Don’t Let a Dark Economy Leave Fundraising in the Shadows
With the economic slump, the significant decline of the stock market, and consumer confidence at historic lows, many in fundraising are watching how the current turmoil will affect charitable giving.
Is there any good news or silver lining in this dark cloud? Yes. Fundraisers can take solace in the fact that Americans are remarkably resilient in their charitable giving. Individuals account for 88 percent of charitable giving in this country, with the donations equaling 2.2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product — a figure that has changed very little in the past decade.
While it’s true that past economic downturns have cut deeply into the bottom lines of nonprofit organizations, research indicates that it might not be as dire as conventional wisdom might predict.
According to Giving USA, only twice in the last 40 years have donations failed to keep pace with inflation. That was in 1973 and 2001. Even when the economy is in a recession or just under stress, historically giving still grows; it might grow more slowly, but it consistently continues to increase.
The looming question now for all of us in the charitable-giving arena is whether that trend will stick in this kind of downturn, which rivals that seen in 1929.
Since the profession of fundraising barely existed in 1929, it’s difficult to look back and retrieve an accurate prediction for our future. But if the many years since have taught us something, it is that charitable giving is likely to continue to be a priority for most Americans.
Forever the practical optimists, what can glass-half-full fundraisers do to encourage charitable giving? With some planning, and with a clear and compelling mission, you can not only survive, but thrive.
It’s a down economy, yes, but don’t succumb to fundraising paralysis. Keep asking despite the news of the economy. You might get smaller checks, or cash from depreciated stock, but by not asking you won’t get even those. So ask.