Now that we’re well into the new year, nonprofits are beginning to understand their big-picture fundraising results from 2016.
So far, as with most years, I’ve heard mixed reports — some groups saw improved results over the previous year, while for others, the results are quite disappointing.
If the latter is true for your organization, why might this have happened? What can you do to recover and get back on your feet during the year ahead?
2016 Year-end Fundraising Trends in the U.S.
Last January, The Philanthropy Outlook Study predicted a 3.7% growth in individual giving in 2016 for US nonprofits.
NPR recently reported, after interviewing a handful of organizations, that charitable giving indeed saw, “a big bump in 2016.”
Additionally, M&R’s year-end fundraising survey also spins a rosy picture of December 2016 fundraising.
If you aren’t one of those amazingly successful organizations, it is enough to make you want to quit fundraising and become a barista or an accountant.
However, if you look beyond the headlines of these studies, you’ll notice that their results aren’t as universally wonderful as they are being portrayed.
The NPR report is based on a few anecdotes rather than an in-depth study, and it is impossible to conclude that it was a great year for fundraising with so few nonprofits considered.
M&R’s assertion that December fundraising was an across-the-board victory, is based on a survey of only 22 nonprofits. Further, 18% of those (4 out of the 22) actually did not see an increase in fundraising over last December.
Perhaps even more important, NPR’s report doesn’t take into account the mission areas of the nonprofits, which will be a particularly crucial twist to this story this year.
I suspect that although the election might have given a boost to politically-relevant organizations, or groups who serve “at-risk” constituents, other organizations might have taken a hit precisely because funds were siphoned-off to those politically-relevant organizations.
In fact, in the M&Rs study, 5 of the 22 nonprofits with improved 2016 fundraising, work directly on international relief issues and used that in their fundraising messaging.
The many yet-unknown political ramifications of the 2016 election, combined with significant donor distraction during our most crucial fundraising period, likely played a major role in 2016 fundraising results.
Bottom line: If your organization’s 2016 fundraising results left you less-than-elated, don’t be disheartened by the reports of this widespread 2016 fundraising triumph.
You are not alone, and it is not too late to recover!
Here is an incredibly simple, affordable, and– most importantly — effective tactic small nonprofits can use to get back on their feet after a disappointing fundraising campaign:
Round up some committed volunteers, board members or staff, and have them personally contact your long-term, most engaged donors who did not make a financial contribution in 2016.
Whether by handwritten note, personal email, or phone call, reach out personally to those donors, explaining how urgently you need their continued support:
- Tell them you are counting on them because of their deep commitment to your mission.
- Mention specifics of their giving history and relationship with your organization.
- Ask them to repeat their specific, previous gift.
- Emphasize how grateful you are for their past support, how special they are to your organization
- Tell them that they are crucial to your work in the coming year, because of their long-term commitment.
Why does this work? Many of your previous donors simply need a reminder of the important work you are doing and why they should continue to give.
A personal touch might be the nudge that most of them need after the hectic holiday and exceptionally distracting election season.
But as we move deeper into 2017, small nonprofits will need to step-it-up with more than a gentle nudge to these loyal donors. We need to prepare for an exceptional level of competition for funds, as this political call-to-action will certainly continue.
This is where small non-profits can continue to employ their advantage over larger organizations: that personal appeal to individual donors from other engaged donors, volunteers, board members and staff.
That personal touch is precisely what will make your critical mission stand out amidst the many important causes vying for limited attention.
Need to Get back your lost donors?