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April 8, 2020

How nonprofits can prepare for the effects on giving in an election year

Originally published by Tal Frankfurt on Forbes

Election years represent moments of immense potential change for our government and culture in the U.S.

Political shifts in power prove to be a disruptive stone, sending out ripples of alteration across all manner of American organizations — not the least of which is the nonprofit space. According to the second edition of’s Nonprofit Trends Report, “79% of nonprofit fundraising professionals reported that recent political changes have reduced the funds available for their organization, again placing a higher need for individual donors.” With funding that once funneled toward the causes that are central to so many nonprofit organizations now being deprioritized, individual donors have become essential to the long-term viability of nonprofit organizations.

The ‘Trump Effect’ On Giving

The Salesforce report found that 84% of nonprofit program professionals saw an increase in need as a result of “recent political changes.” Some of this could be linked back to the phenomenon known as the “Trump Effect.” Some of Donald Trump’s stances have led to the rise of “rage philanthropy” or “rage giving,” the act of donating toward an organization or rights group negatively affected by those stances. For example, in the six weeks following Trump’s election, Planned Parenthood received an unprecedented 300,000 individual donations, a figure 40 times larger than the typical donation rate for a six-week time frame.

Despite the rise of rage giving, Giving USA reported that individual giving dropped an estimated 3.4% between 2017 and 2018. Giving USA Foundation chair Rick Dunham connected that downward trend in part to changes inflicted on charitable tax breaks as a result of the 2017 tax overhaul. Because of these tax changes, millions of American taxpayers were suddenly excluded from claiming tax breaks for their charitable donations. All in all, according to Dunham, “the environment for giving in 2018 was far more complex than most years.”

With so many varying factors adding intricacies to the nonprofit giving space, how can nonprofit organizations stay ahead of the constant changes? Goal-driven data fidelity — and a narrowed focus behind the technological systems driving that data — represents the best chance at bucking the trends and becoming proactive to change rather than reactive.

Setting Your Nonprofit Apart Through Technology

Either way the political pendulum swings, one thing is for certain: Nonprofits need to be adaptable in following the data where it leads them in order to create a consistent stream of donors. The economic/social terrains surrounding our politics have been in constant flux and will only continue to change more rapidly through November and beyond. With this reality in mind, it’s imperative for nonprofit organizations to remain pliable in the ways they raise donations.

Here are a few ways nonprofit organizations can be nimble in the face of change:

1. Set Data-Driven Goals: Nonprofit organizations should drive goals and business decisions with their data in mind. Goals set in this fashion will help organizations cater to an increasingly mindful constituent base. According to the Salesforce report, 69% of nonprofits state that the demand for transparency regarding their funding has increased, placing even more importance on the comprehensibility of action for the nonprofit’s constituents.

For example, we worked with the nonprofit organization Reading Partners to help it gain understanding into its data in order to improve its tutoring programs by using a combination of tools that allowed it to marry data from multiple sources. The organization could ask the “how” and “why” questions needed to lead with its data first, and the findings could then be presented eloquently to its funders, granters and community, providing a transparent view of its goals, progress and impact.

2. Make It Easy To Donate: Meet your donors head-on, whether through mobile devices, texts, social media or the Web. Make sure your giving pages are comprehensive and intuitive. Use forms that prepopulate existing donor data and make recurring donations an option on all giving pages. When you are looking at marketing automation tools, make sure you select a vendor that offers all the channels your team is looking for to engage their constituents, donors and friends. Having one system to manage your comprehensive journeys will allow your team to engage in a more meaningful way.

3. Create Personalized Omnichannel Marketing Experiences: “Omni” means “of all things.” When you think of this in terms of all your marketing channels being combined, you arrive at the idyllic state in which each channel feeds into one another symbiotically. I delved deeper into this idea in a previous post, expounding on the reasons this approach is essential when seeking to engage your constituents, donors and friends.

Once ready to transition to an omnichannel approach, I’ve found it is imperative to choose technology tools that speak to one another. If you have your marketing team working out of one system, your major gift officers tracking donations in another and your program team working from yet another system, then you probably won’t receive the full 360-degree story. Integrate data from all facets of your organization into one single source of truth that helps you speak in one unified voice.

When it comes to giving in America, the organizations in need of our donations exist outside of the realms of political alignment and personal preference. Many nonprofits today rely on nonpartisan support to continue providing their communities with the goods, services and experiences central to their mission. While our nation experiences a great divide across party lines, the role of outreach and social activism has the distinct ability to coalesce disparate demographics in the pursuit of community happiness.

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