Could Charlotte become the Silicon Valley of nonprofits?

Could Charlotte become the Silicon Valley of nonprofits?
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Charlotte nonprofits have a massive growth opportunity.

Recently, I was talking to community leader and he told me, “I don’t know why our city is all hung up on becoming a technology startup hub – we suck at early stage tech startups. What we’re really good at is nonprofits. We should aspire to become the Silicon Valley of nonprofits.”

This idea struck me.

Charlotte does have the two most important traits to become the “Silicon Valley of Nonprofits” – wealth and intelligence.

How much of their income do Charlotteans give?

We asked our 21,000+ daily Agenda newsletter subscribers: How much money will you give this year? Results:

  • 1% – 5% of income: 45.35%
  • <1% of income: 32.74%
  • 5% – 10% of income: 14.04%
  • 10%+ of income: 7.87%


Giving Trends

Nationally, charitable giving hit a record in 2015, $373.25 billion (a 4% increase over 2014). Religious groups are the largest beneficiaries with 33% of all charitable donations (but only seeing growth of 2.7%). The fastest growing national charity categories in 2015 were international giving (up 17.5%) and education giving (up 8.8%).

“The biggest trend I see is that people want to give how THEY want to give. They don’t want to be told where or how to give,” said Kelly Brooks founder of SHARE Charlotte who recently helped nonprofits raise $7.2 million. Her advice, “It’s helpful to understand that it’s ok to shop around for the nonprofit(s) or cause(s) you want to support. Think of it like dating. Doing one thing for one organization doesn’t mean you have to marry them. ‘Have coffee’ with a few and see what sticks!”

It’s not just money; Charlotteans also plan to give their time in 2017.

When asked – In 2017, will you do volunteer more or less often? Respondents said:

  • More often: 45.58%
  • Same frequency as 2016: 52.47%
  • Less often: 1.94%

This is a huge opportunity for Charlotte area nonprofits that create high quality volunteer programming and market these opportunities.

Courtesy of Levine Children's Hospital

Courtesy of Levine Children’s Hospital

How do Charlotteans decide where to give their money?

These results won’t be too surprising, but I’d argue that this presents another huge opportunity for nonprofits that take digital marketing seriously.

When asked – How do you learn about the charities or non-profit organizations you’re thinking about donating to? Respondents said:

  • Personal history: 42.50%
  • Friends: 20.08%
  • Social media: 12.29%
  • Internet searches: 9.10%
  • Coworkers: 6.94%
  • News: 6.19%
  • Pledge drives: 2.63%
  • Neighbors: 0.28%


Our city is well suited to become the Silicon Valley of Nonprofits, but those nonprofit innovators that invest in fundraising, volunteer programming and digital marketing will lead us there.

Cover photo courtesy of United Way of Central Carolinas

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