In mypost, I said that I would spend some time exploring questions that to my mind are important to fundraisers from both the charity and the education sectors. Be careful what you wish for: just this week a former, non-fundraising colleague asked me a question recently that, frankly, I didn’t have the slightest idea how to answer.
The question was, “Isn’t it much more difficult to fundraise in today’s economy?”
My first impulse was to say, “Hold on just a minute: fundraising was never easy! What, you think I’ve been on vacation all these years?” Ever careful with my impulses, however, I ended up saying I’d get back to him on that. As it happens, this blog gives me a good opportunity to mull over his question with my fellow fundraisers:
Is fundraising more difficult now than ever? This week I’d like to tackle some of the difficulties we are facing in ‘today’s economy.’
Well, we all know that fundraising trends in the United States since the economic crisis have been anything but encouraging. According to the Nonprofit Quarterly, in 2009 alone, individual giving decreased by 6.9% from the previous year.
Clearly a depressing picture.
Going back to the, however, we see an interesting phenomenon. True, while the overall picture of individual giving is grim indeed, the following figures are also notable:
- Giving to international organizations rose by 18.6%.
- Giving to k-12 education and to colleges rose by 5.2%.
- Giving to arts organizations grew 5.7%
So…is fundraising harder than it was before?
Reflecting again on my friend’s question, I conclude that it is indeed a loaded one. In fact it is a question that contains some tacit, underlying assumptions about the nature of fundraising. However tacit they may be, however, they are the kind of assumptions that, even if true to some degree, will quickly kill one’s ability to succeed as a fundraiser. Here is what I think those assumptions are, and what I think about them:
The first assumption is that what happens for one cause will happen in the case of another. As the above figures reveal, certain issues caused people to give more (disaster relief being one clear example), not less. Our goal as fundraisers must be to a) identify, cultivate and solicit the segments of the donor markets to which our cause is most relevant, and b) to clearly communicate to donors why, especially in light of the recession, their gifts make all the difference.
The second assumption is that the recession has affected all segments of the population equally. Yet, Deloitte Center for Financial Services estimates that the number of U.S. millionaire households will double by 2011. As fundraisers, it will be important to identify those individuals who are likely to be affected less by the recession, and to solicit them.sponsored by
The third assumption is that fundraising results are obtained equally from segments of the population. Yet, as we fundraisers know, 80-90% of all donations received generally come from just 10%-20% of our organization’s donors.
With all these challenges and assumptions to mull over, I look forward to suggesting some ways to build opportunities next week. I’ll also suggest some tactics I’ve found to be successful during my years as a fundraiser. In the mean time, how have you worked against these challenges?
Susan Emfinger is currently Assistant Vice President, Alumni Relations and Development at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She can be reached at susanlar2 @ AOL dot com.