Drop in conspicuous philanthropy could hurt nonprofits

Posted on: May 6, 2009

Tuesday (5/5) on Forbes.com, Judith H. Dobrzynski writes, “Anyone who scowled in 2008 when the New York Public Library announced that it would rename its historic Beaux Arts building on Fifth Avenue the Stephen A. Schwarzman building and chisel his name into it five times to mark his $100 million pledge, might have smiled at the news last week: The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that anonymous giving is soaring. In this re-calibrated world, it seems, some big givers no longer want such notoriety. Analyzing gifts greater than $1 million announced between June 2008 and April 2009, the Chronicle noted that 80 were made anonymously, or nearly 19% of the 422 total for the period. By comparison, during the past decade only about 3% to 5% of such gifts were made anonymously, according to data compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the Chronicle said.” Some may welcome the end of naming stages, staircases, escalators, even restrooms after donors, but there is a downside. “The best givers are those who’ve already given, and perusing lists of gifts is a big way that fund-raisers find prospects. If anonymous gifts grow, development officers will have a tougher time finding new supporters: Where will they go for clues if donors go underground to avoid new solicitations?”

Posted May 6, 2009