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Take Heart – Individual Donors Are Alive and Well

There was less than great news from Giving USA last June regarding individual giving. That’s been well chronicled.

For fundraisers who survived the recession of the late 2000s, it’s ok if you’re a bit nervous when you read about the decline in individual giving. It’s especially ok if you pay attention to what you need to do to have a strong 2019 and beyond.

Don’t believe the so-called experts when they tell you they know why overall giving had such small gains last year. Remember, not very long ago we were all celebrating what was a record-breaking year of giving. And this year that total was improved upon.

It had been widely predicted by doomsayers that giving was going to dramatically decrease because of the changes to the standard deductions. That “dramatic decrease” did not occur.

It turns out that a much more accurate predictor of charitable giving is the stock market. After outstanding 2017 gains, the end of that year saw sell offs. 2018 was a year of ups-and-downs for the stock market:

  • The Dow Jones and the S & P 500 ended down 5.6% and 6.2%

  • Consumer confidence has dropped to 2017 levels

  • Tariffs and trade wars have had a negative effect on giving

  • Housing prices have continued to slow (13 consecutive months)

Ready for something positive?

If I’ve learned anything during my time as a fundraiser (30 years), it’s that individual donors bounce back. They’re much more reliable than the numbers might otherwise suggest.

By employing these simple strategies, I’ll bet you’ll have a better than average chance of increasing your individual giving numbers:

  1. Segment – Look for opportunities to ask more and to do so more strategically.

  2. Thank donors personally – use thank you notes and phone calls – those two thank you methods are what donors seem to most prefer.

  3. Communicate with individual, as well as corporate, donors – make sure their gifts are aligned with their interests.

These strategies work! Unfortunately, all too often, they’re ignored because they’re perceived as old school. Be advised: old school still works.

Many fundraising teams we work with are successful because they have highly motivated staff and volunteers, a strong case for support, and personalized strategies that emphasize donor engagement opportunities that allow donors to see their gifts at work.

The above suggestions aren’t new. In fact, they’re old, time-tested and proven successful. It bears repeating: donors are resilient and practicing good fundraising fundamentals still works. So don’t throw your hands up in the air in frustration. Stay the course. Rely on what’s worked for you in the past, your research, and strategies that have worked and will continue to do so.

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