We are proud to be celebrating 20 years of contributing to the philanthropic community by serving those who serve the common good. Throughout 2020, we will be reflecting upon “20 Lessons Learned Over 20 Years” with a series of articles written by Benefactor Group staff.
February 1, 2000. I awoke, got ready for work, and walked into the dining room to push the table against the wall where it would serve as my desk for the next six weeks. The great adventure that would become Benefactor Group had begun.
That year, charitable giving topped $200 billion. One commentator observed at the time, “If people … gave the way their parents did in the 1950’s, we would have an extra $20 billion annually in good works.” In 2020, if people gave as that 1950s generation—our grandparents and great-grandparents—we could have an extra $43 billion in good works annually. Then, as now, charitable giving seemed stuck around 2% of GDP.
That is a challenge we’ve embraced for two decades: to help our nonprofit clients and colleagues inspire donors, strengthen staff, equip volunteers, and clarify their vision so that philanthropy would grow and good works flourish.
How have we done?
We have helped nearly 400 nonprofit organizations launch successful initiatives, expand staff, or strengthen infrastructure. We’ve celebrated as ribbons were cut on buildings made possible by generous donors—from museums and arts pavilions to camps for medically fragile children and residences for homeless families. We’ve cheered as fundraising professionals began new chapters with new jobs. And we’ve helped to transform noble visions into practical on-the-ground solutions. Along the way, charitable giving grew to nearly $430 billion.
For two decades, our good work has been accomplished by a team of 40 people. Some traveled with Benefactor Group and our clients for a project or two. Many joined the journey for years—even decades. Bene employee #1 (Sharon Ferguson) retired just last year after 19 years with the firm; #2 (Lisa Buckley) is going strong after 18 years.
Today the team numbers 15, encompassing accomplished industry veterans and college interns. A next generation of firm leadership is assured as Steve Beshuk steps into the role of principal. Clients stretch from coast (San Diego) to coast (Boston) and include many doing good in our own hometown of Columbus, Ohio. And our traditional work in fundraising has expanded to include executive search, strategic planning, and nonprofit technology—more ways to serve those who serve the common good©.
To some extent the fundraising profession has done more to create winners and losers than to actually move the needle on Americans’ generosity. We’re still stagnant at about 2% of gdp. So even though the amount given has increased dramatically in two decades, there is still good work to be done to inspire donors to even greater generosity and equip nonprofits to do even more good. We can’t wait to get started.