How Will Fundraising be Impacted This Year?
We are just one week away from, what many consider, the kickoff to the most important giving season of the year; and while the holiday spirit is steadily emerging across the population, it is perhaps tempered by an equally steady anxiousness and uncertainty.
Many, still feeling the sting of one of the more divisive and emotionally charged presidential campaigns in history, are approaching the holiday season with a variety of complex emotions. And for nonprofit organizations, this kind of shift in attitude will be a key challenge to overcome both in the short term over the next few weeks, and into the New Year. Aside from President Elect Trump’s vision for social policy or economic change, the impact to nonprofits will be deeply rooted in how consumers react, and whether they rally for the causes important to them. How will donors behave during the upcoming holiday season – will we see the overall cultural consciousness shift back to giving, or will the uncertainly and distraction from post-election impact persist through December and into 2017?
The short answer is this: we can’t know exactly how donors will adjust to these unprecedented times, and therefore we won’t know to what degree end-of-year fundraising will be impacted. But in this uncertainty, connecting through human emotion, unity and hope is a crucial mechanism for organizations, particularly for those who feel their voices may be muted by the coming Trump administration.
Fundraising Efforts Clouded by Distraction
Digital fundraising has been somewhat soft across the board since late summer, with many verticals seeing a reduced amount of donor engagement due to the intense levels of election distraction. With the campaigns intensifying during the tail end months of October and November, we collaborated with many of our nonprofit clients to revamp messaging and campaign strategy in an attempt to break through the noise; however, achieving impact remained somewhat challenging.
Given what we’ve heard from other industry stakeholders, as well as more general consumer research, it was not a matter of candidate donations that disrupted the normal flow of fundraising; in fact with such polarizing figures on either side of the campaign, a majority of surveyed consumers did not intend to give to either candidate, party or PAC this year. Rather with the country’s leadership and economic state being so unclear, efforts to acquire new donors, in particular, may not have gained as much traction as in a non-election year.
In tandem with the softness in digital fundraising, retail also saw noticeable slowdowns in online engagement and conversions. Recently, our teams analyzed the short term impact of Election Tuesday through the end of the election week, which demonstrated a 44.4% year-over-year decline in conversion rates and a 46% year-over-year decline in conversions. Similar to giving, consumers were not as keen to reach into their pockets for retail purchases – for more considered, high-ticket items, every day necessities, and even the usual impulse purchases.
Take Action Now
Despite the fuzzy outlook, it’s now the job of nonprofits to instill faith, hope and unity in their communities, particularly as we ramp up for Giving Tuesday and end-of-year. We recommend leveraging your storytelling strengths to connect with your target constituents and donor communities in meaningful ways. Positive messaging in itself will do wonders for donors who have been plagued by negative advertising throughout the presidential campaign; and further, empowering donors to change the tune, and take a stake in their communities reflects an important opportunity to inspire action.
Organizations involved in missions directly related to prominent campaign issues have taken this time to raise their voices, and garner support in huge ways. Planned Parenthood, who may face a troubling future in a Trump era, rallied record-breaking support and donations in the wake of threats to de-fund the organization. For many, passion for the causes that could face roadblocks from the new administration, reignited in really powerful ways. For instance, environmental and other more progressive organizations have done emergency fundraising campaigns, supported by the shared passion and will of impacted communities.
Look and Plan Ahead
Events such as this Presidential Election already make it quite difficult for organizations to adjust to relevant positioning and messaging in near real-time; and without the proper processes in place behind the scenes, it’s nearly impossible to execute on those campaign ideas. From an operations standpoint, consider all the working parts to have in place – staff, technology and channel alignment – in order to stay prepared for upcoming events that may impact fundraising goals. For instance, consider the upcoming political calendar, what issues may arise, and how donor behavior may play out during those times. Having a process in position to think and act quickly will give you a better chance to make the desired impact.
As we near #GivingTuesday and end-of-year, it’s time to bring donors out of the doldrums, and in to the giving spirit!