Charitable giving edged downward in 2019, but remained 6% higher than in 2017, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s fourth-quarter report, released in late March.
Now, the question is what effect the coronavirus pandemic will have on giving in 2020.
The bulk of losses in donations in 2019 came in the second quarter, when year-to-date giving was down 5.7%. The charitable sector climbed from that deficit in the second half, ending the year with a total loss of 1.4%.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute conducted the analysis. It was based on data from the AFP’s Growth in Giving Database.
Here’s how revenue from different donor groups looked in 2019, compared with 2018:
- Major donors ($1,000+), representing 84.5% of total: -1.4%
- Mid-level donors ($250 to $999), 6.7% of total: -1%
- General donors (less than $250), 7.5% of total: -1.1%
“In 2019, we continued to see the trend of donors not keeping pace with dollars,” Mike Geiger, the AFP’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.
“While there was a modest decline in donations in 2019, the money raised in 2019 is still higher than 2017. What we saw in 2018, then, was a surge in giving, and in 2019, a correction.”
One good sign emerging from the report was that the overall retention rate — the percentage of all donors who made a gift to the same organization in 2018 and then again in 2019 — increased by a tiny 3 basis points compared with the previous year’s rate, halting a downward trend of recent years.
The overall repeat retention rate — existing donors who gave in both 2018 and 2019 — was nearly flat, at 61.3%, as was the new donor retention rate, at 20.3%.
A big issue facing the nonprofit sector in 2020 — especially for organizations not directly serving the victims of the coronavirus — is whether it can attract new donors and keep existing donors engaged.