Fundraisers – Don’t Panic!


By Kathy Swayze

May 8, 2023

The numbers are in from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project and there are concerning data points to be sure. Retention numbers are down again, new donor numbers are down, and the total number of donors has declined year over year by 10%.  

But let’s dig a little deeper. These numbers may not be as troubling as it seems at first blush. NonProfit Pro reported on the findings. But, they missed the mark when it comes to viewing these numbers in light of the huge COVID giving bump we saw in 2020 that continued into 2021.

When people were not going to the theater or going on trips, they had more disposable income for charity, and many gave generously.  Many of us who have been through previous bumps, (like during the Trump administration), know that bumps in giving for disasters, or disastrous Presidents, are often followed by declines. We are now experiencing that decline, but it’s what we were expecting.

Steve Harrison of CDR Fundraising said it best in a recent post, “If there hadn’t been pandemic giving, 2022 would look like a good year for fundraising.”

People are back to going to the theater, visiting restaurants, and taking trips. The hard truth is some of the discretionary dollars people used for charity in 2020 and 2021 reverted to other priorities in 2022. The volatility in the stock market and increasing news of layoffs are also contributing to declines.

To be clear, there are some very real challenges facing our fundraising sector. More emphasis is surely needed on retention of new donors, creative ways to affordably acquire new donors, and ways to continue earning donor trust.  But let’s not be so quick to jump on the doom-and-gloom bandwagon for fundraising just yet. Instead, let’s use that energy to deploy the smartest strategies we can to increase funding into our movements and organizations in the coming months.

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