When fundraising powers giving


Philanthropy made the March on Washington possible. Those who saw the Oscar-nominated actor Colman Domingo play the lead role in Rustin saw legions of phone-calling, typewriter-clicking volunteers asking for money and other kinds of support to orchestrate the massive rally for civil rights. This was a story of vision, passion, and organization making history happen by asking for support.

Research has long established that a major reason donors give is because they are asked. But once you leave the world of fundraising trade publications and conferences, insight into the fundraising process is scarce in commentary about philanthropy. This is partially by design because successful fundraisers celebrate donors and their gifts rather than their own efforts. Fundraising is often behind the scenes. Asking is the silent partner to giving.

This is why most media reports about philanthropy feature donors. TheEconomist’s recent special report on philanthropy focuses on how the wealthy give, assuming that more wealth means more strategy. Critiques and defenses of philanthropy look at how giving affects salient issues in society, presuming that those with more money have more influence on the rest of us than we have on them. And effective altruism, inspired by the philosopher Peter Singer, places serious moral responsibility on how much and where we choose to give, not how much time, effort, and strategy we should devote to asking.

When was the last time Forbes ranked the top fundraisers to complement its ranking of the most generous billionaires? We know that asking by fundraisers, peers, and others plays a vital role in unleashing generosity. So why is there so little attention paid to the informal and professional roles of fundraisers?

If we see philanthropy as the valuable risk capital of a democracy, why do we not offer the same status to fundraising as we do to giving? After all, how many non-democratic regimes provide organizations and causes the space and dignity to conduct fundraising? Our alumna, Dr. Eva Aldrich, who leads the CFRE (Certified Fundraising Executive) program, shared a list of some fifty international associations that are involved with this well-known certification program for fundraisers. Though not a systematic sample, the collection of countries involved would be well placed in your favorite index of freedom or democracy. Authoritarian regimes, even when they cozy up to tycoons and laud their philanthropic projects, have little patience for ordinary citizens asking others to join them in endeavors that are not organized or controlled by those in political power.

Fundraising is not begging and it is not a spoils system. It is a profession through which fundraisers articulate important social and cultural needs and visions, serving their cause first but also providing a valuable service to donors. As Hank Rosso, founder of The Fund Raising School, said, "Fundraising is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.”

It is also probably good for democracy. Unlike supplicants at a royal court or the clients of a powerful patron, fundraisers are not beholden (or at least should not be) to their donors for their livelihood. They approach a fellow citizen with a case about an issue or problem that the donor’s giving can help address. As some advocates of philanthropy worry about protecting the property rights of donors to conduct their giving as freely as possible, the role of fellow citizens in being able to ask each other to give for the betterment of their commonwealth seems a comparable kind of freedom that merits protection.

I have noticed throughout the course of my career that foundation leaders and donors I engage with have become more conscious of the positive role fundraising plays in ensuring the sustainability of civic organizations. When I first started out, I was slighted that foundation program officers would look right through me, wanting to talk directly to the talent that was behind the fellow who was going to solicit them for money. My experience these days is that donors pay more attention to how their funding will figure into the mix of revenue opportunities that support the continued thriving of the talent and the programs they are underwriting. In my experience, the most generous donors were also the most genuinely interested in how fundraisers articulated the needs and aspirations of their causes.

Being a fundraiser is being a social entrepreneur. We don’t tell entrepreneurs that they cannot succeed if they don’t already have wealth. Social entrepreneurs and fundraisers have access to a different kind of funder, one who will not receive any financial benefit from their investment but will get to enjoy the social improvements that result from their donation.

When we consider that everyone is a philanthropist, fundraising is part of this universal human identity. Certainly, when Bill Gates comes calling or when Blue Meridian approaches a potential “partner,” the financial scale of the ask is beyond the vast majority of humanity. But as we saw with the March on Washington this does not mean that the avenues for effecting significant social improvement are closed to the rest of us. And as our wealthiest philanthropists are themselves asking for others to join them in their philanthropic endeavors, there is no doubt that fundraising should be part of every donor education curriculum.

As a donor, what would you ask of yourself? Remember the moral seriousness of the Effective Altruists who would have us use a rigorous ranking of human happiness and argue that we are responsible for it whether it happens close to us or far away. It is a rare philosophical system that situates our capacity to give at its very core. Implicit in its deliberations about how much and to whom one should give is an internal dialogue – one with yourself as a donor and as a fundraiser. What asks are you willing to make of yourself that you would not be willing to make of someone else? Why not? Would not the case you make to yourself be compelling to someone else? You will never know until you try.

When considered in this light, fundraising becomes an intimate and meaningful interaction. It is no wonder that fundraising can be the key that unlocks the kind of giving that makes history.

NBA players and parents help student athletes use their platforms to make a difference

Description of the video:

Speaker 1 (00:02):

We had an opportunity to host an event with the mothers of professional basketball players today who really wanted to focus on philanthropy and legacy.

Speaker 2 (00:11):

We are important legacy onto our youth and our parents, and helping them understand the generational experiences.

Speaker 3 (00:24):

One of the things about us is with first generational wealth, we had to find people that we could trust

Speaker 4 (00:29):

Just to have someone say, you know what? We've been through this, we've done it. Just

Speaker 5 (00:35):

Being able to share some of those experiences for forecast, what may be ahead for some of these prospective athletes and students and what they're trying to accomplish.

Speaker 6 (00:44):

Maybe there's some things that now that we've been through it that we may have done differently that we can share with them, Hey, this happened, but if we had a chance to do it over again, we may have looked at it from this standpoint.

Speaker 3 (00:55):

When I had an opportunity to sit down with people that I consider as mentors, me being able to learn from them really had a direct correlation to the success that I'm still having.

Speaker 5 (01:06):

I think it's really important that we're able to give that information and experience to people coming behind us so they have a better experience and better journey along their way.

Speaker 1 (01:17):

So this was a great opportunity for us to bring forth awareness today and for them to see themselves as actual philanthropists so that they can go out and make the world a better place.

During the recent NBA All-Star Game Weekend in Indianapolis, esteemed NBA players and their parents joined Indiana’s elite AAU basketball players and their parents to talk about giving back and navigating life as future NCAA D1, NBA, and WNBA players. The Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and Mothers of Professional Basketball Players, Inc. (MPBP, Inc.) partnered to present the All-Star 2024 Athlete and Parent Forum, an insightful discussion on building a lasting legacy on and off the court.

A panel of NBA and WNBA players and parents shared their personal experiences, providing a look inside what it means to have a career in professional basketball. They offered advice for aspiring athletes and their parents, answered their questions, and helped them understand how they can make a meaningful impact in lives and communities through their unique platforms as professional athletes and their family members.

Participating professional athletes and their parents included:

  • Andre Iguodala, Acting Executive Director, National Basketball Players Association and former NBA player, and Linda Shanklin, President, MPBP, Inc.
  • Gary Harris, Jr., current Orlando Magic player, Joy (Holmes) Harris, former WNBA player and Purdue Female Athlete of the Decade, and Gary Harris, Sr.
  • Al Harrington, former NBA player, and Mona Lawton, former President, MPBP, Inc.
  • Eddie Gill, former NBA player, and Kim Davis

“Athletes play an important role in their communities personally as well as professionally. This forum provided a unique opportunity for young athletes to learn skills that will help them give back in meaningful, effective ways, and we are pleased to partner with Mothers of Professional Basketball Players, Inc.,” said Una Osili, Ph.D., Dean’s Fellow of the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy. “Sports and philanthropy are natural allies. Athletes have the potential to raise awareness and drive philanthropic action that can inspire solutions. These conversations will help these young players enhance their philanthropic activities and advocacy skills to work for social change.”

“As parents of highly successful athletes, we have seen firsthand both the challenges and the opportunities that a career in Division 1 and professional basketball can bring. We are mentors and friends providing resources and services, helping rising stars and their families learn from the experience our children and our families have gained as they learn to navigate life in the NBA and other professional leagues,” said Linda Shanklin, President of Mothers of Professional Basketball Players, Inc.

"Our organization serves those in need, and we strive to serve as positive role models through charity, service, and scholarships,” Shanklin continued. “We encourage our children to be role models in their communities and to make a meaningful impact by giving back in a wide variety of ways. It is a pleasure to collaborate with the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy to help these young players strengthen and hone those skills."

Mothers of Professional Basketball Players, Inc., supports communities and makes a difference in the lives of those who live where their children live, work, and play. The organization impacts lives through charities, volunteer efforts, and fundraising, while continuing to build and promote a sisterhood among women who share the common bond of mothers of professional athletes.

The All-Star 2024 Athlete and Parent Forum was sponsored by The Indianapolis Foundation and The Office of The Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Indiana University.

Learn more about the Mays Family Institute

Susannah Heschel, renowned Jewish studies scholar and leading voice for modeling dialogue across difference, to give Lake Lecture April 18

How religion broadly, and Jewish tradition specifically, can help us better practice philanthropy as the love of humanity in these turbulent times will be the focus of Lake Institute on Faith & Giving’s 19th annual Thomas H. Lake Lecture.

Dr. Susannah Heschel, Eli M. Black Distinguished Professor and chair of the Jewish Studies Program at Dartmouth College, will deliver the lecture April 18 in Indianapolis and via livestream. Lake Institute is a part of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Religious traditions have often demonstrated the essential nature of relationship between one another, within communities, and between the human and divine. In her remarks, “Generosity of Spirit: Exploring Jewish Traditions and Relational Philanthropy,” Heschel will focus on how we form relationships and develop a generosity of spirit in our increasingly polarized and disconnected world.

“Philanthropy is built upon relationships, and religious traditions for many serve as a foundation for how we are motivated toward generosity and community,” said David P. King, Ph.D., the Karen Lake Buttrey Director of Lake Institute. “Digging deeply into any one of our particular religious traditions is vital as we learn from one another. The generosity of spirit evident in Jewish traditions of philanthropy will undoubtedly offer each of us new ideas to explore. Dr. Heschel’s unique ability to explore these questions within the Jewish traditions but also to set them in broader contexts that speak to all of us will serve as a tremendous gift to our entire community.”

Lake Institute on Faith & Giving exists to serve the public good by exploring the multiple connections between philanthropy and faith within the major religious traditions. Its mission is to foster greater understanding of the ways in which faith inspires and informs giving.

In her many books, Heschel has most often worked to explore topics in Jewish studies through intersections across multiple religious traditions both past and present. Her scholarship focuses on the history of Jewish and Protestant religious thought in Germany during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and she has brought post-colonial theory and feminist theory to her analyses. Heschel is the author of Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus; The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany; and Jüdischer Islam: Islam und jüdisch-deutsche Selbstbestimmung, as well as several edited volumes including Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism and Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust.

Forthcoming from Heschel this year are a monograph written with Sarah Imhoff, Jewish Studies and the Woman Question, and a co-edited volume, New Paths: Essays in Honor of Professor Elliot Wolfson, with Glenn Dynner and Shaul Magid. Heschel is a Guggenheim Fellow and the recipient of five honorary doctorates from universities in the United States, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland. She has held fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation, as well as fellowships at the National Humanities Center, the Maimonides Institute in Hamburg, and the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin.

The Thomas H. Lake Lecture will be held at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis and via livestream. A reception will follow the lecture. The lecture, reception, and livestream are free and open to the public; registration is requested.

Register for Lake Lecture

Freeman takes the “Gospel of Giving” transatlantic

A class of high school students in Paris, France recently benefited from the knowledge and expertise of award-winning author and scholar Tyrone McKinley Freeman, Ph.D. Freeman serves as the Glenn Family Chair in Philanthropy and Associate Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Paris high school teacher Samia Amar had been teaching her students about philanthropy and entrepreneurship when she came across Freeman’s book “Madam C.J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving.”

The award-winning book details the life and generosity of America’s first self-made female millionaire and leading African American entrepreneur, Madam C.J. Walker.  Founder of a beauty empire, Walker was also devoted to an activist philanthropy aimed at empowering African Americans and challenging the injustices inflicted by Jim Crow.

Amar contacted Freeman and explained that the contents of his book aligned perfectly with the topics she was teaching, and extended an invitation to speak to her class and answer her students’ questions about philanthropy and entrepreneurship.

“The students were wonderful,” Freeman said. “There were about 10 on screen but several more off screen. Miss Amar introduced me, then each student asked me a question – some asked more than one.”

“How do business and philanthropy relate to each other?” “What was Madam Walker's childhood like?” “How do I define philanthropy?” and “How did Madam Walker create economic opportunity for Black women?” were some of the questions posed to Freeman.

“There were two or three other teachers from the school online as well. And our alum who lives in Paris, Dr. Pat Danahey Janin, also logged in to listen,” Freeman said.

Study: American Jews Who Have Experienced Antisemitism Give 10 Times More to Charity

A new study on American Jewish Philanthropy 2022: Giving to Religious and Secular Causes in the U.S. and to Israel has been released.

A landmark new study, American Jewish Philanthropy 2022: Giving to Religious and Secular Causes in the U.S. and to Israel, from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Ruderman Family Foundation, reveals that U.S. Jews who have experienced antisemitism contributed an average of almost 10 times more to charity than those who had not had those experiences.

One of the first major reports on Jewish giving trends in America in the past decade, the study is based on a survey of 3,115 households (two-thirds Jewish, one-third non-Jewish) conducted in March 2023. While the survey was conducted prior to the current war between Israel and Hamas, the report has significant implications for understanding the current environment and is a thorough examination of the numerous factors that influence Jewish giving overall and over time.

According to the new study, co-authored by Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D., Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim, Ph.D., and Jon Bergdoll, experiences with and concerns about antisemitism in the U.S. were linked to significantly higher levels of giving in 2022. Respondents who personally experienced antisemitism or have someone in their household who experienced it gave more to all causes.

Higher charitable giving by donors who had experiences with antisemitism was not limited to supporting religious organizations, as American Jewish donors who had experienced antisemitism gave over six times as much to non-religious institutions and organizations than donors who had not. Concern about antisemitism was also related to more giving: those who reported being very concerned about antisemitism gave at higher rates (80%, versus 53% among those who said they were not at all concerned) and gave over five times more than the average of those who said they are unconcerned about antisemitism.

Orthodox Jews reported that they have experienced antisemitism at significantly higher levels than other Jewish respondents. Thirty percent of respondents with children under 18 at home experienced antisemitism, compared with 17% of those with no children under 18 at home. Those located in the Western U.S. experienced more antisemitism at 28% compared with 20% in the Midwest, 20% in the South and 15% in the Northeast.

“Given how the rising threat posed by antisemitism has been a prominent concern for the American Jewish community not only during the current war in Israel but in the years immediately preceding it, we believe that our study’s findings present key insights that can inform the organized Jewish community’s activities in both the short- and long-term future,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Given our foundation’s core mission to expand and share knowledge through the publication of comprehensive research as well as to model the practice of strategic philanthropy, we are proud to partner with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy on a report that promises to broaden the general public's understanding of Jewish giving in America.”

The study, which was commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation, examines American Jewish giving and volunteering across socioeconomic demographics and various Jewish denominations during 2022, including motivational factors affecting Jewish households and changes to their environments. It explores giving to local and national causes, to Israel-focused organizations, congregations, religiously-identified organizations and to secular organizations, reflecting the diversity of the Jewish giving landscape.

The research provides a thorough examination of the numerous factors that influence Jewish giving overall and over time. It extensively breaks out experiences, views, practices, and results for different generations/age groups, types of households, religious and cultural traditions, regions of the U.S. and many more demographics.

The cause that received the largest donation from the average donor was Jewish congregations. Jewish households’ most frequently supported causes related to basic needs, healthcare, Jewish congregations, organizations with combined purposes, and education.

Family composition seems to matter in giving: Jewish respondents with a Jewish partner were more likely to give, and to give more, than those with a non-Jewish partner. Jewish respondents with children under age 18 at home also were more likely to give, and to give more, than those without young children in the home.

One in four Jewish households in the U.S. reported giving to charitable organizations specifically related to Israel-focused causes, the study found. Among those who gave to Israel-related causes and organizations, the average gift was $2,467 per donor household. Younger generations — Generation X and Millennials (including Generation Z adults) — had both the highest participation rates in giving to Israel-focused organizations and the highest mean amounts given to Israel-focused organizations.

Overall, more than four-fifths of older-generation Jewish households (83% of people “older than Boomers” and 84% of Boomers) were donors to any charity, compared to almost three-fourths (74%) of Gen-Xers and almost two-thirds (64%) of Millennials and younger generations. However, younger generations donated higher average amounts than the older generations.

The study also compares giving by Jewish and non-Jewish households. While Jewish and non-Jewish households gave to any charity at similar rates (74% and 72%, respectively), Jewish households gave a greater amount. The average gift size given by Jewish and non-Jewish donor households differed by over $2,500, or 32% ($10,588 donated versus $8,025, respectively). Furthermore, with respect to donations specifically to non-religious organizations and causes, Jewish households were more likely to give to non-religious causes than non-Jewish households (67% vs. 59%). All of these differences, however, were not statistically significant when controlling for household demographics like income and education.

“Jewish Americans’ strong commitment to generosity is reflected in this study’s findings about the breadth and depth of their philanthropic engagement within and beyond their communities. Their philanthropy, faith and culture are tightly interwoven; Jewish households that self-identified as more religious gave more, including to secular causes, than those who identify as less religious,” Rooney said. “We are pleased to partner with the Ruderman Family Foundation to provide new insights that will advance understanding of these important aspects of U.S. philanthropy.”

Giving USA Foundation is a dissemination partner for this report, helping to expand awareness of this new research among philanthropic sector professionals.

In the news

The New York Times, “There’s a wonderful humility to the story.” -- Amir Pasic, Dean. 

(“Why a $1 Billion Gift to a Medical School Moved So Many People,” subscription required)

The Wall Street Journal, “... two former college leaders have written thoughtful books about the problems now facing American higher education and what they believe should be done to solve them….” -- Leslie Lenkowsky, Professor Emeritus. 

(“Bookshelf: The Problems on Campus,” subscription required)

Yahoo! News, “Ultimately, if trends of past support to higher education are any indication of what to expect in the future, giving to colleges and universities will probably hold steady or even increase.” – Genevieve Shaker, Donald A. Campbell Chair in Fundraising Leadership. 

(“Donors gave $58 billion to higher ed in the 2023 academic year, with mega gifts up despite overall decline”)

JTA, ““The fact that it’s 10 times as much is a very profound difference.” -- Patrick M. Rooney, Professor Emeritus. 

(“Victims of antisemitism give much more to charity, survey finds”)

Inside Higher Ed, “Given the commentary on the role of growing wealth in society, it is of great value to have this data on how philanthropy flows to our colleges and universities.”  -- Amir Pasic, Dean. 

(“Another Bountiful Year of Big (and Small) Donations”)

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, We have a depth of information that’s unusual.” -- David King, Karen Lake Buttrey Director, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving. 

(“A Message for Nonprofits: Black Churches Are Powerful Potential Allies”)

Indianapolis Recorder, “The All-Star 2024 Athlete and Parent Forum is a unique opportunity for young athletes to learn the skills that will help them manage their lives and careers and give back in meaningful, effective ways.” -- Una Osili, Dean’s Fellow, Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy. 

(“NBA players will show Indiana high school basketball stars the path to professional and personal success during NBA All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis”)