A recent headline – “Dec. 31, 2018: The Day Fundraising as We Know It... Died?” – reflected some of the conversations I’ve been having with clients and colleagues.
How are your 2018 results looking? Preliminary reports seem to be mixed: some organizations are up slightly; some are down dramatically.
A number of broad market concerns are being cited.
• The new tax law. From the outset, there have been fears that increasing the size of the standard deduction would cause a decrease in the number of people making charitable contributions. A number of studies appear to support this. For example, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s Quarterly Fundraising Report for Q3 2018 showed a 4.3% decline in the number of donors and a 2.6% drop in revenue (compared to 2017 results).
• A volatile economy. From early November to Christmas, the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed nearly 17% of its overall value. What impact might that have had, especially among older donors nearing or already in retirement?
• Contentious political environment. Nationally, the polarization leading up to the 2018 mid-term elections appears to have continued, culminating in a government shutdown just prior to Christmas. Internationally, pivotal trade partnerships and political alliances appear to be precarious as well. Is this an additional concern? Even a distraction?
• Donor fatigue. While giving was strong in 2017 – Giving USA reported a 5.2% increase in giving by individuals – some interpreted it as a short term reaction to the 2016 election results. In the months since, more organizations seem to be sending more appeals than ever before, hoping to maintain or even increase fundraising budgets.
So, what’s an individual development director to do?
While broad market forces may be beyond your control, the specific acquisition, retention and reactivation strategies you can implement are not. Some of the trends that appear to be working among our clients:
More targeted versioning, in both email and direct mail appeals
Acknowledgement of prior involvement and giving
Increased emphasis on monthly/sustainer programs
More careful monitoring and management of retention status
Increased use of social media as engagement tool