Fundraising Trends

Assessing 2018 Fundraising Results

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

What’s working for you!? Please comment below or chime in on Facebook and Twitter.

Checking the Pulse of our "Culture of Giving"

More people donate every year than vote for president.”


That was just one of the pithy observations Patrick M. Rooney, Ph.D, offered to the roomful of nonprofit executives as Nonprofit Connect hosted its annual presentation of Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy. Published since 1956, this is the longest running annual report on U.S. charitable giving. 

But, is this comparison more a positive indicator of our philanthropic commitment or a negative reflection of our political connection?

Overall, the tone of the presentation was upbeat as Dr. Rooney reported that total giving increased 2.7% from 2015 to 2016. With this, the third consecutive year of growth, total giving has finally regained virtually all of the 15% drop experienced during the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

The increase was spread across giving from Individuals (72% of total), Foundations (15%) and Corporations (5%), while giving through Bequests (8% of total) experienced a decline of 9%.  Dr. Rooney was quick to point out that this category, often driven by one or two of the wealthiest estates, is typically more volatile than the other three.

All nine subsectors saw an increase in revenue. While Religion continues to be the largest of category, accounting for 32% of all giving, it saw the slowest rate of growth (3%). This trend is contributing to an overall decline in share of giving; the sector represented 33% of total revenue just 10 years ago and 58% in 1985. 

The three fastest growing subsectors are:
• Environment/Animals - up 7.2%
• Arts/Humanities - up 6.4%
• Health - up 5.7%

For the skeptics among us, there's ample room for concern about the overall health of our “culture of giving.”

  • While total giving is up slightly, it still remains at about 2.1% of Gross Domestic Product. This has ranged from 1.7% to 2.2% over the past 50 years, but has not been able to move beyond.
  • The total number of 501(c)3 organizations continues to grow and has also now reached pre-recession levels. 
  • Both the number of volunteers and volunteer hours are up, but not enough to have kept pace with overall population growth.
  • While overall corporate giving was up, much of the increase was from increased marketing spending (sponsorships, etc.) rather than “pure” philanthropy.

So, what can we do to keep our culture fit?

I think objective assessments like this are critically important and I applaud Nonprofit Connect for their ongoing commitment to providing such perspectives. I’m also grateful for Jeffry Byrne’s connection, which allows Kansas City to be one of the first markets in which the study is unveiled.   

But we obviously have to do more than simply watch the numbers. Engagement. Encouragement. Empowerment. What role do you play?

#GivingTuesday in Kansas City

Now in it's fourth year, #GivingTuesday, in the words of its organizers, "harnesses the potential of social media and the generosity of people around the world to bring about real change in their communities; it provides a platform for them to encourage the donation of time, resources and talents to address local challenges."

So, how does social media as a platform to address local challenges look in Kansas City?

M&C is following 30 randomly selected local charities and here's a brief overview of what we've seen.


The majority of these organizations are active on social media: 90% on Facebook and 73% on Twitter. The smaller organizations are slightly less likely to be active on Twitter. Only four organizations – three small and one large – emailed requests for #GivingTuesday support.

There was not a great deal of activity around #GivingTuesday last week, with only about a quarter of the socially active organizations making any mention of the event. Interestingly enough, the same Early Promoters tended to be active across both platforms.

The activity began to increase on Sunday and built from there to Tuesday's crescendo of 59 posts and 81 tweets from the 34 organizations communicating about it. 

That's an average of seven communications per socially active organization. Volume was actually far less evenly spread, with two of the organizations (one small and one large) accounting for nearly a third of the total.

The campaigns that were more involved appeared to result in significantly more constituent engagement. Some examples, from low to higher involvement, include:
• simply announce #GivingTuesday
• invite participation/ask for donations
• set a goal/target amount to be raised
• provide program-based reasons to give
• promote social involvement (e.g., unselfie photos)
• host an event or activity
• offer a matching gift
• recognize participation (public acknowledgement; retweet activity; etc.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was one of the smallest organizations that was most agile and interactive. (Check back in a week or so for a sampling of some of those best posts!) The larger organizations, by contrast, tended toward fewer, more broadcast announcements. There was virtually no response/engagement to the organizations that made a single, broadcast announcement 

However, volume alone is not the answer. One mid-sized organization, after more than six weeks of Twitter silence, suddenly tweeted five times in the span of a few hours.

It will be interesting to see if giving actually increases (see current estimate now and watch for Blackbaud Trends report) this year. As a fundraiser, I hope you're also considering how you can use #GivingTuesday to strengthen your connection with current donors and to begin to establish meaningful relationships with new constituents!

[Note: M&C worked with Nonprofit Connect to randomly select a representative range of Kansas City philanthropic organizations. Over the past 40 years, Nonprofit Connect has firmly established itself one of the area's primary providers of training, resources and networking opportunities for the nonprofit community.]