By Julie Holdaway

Published in the Orange County Register on August 19, 2013

Statistics show that individuals, not groups, give more.

Over the years at OneOC, we've taught several "I am on a Board, So Now What?" classes. The course covers the practical aspects of governing nonprofits.

A couple of weeks ago, a gentleman who took the course called me to say the nonprofit he was sitting on was spending "too much time on the little guys," and "How can they get a $20,000 grant from a foundation?"

I suppose the frequency with which we get this question shouldn't be surprising. But it's based on a wrong assumption.

Fundraisers here in Orange County – and really everywhere – know that there is indeed a secret to the gold. If you don't tell anyone, I'll share the secret with you... the gold is with individuals. Regular folk – our neighbors, our friends, ourselves – are the gold when it comes to raising money for nonprofits.

According to Giving USA's annual report, $316.23 billion was donated to charitable causes in the United States last year.  The figure was a modest 3.5 percent year-over-year growth rate, or just 1.5 percent adjusted for inflation.

Foundations gave 15 percent of that pie; corporations another 6 percent.

Individuals, however, gave nearly $228.9 billion, or 72 percent of the total. An additional $23 billion came through bequests (estates), which is essentially from individuals.

Despite the generosity of the hundreds (literally hundreds) of foundations in Orange County, and even more corporations, the gold comes from you and me, from individuals.

Where does it go? Nearly half (45 percent) goes first to religious organizations and schools. Just more than half the dollars go to the institutions we typically consider charities.

Like a smart investing plan, a strategic fundraising plan for a nonprofit includes a diversified portfolio. Consider how corporate sponsorships, foundation grants, events and annual giving fit into your respective strategy.

But, please, don't consider individuals "the little guys."

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