Report: Nonprofit Fundraising Up in 2018, but Donor Numbers Down

The Association of Fundraising Professionals found a decline in the number of donors who gave to nonprofits at the end of 2018, but overall giving was buoyed by an increase in the size of donations at many organizations.

A new report on nonprofit fundraising is perhaps the definition of “good news, bad news.”

The good news: Nearly 80 percent of nonprofit respondents raised the same amount of money or more during the fourth quarter of 2018 compared to the same period the year before, according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2018 Year-End Fundraising Survey. And more than half of nonprofits (54 percent) topped their 2017 fundraising totals.

What about the bad news? Well, the gain came about despite fewer donors—meaning that nonprofits were generally seeing less giving, even if many donors were more financially engaged.

“We received distinctly fewer gifts in December compared to normal,” one respondent told AFP.

This was despite a widespread belief among the 384 members who responded to the survey that changes to the tax law, passed in 2017, didn’t have a negative effect on fundraising. Among other things, tax reform increased the size of the standard deduction, which many nonprofits feared would reduce year-end charitable donations.

While more than a third of respondents (37 percent) claimed that the changes had a negative impact, more than half (54 percent) said that they saw little or no impact from tax reform. But at least one respondent suggested that picture might change as donors become more familiar with the new tax law.

“I don’t think we saw much impact this year,” the respondent told AFP. “Next year, after people do their tax returns and realize what happened, there will be a larger impact.”

Despite the mixed results in 2018, almost two-thirds of respondents expected to raise more funds in 2019, compared with 24 percent who saw fundraising staying the same and just 13 percent who predicted it would decrease.

“Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, the survey results underscore myriad opportunities to have a significant impact on fulfilling our organizations’ critical missions by increasing the likelihood of fundraising success,” said AFP Board Chair Martha Schumacher. “This happens when we employ best practices, pursue specialized training and mentoring offerings, strategically expand our professional networks, and approach old challenges in new and innovative ways to engage and inspire our philanthropic partners.”

(marchmeena29/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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