The everyday philanthropist: realizing the impact of modest donations

The everyday donor is emerging as philanthropy’s newest hero, according to an article recently published in The New York Times. Although attention toward smaller-size donations is often overshadowed by the coverage of million dollar gifts coming from the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, more donors and nonprofit organizations are realizing the meaningful impact that can come from modest giving.

Denver-based nonprofit Community Shares of Colorado has been enlisting the power of smaller-size donations for more than 20 years and with notable success. “Community Shares knows the power of $1 a day,” said Alyssa Kopf, the organization’s CEO. “Since 1986, with an average donor gift of less than a dollar a day, we’ve raised more than $15 million for Colorado nonprofit organizations.” 

Community Shares’ fundraising model involves partnering with Colorado companies to set up community giving programs in the workplace. The idea is that by bringing many people together, their modest donations become one sizable impact. Last year, Community Shares was able to raise more than $1.5 million while still averaging just $1 per day from donors. This has been its model since the beginning, but Kopf can see why shifting to this strategy may be challenging for some organizations.

“Changing your perspective on $1-a-day donors, from an afterthought to your valued partner in philanthropy, requires an organizational culture shift,” said Kopf. “You have to decide together that it is important to have a community of shareholders rather than a limited number of wealthy funders driving your organization.”

By embracing the modest donation, Community Shares is able to engage more community members and “democratize philanthropy.” How the donor directs his or her gift becomes a “vote” in building a better world.

“The more people we have voting, which means welcoming donors at all giving levels,” said Kopf, “the greater the local ownership and the better the philanthropic investment reflects the vibrant communities we serve.”

If your organization is considering a cultural shift in fund development for 2010, JVA can help. Contact Jessica Craig at 303.477.4896 or at to find out about JVA’s fund development planning services.


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