Giving USA 2019: What You Might Not Have Heard (Part II)

In Part II of this article series, we continue looking at insights from Giving USA 2019, a study of US charitable giving in 2018. (Read Part I.)

1. What you heard: Nine of eleven recipient sub-sectors saw giving fall or stay flat.

What you might not have heard: The two sub-sectors with growth (International Affairs and Environment/Animals) also have the highest percentage of online giving. Some speculate an embrace of technology is one factor in the growth. It can make giving easier, appeal to a younger set of donors, and allow a nonprofit to be nimble in its fundraising.

Our tip: Evaluate the “journey” your donors take in making a gift, especially online. Is the process easy? Do donors feel appreciated? Do you report back on outcomes?

2. What you heard: Giving as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) remained flat at 2.1%. It has hovered around 2% for more than 20 years.

What you might not have heard: Giving as a percentage of disposable personal income (DPI) also remained flat (1.9%) even though DPI increased by 5% in 2018. The share of wallet for “traditional” charitable giving (to a 501(c)3) isn’t going
up even with more in our wallets. This may signal a change in how Americans view “giving.”

Our tip: Donor stewardship must be a top priority for nonprofits. Donors could spend their disposable income on any number of things, and they choose your organization. Show them you are truly grateful and they are making a difference.

3. What you heard: The fundraising landscape is changing.

What you might not have heard: Some things we can’t control, but we can keep up with changes to ensure giving stays strong.

Our tips:

        • Focus on retention! With fewer households giving, acquisition is more challenging. Building relationships is always a solid strategy.
        • Talk to donors about how policy is affecting them – don’t assume you know.
        • Use strategies such as recurring giving to diversify revenue streams. Build a pipeline for the future by engaging younger donors, even if they aren’t giving yet.
        • Continue to study trends in giving, such as demographic shifts, changes in giving strategies and vehicles, and the influence of technology. Adapt your fundraising accordingly.

Giving USA 2019: What You Might Not Have Heard (Part I)

Topline findings from Giving USA 2019, a study of 2018 charitable giving in the US, have been reported extensively over the past several weeks. Yet the study reveals quite a bit more when you look a little deeper. We’ve been scouring the full report and following the commentary, and will be sharing a few interesting things we’ve learned over the next few weeks.

 1.  What you heard: Americans gave $427.71B in 2018, up .7% compared with 2017 (current dollars, or down 1.7% adjusted for inflation).

What you might not have heard: The sky is not falling. Though such a slight increase in giving sounds worrisome, 2018 was the second-highest giving total EVER, following a record-breaking 2017. Giving has grown steadily since the end of the recession, and it’s not uncommon to level-off after a long growth period.

Our tip: Spend some time looking at your numbers. Do they follow the trends? Knowing where you are allows you to better strategize for the future.

2.  What you heard: 2018 was a complex year in fundraising, with economic conditions and the policy environment influencing giving behaviors.

What you might not have heard: The true effects of economics and policy (especially the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017) are not known (yet). The numbers just haven’t been collected and analyzed (yet), though a lot of anecdotal evidence and estimates exist. There was and will continue to be an effect; we just won’t understand it fully for a while longer.

Our tip: Continuing to invest in retaining donors is always a good strategy. Strong relationships can help nonprofits weather the changes in economics and policy.

3.  What you heard: Giving from living individuals as a percentage of total giving fell below 70% (to 68%) for the first time since at least 1954. Making up the rest of the pie: Foundations (18%, up), Bequests (9%, flat), and Corporations (5%, up).

What you might not have heard: Individual giving is still over 80% if bequests, family foundations and donor advised funds are part of the individual bucket. Individual giving still makes up the bulk of charitable giving in the United States, though the “how” of this giving is seeing significant changes.

Our tip: Understand and build multiple means for giving into your fundraising program. No matter how a donor gives, make sure they are thanked and feel appreciation.

Watch for our next post soon with more of what we’ve learned!

Can You Ask for Recurring Gifts at Fundraising Events?

The short answer is YES!

The statistics surrounding recurring (monthly, sustaining) gifts bring joy to a fundraiser: the overall number of sustaining donors is growing by 25% a year, revenue is increasing by 17% per year, donor retention over 90%, and a lifetime value of 440% over one-time donors.* At a time when the overall number of donors is falling and retention hovers around 45%, a recurring gift program is a great addition to the fundraising toolbox. 

Asks for recurring gifts most often occur online or via direct mail appeals. Yet any ask is an opportunity to encourage monthly giving, even during a giving moment (fund-a-need) at a special event. Case in point: by combining mission-focused messaging throughout the event, a carefully placed reminder about the option of monthly giving and a pledge card that made it easy to sign-up as a monthly donor, one of our clients recently had donors pledge $10,000 in annual recurring gifts in addition to the night-of fund-a-need gifts.

Once you’ve got monthly donors signed up, don’t forget about them! They need to be thanked and acknowledged appropriately (acknowledge after every gift, gratefully thank on an on-going basis) and shown the impact of their gifts throughout the year. They are often good prospects for further engagement (and additional support, outside of their monthly giving) – make sure to reach out and learn more about their motivations and interests.

Want to learn more? We’d be happy to talk strategy about asking for recurring gifts at your event and deepening relationships with these donors. Just give us a call!


*Some statistics apply to online giving only

Statistics from Classy, The State of Modern Philanthropy 2018; M&R Benchmarks Study 2019; The Fundraising Effectiveness Project 2018; and NextAfter, The Nonprofit Recurring Giving Benchmark Study.

What’s in a name?

We may be a little biased, but we think Fladeboe Advancement is a perfect fit for our new name.

It weaves together a little bit of our history, a lot of our future and a deep desire to help clients “advance” to the next level in their fundraising efforts.

Our rebranding process was born out of two realizations:

“Auctions” reflects only one piece of what we do. Event fundraising has evolved a great deal since our first benefit auction. There is less emphasis on live auctions and more focus on mission-based giving moments (fund-a-needs). We’ve adapted to meet this change and are now a leading expert in this area. Calling ourselves an auction company doesn’t tell our whole story.

Opportunities abound “beyond the event” to engage with donors. Increasing support and maintaining enthusiasm among donors play a huge role in an organization’s sustainability. Yet acquisition and retention statistics reveal nonprofits are often struggling to do an A+ job (or even a C job…) of donor engagement.

We’ve helped hundreds of clients with events. The next logical question was “How might we help them beyond the event?”

Experience and research told us strategic communications and building meaningful relationships are critical for retaining donors and inspiring new supporters. Our donor engagement services – including communications, data analysis and donor survey work — were developed to help nonprofits better understand and connect with donors…and ultimately raise more revenues.

It’s exciting to take this step in our company’s growth. Thank you for being a part of what we are today and what we will be in the future. Our clients are the reason we do what we do — your work inspires us every day. We look forward to being a part of the advancement of your mission.