Posted December 6th, 2016

Reflections on December Giving

winter landscape with white trees reflecting in the water

by Barlow Mann

December can be one of the busiest months for fundraising, but it’s also a time to look forward to a new year.

As we enter the most philanthropic time of the year, overall charitable giving in America seems poised to set an all-time record in 2016. While the official Giving USA estimate for charitable giving this year will not be released for some months, several trends lead to this conclusion.

Gross domestic product (GDP) figures remain positive for the year. Recently released government reports reveal increased income levels for many Americans, and the Federal Reserve household net worth figures once again reached record levels in 2016. The stock market also set new records in recent weeks. Since individuals and their estates traditionally account for about 80 percent of all charitable giving, which is generally derived from “discretionary income and assets,” we should see a rising tide in giving that will lead to a record year for philanthropy culminating in December.

The most generous time of the year

Numerous studies have shown that December is generally the most productive month for fundraising. Funds are solicited and raised via multiple channels, including traditional print correspondence, email, personal interactions and websites. December 31 is traditionally the biggest day of the year for online fundraising, and many donors make large and small gifts at this time.

While tax considerations are rarely the prime motivator for making gifts, they can influence a donor’s decision about not only what to give but when. Given the recent election, the timing of gifts may be especially important this year. The probability of tax reform measures next year may make it particularly attractive for some wealthier donors to accelerate deductions, including charitable gifts, into 2016.

Why do they give?

Why do donors support one charitable organization over another, and what can you do to point them in your direction? A recent Gallup Poll provides some interesting insights into this question. The research panel found that 81 percent of U.S. adults who have made charitable contributions in the past 12 months indicated that their belief in an organization’s mission was the predominant factor in their gift decision. These mission-oriented donors are twice as likely to make an additional contribution in the next 12 months as donors who say the mission was not a major influence on their decision to give.

There are many other reasons people give, including:
>Wanting to make a difference
>Right thing to do
>Organization supports someone I know
>A friend or acquaintance asked
>Other (compelling story, obligation to give back, tax deduction, etc.)

Highlight your mission this December

Some of the most successful charitable organizations share similar characteristics. They present a clear, consistent purpose/mission, and they act on the stated mission. In other words, they not only “talk the talk,” but they also “walk the walk.” Additionally, they communicate consistently.

Since research shows that mission is the number one reason donors give, your organization should have a clear purpose and a trustworthy brand to leverage the mission aspect of your appeal. Sharing where and how funds are expended and services delivered can establish trust through organizational transparency. Donors also rely on annual reports, financial statements and watchdog agencies to determine which charities they will support from year to year.

Looking toward the future

The Gallup analysis of charitable giving found that of those who gave in the last 12 months, only 5 percent intend to give less in the next 12 months. Some 18 percent plan to give more.

How can you turn these intentions into actions? Reach out to your most loyal contributors in 2017. Let them know that their gifts are appreciated and detail how they will be used. Over the course of the year, keep your constituents informed via multiple communication channels and give them repeated opportunities to give.

Carefully crafted communications early in the new year can reinforce the reasons they chose to support you in 2016 and can lay the groundwork for additional gifts in 2017. If you will be sending an additional acknowledgment to your donors of $250 or more, include a brochure or booklet on various ways of giving, how to find additional information on your website and whom to contact with any questions.

Remember, your existing donors are your most likely pool of prospects for additional gifts now and in the future. Show them you value their past contributions and look forward to building the future of your organization with their continued support. Your success this December may help to lay the foundation for your fundraising efforts next year.

barlow-mannOne of the most effective ways to reach your donors is with a consistent newsletter. Sharpe Newsletters make this easy for organizations to incorporate gift planning communications to targeted donors. Click here for more information. 

Barlow Mann is Chief Operating Officer of Sharpe Group.

The publisher of Give & Take is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Give & Take may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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