Warning Sign.In an intriguing and disturbing article in Inside Philanthropy, Holly Hall states that:

  • Although giving was up in 2018 by healthy margins, there are signs of an impending slowdown.
  • Overall donations in 2018 were up by only 1.6 percent, lower than the rate of inflation.
  • The modest gain was driven exclusively by an increase in contributions of $1,000 or more, which masked bigger problems in the donor pipeline.
  • There were substantial drops in new donors (decline by 7%) and repeat givers (decline by 15%).
  • Smaller and mid-level donors are slowly disappearing.

Read the entire article for more details. But all of this points out several important things you can do something about:

  • Many donors aren’t satisfied with their relationship to their favorite charities. This is why they’re going away and giving less. They don’t know that their giving is making a difference, so they’re going somewhere else to make a difference.
  • Development leaders and managers aren’t taking the entire donor pipeline seriously enough. It’s critical to have a robust new donor acquisition program. Jeff and I know that donor acquisition is expensive. But not having a steady stream of new donors in the pipeline is even more expensive.

Here’s why these facts are important to you in your major gift work. If you aren’t providing the right satisfiers to your donor’s interests and passions, you won’t keep them. The two most important elements of those satisfiers are:

  1. A donor offer that matches the donor’s interests and passions.
  2. Outcomes that show proof of performance – that tell the donor her giving is making a difference.

This is conceptually simple, yet very hard for most organizations to “pull off” in a satisfactory and effective way. This is why Jeff and I want you to worry about this. Not worry about it in a way that has you up all night, but worry about it so that you DO something about it. Because if you don’t do something about it, the future doesn’t look very good for you and your organization.
Every day, Jeff and I, and our Veritus team, see these warning signs on full display. And frankly, it makes us anxious, because not enough managers and leaders are taking these topics as seriously as they should. Instead, there are conferences, books, videos, podcasts, webinars – all sorts of content – on everything else but these two points:

  • Properly serving donor passions and interests.
  • Telling the donor her gift made a difference.

What are you going to do about this today in your work? Set your mind to take action. It’s important for your donor and for you.