President's Perspective Blog

Mike’s Monday Message: Positive Signs

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With everything going on over the past few weeks, including AFP LEAD, our board meetings and the beginning of the fourth quarter “giving season,” I wanted to be sure I didn’t forget an important piece of research that came out from AFP a couple of weeks ago.

It’s our second quarter AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) report, and I’m pleased to announce a new partner for the FEP: Giving Tuesday. I’m very excited to have Giving Tuesday on board. They’ve brought so much expertise and enthusiasm to the FEP, and you’ll see a whole new format when you download the report.

You’ll also see data that shows a very different giving landscape than perhaps what most of us have been expecting.

After the first quarter of 2020, the FEP research found that giving was down 6% compared to giving in the first quarter of 2019. But by the end of the second quarter, the giving picture had changed significantly. Charitable giving increased by almost 7.5% over the first half of the year compared to the same time period in 2019. (I should note that these are U.S. results, and our Canadian report will be out in the near future.)

Spearheading this turn-around was an extraordinary 19.2% increase in small donations of less than $250. In addition, the overall number of donors increased by 7.2%, with new donors increasing by 12.6%.

Given the continuing impact of the pandemic on the economy and society, this increase might seem counter-intuitive. But as we’ve seen in other situations, there is often an increase in giving, especially in smaller donations, after a particular event—for example, a natural disaster. The critical question is if this increase continued into the third quarter of the year, and of course, the all-important last quarter of the year. Stay tuned – we will report on this as soon as we receive the data.

Just as the results from the first quarter shouldn’t have turned us all into Chicken Little worrying that the sky was falling, neither should the second-quarter results give us any exaggerated sense of optimism. I won’t be surprised if the third-quarter results show a general flattening of giving as the long-term impact of the pandemic began to take hold on the public. What that all means for the fourth quarter is anyone’s guess. Though given the ingrained tradition that charitable giving and philanthropy have in the American consciousness, I don’t expect a horrendous year, especially with the stock market close to returning to pre-pandemic levels.

Above all, what the second-quarter results show, for me, is that many organizations will get through these tough times. I’m not suggesting it won’t be challenging or difficult. But giving at all levels increased in the AFP FEP second-quarter report, which indicates that people continue to think of others and want to contribute during a pandemic. True, some types of organizations, such as healthcare or social service charities, may do better than others because their causes link more directly to pandemic relief, but the bottom line is, success CAN be found this year.

Organizations are pivoting and finding new ways to reach out to donors, create connections and raise funds. Innovation is key, but it’s also time to lean on the skills we’ve learned over time, our mentors, and AFP and our fundraising community. This is exactly why we take all the education we do and attend the various online sessions—for moments just like this! Now is the time to “lean in” and use these skills, abilities and knowledge that you’ve learned to help propel your organization to success.

I wish each of you the very best with your year-end fundraising. Let me know how your organization is doing and what you expect to see for the rest of 2020. I can be reached at Mike.Geiger@afpglobal.org or on Twitter at @AFPMikeGeiger.

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Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

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01 Dec 2020 AFP News
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