You’ve most likely heard about Giving USA’s annual report on the state of philanthropy — a massive deep-dive into all things fundraising: who gives, how much they give, who they give to, how they give it, and how it all compares to previous years.
At 402 pages, it’s not a quick read. Here’s their infographic with key data:
We slogged through the full report and found these useful takeaways:
- It’s time to stop chasing one-time gifts.
This year’s headline: overall giving by individuals dropped by 1.1%. This was unwelcome news, since individuals are usually the reliable engine of national philanthropy, and it suggests that a shift in strategy may be in order. Other data points:
– Nonprofits sent 8% more fundraising emails, but saw revenue from those emails drop by 8%.
– Online donor retention — meaning a donor visits your website to make a one-time gift and then returns the following year to make another gift — is an abysmal 37% (a drop of 3% from 2017).
– Major gifts were for the most part unaffected by these changes. But smaller gifts — less than $1,000 — have declined.
What’s the response? Deepen your relationship with donors at every giving level. Spend time getting to know your existing $250-500 donors. Treat them as you would your major givers. Pick up the phone. Send a personal email (or a handwritten note!). Let those donors know how much they matter.
Could you cultivate your mid-level donors to give monthly instead of just at the end of the year? Could they join a sustainer circle? Developing specific strategies for portions of your donor list is a better bet than blasting the same email to everyone over and over.
- When in doubt, ask. (When not in doubt … also ask.)
Let’s say your nonprofit provides a variety of programs and services. Do your donors care more about Project A, or Project B?
Even if you’re 99% sure you know the answer … it doesn’t hurt to ask. In fact — asking can actually increase your revenue. A Texas Tech research study found that asking donors to rate the importance of specific projects at a charity increased their willingness to donate to that charity. So make sure to include a donor survey in your annual plan!
- You gotta seed the clouds if you want to make it rain.
Bequest giving was flat in 2018, and the tax law — which raised the value of tax-exempt estates to $11.18 million — is expected to have a negative long-term effect on the value of bequest giving.
But! Only 5% of all estates currently leave a bequest. That means there’s a lot of room for growth in this sector — more than in any other.
Planned giving programs and messages are easy to put on the back burner since they don’t bring any immediate tangible return to an organization. But consistency and longevity can have a big payoff.
Here’s one example: last year, Seattle Public Radio received a $10 million bequest gift from a longtime dedicated listener who lived out of state. The station didn’t have a planned giving initiative before they received this gift — but they do now. “This gift inspired a good dose of introspection and an even greater dose of planning,” said a member of the board.
No organization is too small to have a planned giving strategy — and no donor is too small (or too young) to be a candidate for bequest giving. In coming years, it’s estimated that $59 trillion in wealth will be transferred from older generations to Generation X and millennials. Start talking (and listening!) to them now!
If you know your donors —what they care about, what they value, what they want — you will survive these murky waters — and maybe even exceed expectations.