Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance's new report explains why rich donors give - Generocity Philly


Apr. 20, 2018 11:22 am

Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance’s new report explains why rich donors give

The arts nonprofit's latest research reveals that high-net-worth individuals respond to meaningful personal engagement — plus, more staff diversity could mean more cash.

GPCA President Maud Lyon addresses cultural leaders at the report's release on April 9.

(Photo via

There’s likely still buzz in your ears about the formidable #Beychella, aka Beyonce’s takeover at Cali music festival Coachella. There was a marching band, a sisters’ dance off with Solange and even a Destiny’s Child reunion. What a time to be alive.

Somewhat less discussed, however, is the $100,000 scholarship donation the pop star made to several HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) on behalf of her BeyGOOD initiative, which will support four $25,000 scholarships — a potential game changer for the receiving students.

The power of the individual donor in philanthropy is evident, but there is still much to be learned.

Nonprofit arts membership org Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance (GPCA) recently released a report titled “Beyond the Check: A Roadmap for Engaging Individual Donors.” Made possible by support from the Wyncote Foundation, the report details what inspires donors classified as high-net-worth (HNW) individuals (defined by the Economist as persons having investable assets valued over $1 million) to give to arts and culture, and how orgs can be better at connecting with them.

Check out the report

A previous GPCA report published in 2015 revealed that “individual giving to arts and culture nationally was down 9.7% from 2009-2012 – and in our region, it was down 12.7%,” prompting the organization to examine what motivated the people behind those numbers.

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GPCA’s new research “shows that the key to success in cultivating individual donors is showing an organization’s social impact on the communities it serves, from children to the elderly, from healthcare to schools and everything in between,” said President Maud Lyon​ in a press release. “Donors who see the arts as a solution to a community’s needs give more and more often.”

The research report, informed by an assemblage of wealth advisors and fundraising pros led by marketing research consultancy The Melior Group, consists of three parts: a literature review of national trends to supplement the prime data of survey results and interviews; the results from a survey sent to existing donors to GPCA’s member orgs; and 18 comprehensive interviews with local HNW philanthropists — 13 of whom don’t significantly support arts and culture.

Kristin Vinh, strategic communications manager for GPCA, said she feels that the interviews with non-arts donors reveal tremendous potential.

“They create an opportunity for us to address some of the misperceptions we heard, especially around the arts being fully funded (they’re not) and having little social or community impact (they have a lot),” said Vinh in an email. “Also, these individuals said that they would be interested in supporting the arts, when presented in alignment with their passions.”

Some key themes include:

  • HNW LGBTQ donors not only support the arts and culture sector at a higher rate (56 percent supporting, versus 30 percent of non-LGBTQ donors), but the research indicates that the LGBTQ community is generally more deliberate and shrewd about their giving.
  • Donors want to contribute more than just money. Specifically, millennial donors feel that giving their time and expertise makes their philanthropy significantly more fulfilling.
  • A lack of diversity amongst nonprofit and fundraising professionals means a solid portion of potential donors are being neglected: donors of color. Studies show that donors of various ethnic backgrounds may operate outside of conventional philanthropic systems, and would give more, if only they were included in the conversation.

In a perfect world, we would all be getting checks from Beyonce, no questions asked. But because we’re not, the report also presents a series of recommendations for nonprofits to consider when navigating HNW donors, including:

  • Venn diagram it up — Consider the social causes that are important to your donors, identify where your work and those causes intersect, and prioritize those intersections.
  • Diversify — In your fundraising staff, and subsequently (via strategic outreach), in your donor pool.
  • Be transparent — Donors love to follow exactly where the money goes, and knowing exactly who’s in charge.

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