President's Perspective Blog

Mike’s Monday Message: What Fundraisers Can Do to Combat Declines

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Earlier this month at the AFP ICON opening general session, Catherine Connolly, CFRE, MBA, chair-elect of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – U.S., shared the latest results from the foundation’s Fundraising Effectiveness Project, or FEP. This joint effort between AFP, Giving Tuesday, and a number of data providers, offers a quarterly update on giving trends, including dollars donated, total amounts donated, and retention rates of donors. 

In 2022, these quarterly reports showed a continuing decline in the number of donors, though major gifts from this smaller donor pool kept the total amount donated relatively steady. That is until Q4 of 2022, when losses in all categories of donors compounded, resulting in a novel decline in total dollars. 

One year later, the 2023 Q4 report is unfortunately showing a 2.8% YOY drop in dollars raised. 

There has understandably been a lot of concern around these continued declines, but AFP and Giving Tuesday are stressing the possible solutions and opportunities that organizations can be focusing on. 

Take Advantage of New Technology 
AI is fast becoming the new standard across all industries, including nonprofits. Fundraisers achieving the greatest impact with AI have adopted a human-centric AI approach, where this technology serves as a collaboration tool, but not a substitute for the connections that drive generosity. Check out some resources on effectively using AI:  

Increase Focus on Relationship Building 
As new technologies offer time-saving benefits, we can reinvest that time into relationship-building touchpoints that may have fallen by the wayside with busy schedules and limited resources. We know that people give to people. Here are a few resources to help offset declines in donor retention and reevaluate our approaches to stewardship and donor appreciation. 

Explore Non-Traditional Approaches to Philanthropy 
The AFP Foundation for Philanthropy just secured a grant from the Fidelity Charitable® Catalyst Fund to develop education and support research on emerging trends, including donor-advised funds (DAFs). While the number of individuals setting up DAFs and the value of funds continues to increase, many fundraisers are unclear about how they work and how they could benefit their nonprofit organizations. AFP is looking forward to providing much-needed education in this area in the near future. In the meantime, here are a few other resources on DAFs and other emerging trends. 

Don’t Get Discouraged 
Finally, don’t let these statistics deter you. Philanthropy is still very much alive and well; we just need to adapt our strategies and explore new ways to make an impact. In the meantime, here are a few positive signals to keep you motivated: 

As always feel free to reach out to me via email at or on X at @AFPMikeGeiger if you have any questions or comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Author Information

Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA

President and CEO, AFP
Mr. Mike Geiger is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), representing individuals and organizations that raise more than $100 billion in charitable contributions every year around the world for...
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