As we enter the year-end giving season, it is important to remember the practical implications of the tax law changes made earlier this year as a part of the economic stimulus packages in response to COVID-19. The CARES Act (passed into law on March 27, 2020) contains provisions that potentially affected the planning considerations of your donors for this year.
As we search for positive outcomes from the COVID-19 pandemic, we might note that our tech skills have improved, or maybe we’ve mastered a new way to do second-grade math. But certainly, other lessons learned could have a longer shelf life, like unexpected opportunities with donors and prospects or adaptations on the fly that actually seem to work!
It is important to reflect on what ideas and practices have risen to the top as necessity forced us to try different ways to communicate and connect with one another. One thing is sure, large doses of flexibility and understanding were needed—and still are—to navigate the situations that seem to change by the minute in our professional and personal lives in the times we are in.
I recently hosted a webinar with Melanie Harmon, Senior VP of Advancement at Manchester College, focused on Frontline Fundraising and Events Go Virtual: A Look at Donor Engagement Techniques that explored some takeaways from the past few months for our work with donors. Here is an overview of some of those lessons and ideas on incorporating them into our work in the months and years to come.
Data plays a vital role in the world of nonprofits. It is a critical tool that helps you make smarter decisions, and it can play a key role in supporting future investment in your efforts.
Your data tells a story that can help you identify key trends as you think towards the future. Sometimes determining what that story says can be a challenge, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by too much data. But with the right guidance, you can quickly gain clarity that can make decision making much easier. For more information on how others are using data in fundraising to achieve results, download our content collection, How to Use Data to Improve Your Fundraising, produced by Chronicle Intelligence, a division of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, in partnership with JGA.
Successful organizations know that it’s important to use the data you have to guide decisions that will help you build stronger and deeper relationships with your donors and friends in the most efficient and effective way possible. Many are using that data to guide future investments in fundraising.
Giving USA Foundation has released annual estimates of charitable giving for 2019, showing that giving reached more than $449 billion—including $64.11 billion, or 14%, to education—amid a strong economy. Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for 2019 reports Americans gave $449.64 billion in 2019. This marks the third year of growth with the highest giving levels ever seen—over $400 billion—driven by individuals as the largest source of charitable gifts. Total giving reflects an increase of 4.2% in current dollars and of 2.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2018. These numbers demonstrate a robust pattern of giving, bolstered by a strong economy.
Overall top 2019 trends included:
- Three out of four sources of giving increased. Giving by individuals, foundations, and corporations posted solid increases—including giving by corporations increasing by 13.4%—while giving by bequests remained largely flat.
- While individuals remained the largest source of giving, they notably comprised less than 70% of overall giving for the second year in a row since 1954. This does not mean that individual giving has decreased but rather that the mechanisms of giving have changed, with more giving by family foundations and bequests.
- Giving to education and every other subsector, except international affairs, grew—up from two subsectors experiencing growth in the previous year. This occurred both in terms of current dollars and inflation-adjusted dollars.
The nonprofit world, just like the world in general, has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing crises over the economy and race relations in the US. All of us involved in philanthropy are working to determine our course in the choppy and unchartered waters.
Recently JGA sponsored a webinar aimed at casting a guiding light on moving forward with a fundraising campaign in the midst of these challenges. The webinar, Campaigns and COVID-19: What the Pandemic Means for Your Campaign, brought the perspective of four guests representing organizations at different stages of campaigns: planning; leadership gifts/quiet phase; major gifts/public phase; and campaign closure.
The environment for charitable giving was favorable in 2019. Economic strength underpinned very positive giving patterns and precedes potential challenges that may occur in 2020, considering the economic, health, political, and social challenges prevailing to date. However, positive trends in 2019 help establish momentum and a strong base of support to which nonprofits can strive to return.
Giving USA Foundation has released annual estimates of charitable giving for 2019, showing that giving reached more than $449 billion amid a strong economy. Giving USA 2020: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for 2019 reports Americans gave $449.64 billion in 2019. This marks the third year of growth with the highest giving levels ever seen—over $400 billion—driven by individuals as the largest source of charitable gifts. Total giving reflects an increase of 4.2% in current dollars and of 2.4% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2018. These numbers demonstrate a robust pattern of giving, bolstered by a strong economy.
In addition to the impacts of the economy and other challenges this year, political giving trends may be another relevant factor. Historically, political giving represents a low share of all giving and has not had substantial impact on giving across subsectors—so the 2020 election is not anticipated to have a major effect. However, due to high engagement in advocacy, awareness of current issues, and unusual circumstances in 2020, this trend may shift in this election cycle.
Like you, we at JGA have discovered new ways of doing that which only 90 days ago might have seemed unlikely—or unnecessary. The definition of what is necessary has changed so dramatically. And, we’ve all changed, adjusted ,and innovated in ways that would have in February felt unimaginable.
You need to draft an appeal to your annual donors and prospects in the middle of this COVID-19 global pandemic, but you are worried your donors have a lot of other things on their mind right now (just like you do). How can they possibly think about giving when they are faced with challenges, concerns, and uncertainty? Yet, your donors are generous, and your mission relies on gaining their support—points that affirm now is not the time to stop fundraising.
In today’s headlines, stories of giving and volunteering win our hearts and attention. Philanthropy and the spirit behind it are bringing us together now, as much as ever. People are responding to positivity and calls to do and help. So, they are ready respond to your appeal for support—but, you must first connect with them.
What role will philanthropy play as your organization prepares to welcome students back to campus, host performances, open the doors to your museum or resume in-person gatherings at your place of worship?
If you have ventured out of the house, you have seen the modifications that businesses are making to welcome customers back – plexiglass at checkout counters and drive-through windows, signage to accommodate social distancing in lines and many other modifications.
Each of you needs to develop and implement plans to help protect your stakeholders as you re-open your doors.
The timeframe and requirements for each of you to resume operations will vary drastically based on location, size of the groups, type of activities and the demographics of your constituency. But, no matter the differences, much planning will be required. Have you considered how philanthropy can be a part of your re-opening plans?
Like many college advancement leaders, Jane saw her alumni participation numbers continuing to trail downward. She knew she needed to engage with alumni in a way that was meaningful and increased their connection to their alma mater, but it wasn’t something she could expect the alumni office to do all on their own. They needed new techniques to engage alumni, and it was a project that would require both the alumni and advancement departments to work together. They also needed to create more collaboration with career services and other departments.