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The Bad, The Good and The Future

Maybe you saw the July 2019 Chronicle of Philanthropy article that read:

“A Tough Year for Giving, Donations fell last year despite a strong economy, says ‘Giving USA,’ and some fundraising experts see signs of trouble ahead.”

This article corresponds to other reports I’ve read. Giving was down (1.7%) in 2018 and continues down in the first half of 2019. Many analysts point to new tax laws and the fear of an economic downturn in 2018, but they predict giving will recover in 2019.

I don’t share this opinion.

We seem to be on the cusp of a major cultural shift that will impact philanthropy long into the future. What do I mean?

Donors have significant wealth, but instead of giving directly to charities, they’re putting their charitable contributions in the “bank,” waiting for the right opportunity.

This phenomenon is seen clearly in the growth of donor-advised funds. In 2017, contributions to donor-advised funds grew to $29.23 billion, representing 10.2% of all individual giving. The compound annual growth rate for donor-advised funds was 15.7% from 2012 to 2016, and assets under management now exceed $110 billion. National Philanthropic Trust is predicting that this growth will continue.

Let that all sink in. If a single charity was capturing more than 10% of ALL individual gifts, wouldn’t we be paying attention?

Some of Brad Cecil & Associates clients have been able to dodge the bad news of declining giving trends because they’re intentional about strategies around the present philanthropic shift. They’re prepared for the future, and you can be, too.

Here’s how:

  1. Invest in a productive major-donor strategy. One or two major gifts can mean the difference between reaching your goals or not.
    • Understand the role of discovery
    • Determine the right steps for cultivation unique to each donor
    • Master the art and science of the ask
    • Make a practice of GREAT stewardship

  1. Grow your middle-donor pipeline. Middle donors are integral to the health of your organization and to funding your mission. Though there are often too many middle donors to see each one face-to-face, they’re key to your organization’s impact, so be grateful for each one.
    • The number one goal of your middle donor strategy should be RETENTION
    • Make sure these important donors are informed of their impact through newsletters and special communication
    • Show your appreciation for their role in your organization

  1. Maximize your digital fundraising production. We are shocked by how few non-profit organizations are taking advantage of the digital assets they already have at their disposal.
    • Make sure your fundraising approach is multi-channel
    • Set up and maximize Google Ad Grants
    • Understand digital acquisition and the role of social media
    • Make it easy for donors to find you online through the optimization of search tools
    • Track donor giving channel preferences in your database
    • Be everywhere all the time online

  1. Take a new approach to monthly sustainers.
    • Make sustainers your goal in new donor acquisition
    • Automate the online process, but be sure to pay close attention to details
    • Use phone campaigns to solicit monthly gifts from existing donors
    • Introduce an email series to convert contacts into monthly donors

  1. Engage loyal donors in a legacy campaign. The significant shift in demographics and wealth indicate that every non-profit organization should be engaged in a legacy campaign. The donors who have supported your organization for years are looking for an opportunity to “move the needle” and make a significant difference in the world with their accumulated wealth. If you don’t give them an opportunity – another organization will.

Brad Cecil & Associates can help you in this emerging philanthropic environment. Reach out today to find out how.


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Brad Cecil
Brad Cecil is the founder and president of Brad Cecil & Associates. As a career nonprofit administrator, Brad learned firsthand what motivates donors to support a cause, and he has built his company around this donor-focused approach to fundraising. In its 20 years of service to its nonprofit clients, Brad Cecil & Associates has helped organizations raise millions of dollars for their causes. Brad has nearly 30 years of experience with nonprofit organizations and has been a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) since 1997. Brad continues to be involved as a high level strategist for all clients of Brad Cecil & Associates.

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