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January 16, 2019

Don’t Stop Now: There’s Opportunity Ahead This January

It’s only January 10th. The smoke has barely cleared from the excitement of December and the numbers are definitely not final. But I’m writing to encourage you to use this January wisely.

The first look at fundraising performance across the nonprofit sector is mixed. Some growing organizations did better this year than last year as they improved their overall fundraising efforts.

Others struggled, hoping for a strong year, but experiencing a shortfall in one or more layers of the giving pyramid. Here in Colorado, we saw a first-time-ever dip in giving in Colorado Gives Day at the beginning of December, which was disappointing for many organizations that depend on that vehicle for December revenue.

We also know that some organizations saw a decrease at the higher end of the donor database, including middle and major donors who just did not show up this year. Some fundraisers we spoke to reported that major donors had paid off their campaign pledges, but were not willing to give any more than that in 2018. Others theorized that donors had “bundled” their contributions into 2017 in anticipation of the new tax laws, and skipped 2018.

Clearly, the whole picture is far from clear. But, what we do know is that there is still opportunity in January, especially this January when things are so uncertain. Here are some ideas for capturing some of the money that may have passed you by at year-end:

Major donors: If some of your donors did indeed “bundle” their gifts and make larger donations in 2017 due to the tax changes, and smaller or no gifts in 2018, might they be willing to consider a first-quarter 2019 gift in a new tax year? Can you make a case for the need for their leadership?

Middle Donors: This group is seemingly the most at-risk for some organizations in the aftermath of tax reform. Many of these donors will no longer need to itemize deductions. But this is also a very loyal group. With a little extra personal attention, might they consider renewing or expanding their support early in the year? Maybe as a monthly contributor?

Online and mail donors: It’s always a good idea to fundraise in January after all the noise of year-end has died down. (See our classic blog all about the beauty of fundraising in January.) Your message can be heard! It’s an opportunity to showcase your plans for 2019 and how donors can be part of them.

One thing is for sure. In this climate of uncertainty, you will definitely benefit from gathering information from your donors, especially those that sat out 2018.

So, get a list of donors who gave in 2017, but didn’t give in 2018, and start contacting them. You’re looking for a few key pieces of intelligence.

  • Were these donors aware that they didn’t give? (Some aren’t!
  • Have their giving priorities changed?
  • Is their giving being influenced by the economy and tax reform?
  • Is there anything you can do to inspire them to give in 2019?

Compile what you learn and see if there are any patterns. Be sure to use the information to guide your future relationship with that donor.

We also recommend that you reach out to other organizations to see what your colleagues are experiencing as they look at their results.

M&R Strategies, a leading consulting firm in the digital fundraising space, just shared their first take on what they were seeing in terms of results for 2018 and they have included a link for organizations to answer a few questions so they can learn more. Check it out and participate if you can.

This uncertain time calls for action! You could wait around a few weeks to get final numbers, but you might miss a window of opportunity doing so. Do the best you can to get as clear a picture of results as you can and then start reaching out. You’ll be glad you did!


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