The Gauntlet

Less than six weeks into the new year.  Just days after the Chronicle of Philanthropy predicted a down year for big gifts.  The first $100 million + charitable gift has been recorded.

As noted in the Big Gifts blog, Philip T. and Susan M. Ragon have pledged $100 million to a consortia of leading Boston institutions to develop an effective vaccine against AIDS.

This is not just a big gift.  It is a BHAG gift.  It carries with it, as authors Collins and Porras might say, a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.  This is an era when a candidate ran and won with an audacity of hope and donors are now similarly willing to take on the seemingly impossible.

The question now is if these are the last brave donors willing to focus all available resources on a seemingly intractable problem and dare to fix it?

I don’t think so.

It may seem contrarian, but I think this will be a very good year for bold action through audacious acts of philanthropy.

What will tip the scales, however, and determine whether this is a time of flat or declining support or rather a revolutionary year, will be the work of nonprofits and their fundraisers.

If we let fear govern our strategy, we will fail.  If we act with the hearts of lions, engaging our supporters confidently and convincingly, we will see a remarkable change in how wealthy people engage with us and the missions we serve.

So far, as the Big Gifts blog shows, the evidence is that major giving continues.  But whether nonprofits are up to the challenge of being bold in the face of economic crisis is another matter.

The challenge is to us.  Are WE ready for change?