As I write this, we literally live in a world filled with uncertainty.
While us analysts cannot predict the future of fundraising, we are pretty good at studying past donor behavior, and that can help us better understand how we should respond in times of uncertainty.
In my career as a fundraising analyst, there have been numerous “hold your breath” moments: The dot.com bust, Y2K, 9/11, the anthrax scare, and the Great Recession. Each of these events did adversely affect fundraising. But after each event, donors and revenue rebounded.
In the past days, I have gone back into some of our data vaults and have studied each of these events, and here’s what I learned that may help us in the months ahead:
- Overall, fundraising revenue declined in the year of these events. In the worse cases, by up to 20%. But most organizations were in the 3-5% range.
- There were fewer large gifts secured in the year of the crisis.
- New donor acquisition suffered the most, dropping as much as one-third.
- Multi-Year donors continued to give faithfully throughout the period of uncertainty.
Multi-Year donors – those that have given to your organization year in and year out – typically generate two-thirds of a nonprofit’s revenue. They also provide the best return on investment. However, they can only do that if you continue to communicate to them and ask for their support.
Your Multi-Year donors know you. They believe in you. It’s now time for you to believe in them and give them the opportunity to help your organization through this period of uncertainty.