creating their own Growfund personal foundations on a white labeled (branded) version of the platform owned by the charity. In this way, donors who may not be able to give large amounts today can be encouraged to save, invest, grow their contributions, and give tomorrow. And as with the school foundation mentioned before, the charity would have access to the data on giving and be empowered to curate the Donor Advised Fund (DAF) experience for their donors, building the kind of meaningful relationships essential to modern fundraising.
Own the Experience and Simplify the Donor Advised Fund (DAF) Process
One thing on everyone’s mind has been how DAFs have become so popular. The data makes clear that more and more donors want to set up and give through DAFs. We’ve described in other posts how Growfund leverages this giving tool to make it possible for people to create their very own personal foundations. (If you’d like to know more about the research behind the popularity of DAFs, check out this whitepaper written by our own Scott Jackson and Ann Canela.) One organization I spoke with regularly works with donors who want to establish DAFs for their giving. They’ve encouraged those donors to work with outside organizations like local community foundations or Fidelity. Yet the minimum contributions were too high for some of these donors, and the setup process sometimes too long or complicated. This organization is excited about white-labeling its own Growfund platform to alleviate these barriers. Once activated, the organization could refer those donors to a DAF over which they have more ownership, one that offers lower minimums and a simpler setup process. That ownership will enable the organization to promote its own programs within the DAF tool as well as leverage the data on its donors’ giving behaviors. That sort of information on the causes an individual donor likes to engage with and how much the donor has saved for future giving can be invaluable for fundraising. Another organization that receives funds every year from trusts is finding in Growfund a way to establish its own flexible endowment to more strategically manage the contributions.
These are just a few of the conversations. Two themes have become strikingly clear though – the growing importance of DAFs as a tool for giving, and the importance for charities to have a plan for cultivating and leveraging the DAFs that your donors are seeking to create. This has been particularly true at the AFP conference, where a sizable count of sessions, including my own, have covered just this topic. We created Growfund as a way to curate and enrich the DAF experience of donors empowered with data on their giving behaviors. These and other conversations leave me more excited and convinced that Growfund is a game changer for both individual donors and organizations committed to creating lasting social impact.