Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Class is in session.

Thought Leaders take your seats. Today we will discuss Giving USA. As Edith said on NPR this morning figures were released for 2010 showing $290.8 billion raised - up from $305 billion in 2009 that was corrected from $303 billion to $280 billion because IRS issued revised estimates and the model was tweaked because the recession was very bad. And now we will march to the new numbers and salute the new flag - until the next IRS correction and then we’ll remodel the model and next year we will raise more money! Patrick: SIT DOWN! Is everyone clear on this? So class the takeaway is more money was apparently raised last year than the year before but over the last four years philanthropy was smacked really hard. Thought Leaders you have to explain this all to your clients and they might care if they can stay awake and if you can convince them that it matters. What Leo? Yes the data are a national model and shouldn’t be used by a single organization to judge their results. It’s sad that one of your clients fired some benighted fundraiser because of this goosy data. That’s awful! Yes Rob: your group, Philanthromax, has algorithms for projecting data in almost real time while GUSA is retrospective – and you and they are $36 billion apart!!! - and you won’t be able to fall back on IRS numbers later. Whom should we believe? If GUSA issued numbers every two years IRS figures would be up to date even if they aren’t right and miss a lot of giving. Nancy we know you don’t believe in the algorithm but please raise your hand first! Thank you. These are verities: a robust stock market gooses giving. Religion books the most; individuals give the most; planned giving is either up or down; foundation and corporate giving is a modest percentage of all funds given. Thought Leaders drink the Kool-Aid. Henry what is it? You don’t like Kool-Aid. Even if it’s giving flavored? Henry, drink the bleeping Kool-Aid!

1 comment:

The Oram Group, Inc. (c) 2008 said...

Okay Professor Goldstein, as your TA I would suggest the class give serious consideration to taking a breath and consider a suggestion you and I have given to our students in the past. (Okay Patrick, Paul and John, quit using that unbecoming language with each other or we will send you to the principal’s office to have your methodological tongues washed out. It is not very scholarly of you by the way!)

So class we know as “thought leaders” many of our clients and certainly the rest of the philanthropic community is not waiting each June with bated breath for our definitive report on giving trends. In fact, to some extent, we are the only ones besides the Chronicle of Philanthropy and maybe a few national news outlets that even have it on their calendars. Instead of putting out preliminary data that has to be revised and, during unprecedented ones like the Great Recession most recently, substantially altered, why not have a leap year or two and report the data based on final IRS reports two years hence. (Nancy please CHILL! Give this idea some time to marinate. We will all be seen as even smarter experts if we don’t have to dance around methodology issues that obfuscate or even come across as overly defensive trying to explain faulty models.)

And while I am at it, let’s just report on inflation adjusted data defined as such and make the report more readable, relevant and easier to retain. Jumping aback and forth with “current dollars” is tedious. Leave that for the academic journals. It would certainly streamline the report with a one-sentence explanation at the beginning. Keep the longer report for the wonks. Maybe this will enable our editors to develop a briefer, more reader friendly and report for our end users.

The Gurin Forum in New York got a little testy last fall when these conflicting methodology issues first publicly surfaced among our panel of experts. (Did you see those glancing blows between Paul, John, and Patrick during the panel discussion? Those academics are pretty tough hombres!) Overall COP does a very good job, and they should be up front in this classroom leading our little “teach in!” Now that we have acknowledged that giving between 2008 and the end of 2009 dropped by a much larger factor than originally reported by our esteemed researchers, let’s move on to make sure we continue this over 50 year tradition of providing the Giving USA report on Philanthropy. This classroom full of “thought leaders” and the entire world of philanthropy deserve the best and most accurate picture of what actually happened in charitable giving in recent years sans the drama. And remember class – “try to love one another right now. Right now!” And also finally, “no Kool-Aid or data should be drunk before its time!”

Leo Arnoult