The ink isn’t exactly dry on all the 2018 year-end fundraising reports, but one thing is clear: December’s online fundraising was kind of weird. Weird, unexpected, confusing, and, for at least some organizations, not great.
We’ll put together our full report within the next few weeks and are sure it will include lots of good news around promising innovations and millions raised for causes around the globe. But, we are also sure it will include details about what we’re already hearing from scores of agencies and nonprofits (as compared to 2017 digital returns):
- Some nonprofits experienced year-over-year growth, but overall December fundraising returns were down for many organizations by a little or a lot.
- November’s Giving Tuesday fundraising results were generally up year over year by a little or a lot.
- December’s email results were down over last year’s returns for half of organizations and up for the other half.
- Unsourced web giving was more down than up.
In short, December was not quite the celebratory, champagne-popping, record-breaking year-end digital experience that many nonprofits have grown used to over the past few years. So, back to the question: What the heck happened?
Hypotheses abound: it was the tax law! it was the economy! it was that new Mary Poppins movie somehow! You probably have some of your own thoughts on why December happened the way it did—and your experience can help create a clearer picture of the state of digital fundraising in this moment.
We’re hoping you’ll take a few moments to tell us about your online returns. How did your organization do at year-end? Answer a few questions right here. We’re not asking you to give us specifics nor share any proprietary data, don’t worry. As soon as we’ve compiled the results, we’ll share it with you here on our blog.
Here are the questions we’re exploring over the next few weeks (with your help!):
- Did the new tax law impact giving for any or all donor segments, particularly mid-level givers?
- Did political fatigue, wins, or changing issue focus impact giving (especially for politically-oriented organizations)?
- Did the increased focus on Giving Tuesday decrease December giving?
- What was the role of technical challenges—in particular email deliverability—on revenue?
- Was 2017 such a strong online fundraising year for many organizations that 2018 was a return to “normal” for some or many groups?
- Did the recent turbulence in the stock market lead donors to be more conservative in their giving?
- Is email dead? (JK. That last one was just for funsies!)
What were we saying about hypotheses? Lots of ‘em, along with the many questions. We’re devoting a big chunk of time to unraveling 2018’s mystery. Your participation and theories help—please use this form right here to join in our exploration.
And no matter what your experience, the data we’ve already seen so far says: you are not alone. If your results didn’t match your expectations for better or worse, you’re in good company. And if you find yourself needing to explain to your organization’s leadership why December 2018 fell short of December 2017… you’re in good company.
Together, we can figure out why, and more importantly, what to do about it. After all, December 2019 is right around the corner…
We saw trends like you describe from where I sit at my software company – swings in year-over-year performance that – without reaching out to individual nonprofit to learn about their end-of-year experience – can’t be explained strictly by technology, industry conditions, economic climate, tax laws, Giving Tuesday vs End of Year effect alone. Very much a “what the what?!” Glad you’re doing this research and look forward to seeing your results.
Our organization had a great December, and we did not take part in giving Tuesday, nor did we spam our subscriber list with multiple requests, nor did we do any unusual campaigns other than what we have done for the past twelve years.
My own inbox was inundated with giving requests, day after day. My FB timeline was inundated with giving requests, day after day, sometimes multiple times per day from the same organization. Personally I got pretty tired of seeing it all, and I’m sure a lot of other people did too.
Overall I think donors are fed up. That’s why the numbers declined.
Here’s an article I wrote on the subject titled: Why Your Year-End Fundraising Failed
You mentioned the new tax law. I think it is interesting the advice that is being given to tax filers as they do their taxes this year. If they do not go past the standard deduction they are told to “bunch” their deductions from multiple years into a single year so they can get a year where their itemized deductions rise past the standard amount. This “bunching” includes charitable donations. This is the advice that appears in the H&R Block tax prep software for example — “Make charitable donations every 2 to 3 years so your total deduction is higher.” Millions of people are seeing this advice. I wonder how it will impact giving.