As was reported recently by CBS News (source below), fundraising for 2018 is down. Unfortunately, the new federal tax law that came into effect earlier this year was expected to depress giving to charity, and sure enough, that seems to be the way it is playing out so far in the year.
As was noted in the CBS report in an interview with Steve Taylor, a senior vice president at United Way Worldwide; the U.S. operation is one of the largest charities in the nation:
“‘We know that the main reason why people give to charity is not the tax incentive… We also know that the tax incentive allows people to give a little bit more than they would have otherwise. What you have is tens of millions of people who will give a little bit less, and that adds up to tens of billions of fewer dollars given to charity.’
“Taylor’s concerns were highlighted in a recent report released by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP), which showed that total revenue to nonprofits during the first three months of the year fell 2.4 percent compared with 2017. The total number of donors plunged 6.3 percent on a year-over-year basis, while the donor retention rate, which measures the numbers of donors who contribute to the same organization from one year to the next, dropped 4.6 percent. And the numbers of new donors plummeted by 12 percent.”
How To Stay Ahead of the Game
Now that you are aware that giving is down across the board, and you can perhaps see that the decreased giving is part of a sector-wide pattern, it’s essential to be aware of what’s happening and take action. The following are some of the things I would do if I were still the CEO of a nonprofit so I wouldn’t get caught in a situation where my team and I are not prepared for a potential decrease in revenue.
- Mobile, Mobile, Mobile: Incredibly, one of the quickest and easiest things that nonprofits can do has not been done by many. What are you waiting for at this point? It is vital that if your charity does not have a mobile website, that it be one of the first things you do. Mobile surpasses desktop use for search. If you’re not mobile ready, then you’re missing an opportunity to have people donate on your website if they happen to be using their cell or tablet.
- Ask Your Donors For Support: Any good fundraiser knows that a donor supports an organization, because they were asked. And if they are asked often, many will give–often. Be strategic and smart about how you ask your donors for financial support, but whatever you do, ask them. If your fundraising dollars have declined, then create a special campaign and communicate what is in danger of being cut (i.e. programs) because of the lack of sufficient revenue.
- Get Good At Telling Your Story: You have to tell your story well. Period. If you don’t know how to describe it adequately, then you have to learn it. Remember, the first part of the process of getting a donor to give is capturing their emotion. When they make the rational decision to support your cause, it’s just a justification for how their heart feels. Also, when you’re telling your story, make sure you offer social proof to prospects, which are stories of other donors who have done what you’re asking of prospects. People are more willing to give if they see others are supporting your nonprofit.
- Measure Performance: Get used to slicing and dicing your fundraising reports so you can manage fundraising properly and get everyone on your team used to the conversation. If you hold weekly meetings, make sure everyone–including junior clerks and receptionists–understand where you are concerning your fundraising. This will foster a culture where everyone realizes they have to contribute to helping and supporting the fundraisers. Meet with your fundraising team at least weekly, if not a few times a week and be transparent with fundraising performance.
- Make it Simple: Make your donation page, and the donation forms on every piece of collateral that you use, including social media, are simple. Suggest giving amounts because it will increase the likelihood of people making a higher donation. For instance, start your donation page with $25 instead of having no stated contribution amount or a lower donation amount. Make donating easy and make sure you redirect people to your donation–often. Don’t be afraid to experiment by asking for a specific suggested amount, like $10 a month for a year. That’s $120, which is less than the cost of a monthly pizza.
At this point, we don’t know how 2018 and giving for nonprofits in the years ahead will turn out, but there’s a definite reason, now based on evidence, that fundraising revenue will decline. That means that there will be an exponential increase in competition for those dollars. You’ll want to be creative and think out of the box. Make it a point to have the topic of fundraising be something that is discussed as the first order of business at most if not all meetings, which will drive home the point that this is the lifeblood of your organization for executing on its mission.