The State of Philanthropy: A Funder’s Perspective

The Nonprofit Services Center (NSC) put on a great program today that was moderated by the Center’s very own Mary McMurtrey.  The program, part of the Nonprofit President’s Council series, brought together nonprofit executive directors and their board chairs/members to hear from a distinguished panel of funders. The panel was made up of many Gateway Center for Giving members and included:

Mary kicked off the program with an overview of the state of philanthropy both nationally and locally.  There are over 9000 nonprofits operating in the greater St. Louis metropolitan region and she reminded the audience that just 13% of the funding that those nonprofits receive is from philanthropy.  Of that philanthropy funding, 75% is from individual donors, 20% is from corporations, and just 5% is from private foundations. We were reminded that St. Louis has a tradition of giving through business, something that has not changed over time despite changes in the economy.


One of the main themes of the morning was board member involvement.  Each funder on the panel stressed how important it was for board members to be  involved when a nonprofit is applying for a grant.  They urged them to be present for the site visits, be available for conversations with the funder, and at the very least write a letter or note of support of the organization they are involved with.  Funders see that strong board member involvement and accountability as a glowing recommendation of the nonprofit they are considering funding.


While the funders on the panel each have their own funding priorities and different ways they determine who will receive funding, there was one thing they all stressed- the relationship between the foundation and the grantee.  That relationship is something that needs to be given attention and developed over time. The foundations want you to reach out and pitch your ideas before blindly submitting a grant application.  Take the time to get to know your potential funder and what it is they are looking for- the funders don’t want to say no to your grant application so they urged the nonprofits to take the time to reach to the funder to get to know one another.  And they stressed that the communication should not stop once the grant is received.  Staying in constant communication with your funder is the best way to develop a strong relationship built on trust.


Overall it was a really informative program with some great audience interaction.  Thank you to NSC for hosting and to the great panel of funders for sharing such insightful information with the group.

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