Trump Policies Prod Democrats in Particular to Give More, Study Says

See the original article here in The Chronicle of Philanthropy

One in five donors expects to give more to charity this year because of the presidency of Donald Trump, but Democrats expect to increase their giving by a larger percentage than Republicans, according to a new survey that tracks the impact of the Trump era on giving among people with different political affiliation.

However, the study also suggested that Democrats’ advocacy efforts on behalf of causes they believe in may have peaked. When asked this spring, 35 percent of Democratic voters said they plan to advocate more for those issues, down from 63 percent who said so in January.

Democrats expect to give an average of $1,282 in 2017, up 50 percent from the amount cited during inauguration week, the report said. Republicans, who expected during inauguration week to give an average $2,051 this year, have raised their projections by 28 percent since January.

In contrast to members of the GOP, Democrats were more anxious about the impact of the Trump administration’s policies on their favorite causes and their own finances. Only 22 percent of Republican voters surveyed said they were concerned about their financial well-being under Trump, compared with nearly two-thirds of Democrats.

Advocacy Fatigue

The study’s findings present an opportunity for charities to acquire new supporters. But they also indicate what the report calls “advocacy fatigue” among liberal-leaning donors in particular and sound an alarm about the limited effectiveness of messages that emphasize “urgency and threat,” said Bethany Maki, vice president for nonprofit digital strategy at PMX Agency, a marketing firm, which produced the report with National Research Group.

“We’re at the dawn of a different kind of storytelling,” Ms. Maki said, adding, “Sometimes as nonprofits, we have gone out with a very vanilla, please-help-support messaging. But we have to get very nitty-gritty now: Here’s what your dollar can do.”

The study compiled responses from American adults who had donated to charity in the past 12 months. One thousand people were interviewed in late January, just after President Trump was inaugurated, and 600 were interviewed as he ended his first 100 days in office.

Declining Urgency

Surveyed after Mr. Trump’s first 100 days in office, 70 percent of Democratic voters said women’s causes were most under threat, followed by environmental causes, cited by 59 percent.

Republican voters agreed women’s causes were the most threatened, but only 27 percent said so.

However, Democrats’ support for women’s causes appears to be declining. When surveyed this spring, 20 percent of Democrats said they’d give to women’s organizations, down 8 percentage points from survey results gathered just after the Trump inauguration and International Women’s March.

Twenty-five percent of Democrats said they’d support environmental causes this year, up 1 percent since inauguration week.

Frantic News Cycle

The rapid news cycle likely plays a role in the shifting sentiments, Ms. Maki notes. In January, she says, news about the Women’s March and threats to cut Planned Parenthood’s federal funding were ubiquitous. But women’s issues got pushed aside by environmental concerns, as President Trump’s announced plans to exit the Paris climate agreement. Soon that news was eclipsed by terrorist activity in Europe and the current Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Trump administration and Russia. “It’s amazing how fast the topic du jour changes,” Ms. Maki says.

The keys for charities in such a climate, she says, are twofold: being nimble as an organization and putting out fundraising messages that empower donors.

“When a headline breaks, you need to be out within hours, versus a week later, debating whether you should comment on it,” Ms. Maki says.

A danger for nonprofits in this news-driven fundraising environment is making sure that new donors who give out of a sense of urgency get the attention they should from charities.

Follow-ups with donors who give in response to events, whether new or long-term, should provide specific information about what the charity is doing with gifts. Ms. Maki says, “If someone takes action and gives us a donation when a headline breaks, it’s, What are we doing in the next 30 days about that issue? What are we doing to beat back the threat?”

Millennial Giving

People under age 35 were more likely than their elders to express passion for charitable giving in 2017. Thirty percent of millennials surveyed said they planned to give more under the Trump administration than they did previously. However, that figure was down 5 percentage points from January.

Charities that are seeing a lot of new donors, Ms. Maki says, should invest in gathering data on who those donors are. “Are you all of a sudden skewing younger? That might mean a different media mix, different messaging, different Facebook ad placements.”

If younger voters begin flooding into an organization, Ms. Maki says, fundraisers should confer with marketing staff to find ways to draw those new supporters closer. Hosting virtual town halls or giving donors access to exclusive content about the cause, she says, might appeal to millennials, who tend to be hands-on philanthropists.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Millennials delivered more good news for charities: Forty-two percent intend to spread their giving among more organizations than in the past, and 38 percent said they expect to become first-time donors to some nonprofits.
  • Republican voters were most likely to say their 2017 gifts would support religious organizations (53 percent), followed by health and medical research (39 percent) and military or veterans causes (35 percent).
  • Democrats’ top causes for this year were health and medical research (47 percent), animal welfare (43 percent), and religious organizations (38 percent).
  • For wealthier Democrats, those with annual incomes of more than $60,000, the median expected individual donation has declined since January, from $600 to $500. By contrast, Democrats making less than $60,000 annually expect to give more this year per individual donation than they predicted in January, from a median of $125 to $250.
  • Small donors, those who reported giving under $100 in the previous 12 months, expected to double their contributions this year. This, Ms. Maki says, could present an opportunity for nonprofits to acquire new recurring or monthly donors and experiment with low-dollar gift solicitations.
  • While 55 percent of all survey respondents said family or friends were usually first to tip them to new nonprofits, Democrats were most likely to say they searched online to learn more. By contrast, Republicans were most likely to rely on friends or family.
  • GOP voters were more likely to prefer to give by mail, while Democrats opted for online giving.
  • Thirty-two percent of Democratic donors now believe the Trump administration will change the charitable-giving tax deduction, up from 22 percent in January.
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