President's Perspective Blog

The 2020 Giving Season: Finding the Balance Between Traditional and Innovative

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The beginning of the traditional “giving season” is right around the corner—the last quarter of the year in which the majority of charitable gifts are contributed.

This year doesn’t feel like anything close to traditional, of course, and there’s a lot of upcoming factors that may affect giving. Will government continue to fund relief programs both for the public and for the charitable sector? In the U.S., what will the impact of the presidential elections be on giving, especially if there is controversy around the results? In Canada, will the continued controversy around WE (formerly Free the Children) and, more recently, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights affect giving?

The end of 2020 could turn out to be just as impactful as the beginning of the year, which I know is hard to believe!

But the challenging and non-traditional fundraising landscape we face in the latter stages of 2020 doesn’t diminish the importance of the traditional, time-tested strategies fundraisers have used for years. If anything, we’re going to need to have a balanced approach to our fundraising—using the solid base of fundraising skills and lessons we always use while also experimenting and fine-tuning our communications based on what we know about our donors and supporters.

I was struck by that balance while listening to our latest online conference, AFP ICON Summer Sessions. Some of the topics the conference covered included digital fundraising and social media, donor advised funds, the case for support, special events and making cold calls—certainly nothing out of the ordinary that you wouldn’t hear at our conference in pre-pandemic times.

Session after session, what we heard were the solid basics, mixed with a few changes to reflect the new COVID-19 environment. Because the truth is, what’s working really hasn’t changed. Fundraising isn’t transforming because of the pandemic; it’s evolving. And while we need to experiment and innovate, we probably don’t have to stray too far from the beaten path.

If you weren’t able to attend AFP ICON Summer Sessions, you missed some amazing educational sessions that can help you achieve fundraising success during this year’s giving season. You’ll be able to order the sessions online very soon, and we’ll keep you posted when those are available.

I want to give a huge thanks to Kishshana Palmer for serving as our host, and for Blackbaud for being our conference sponsor. Plus, many thanks to all of the presenters for taking the time to not only pre-record and present their sessions but being around for live Q&A during the presentations.

This will be a difficult and challenging year-end giving season, but it can be a very successful one too. Keep focused on the skills and knowledge you’ve learned through AFP throughout the years—they should be the foundation of your work. But don’t be afraid to try out new approaches and innovations you might have been thinking about for a while now. And remember, it’s all about our donors in the end. Figure out what they need, and you won’t go wrong!

Best of luck in your year-end fundraising, and as always, feel free to contact me with your questions and comments about anything related to AFP: or via Twitter at @AFPMIkeGeiger.

Mike Geiger Signaure



Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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