How Inflation, Economy Could Impact Your GivingTuesday
This year marks the 10th anniversary of GivingTuesday, but it also marks the first time the event has taken place during a period of inflation and economic uncertainty. Charities gearing up for the day may be wondering what level of donation to expect. Experts say only time will tell, but clues from the past indicate that while some donors may back off, many are more generous during times of economic uncertainty.
However, generosity doesn’t magically materialize. Nonprofits still have to ask. Amidst this year’s economy, charities are trying to make the most of GivingTuesday by lengthening it’s reach, teaming up with colleagues, and changing how they talk about giving.
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This year marks the 10th anniversary of GivingTuesday, but it also marks the first time the event has occurred during inflation and economic uncertainty. Charities gearing up for the day are wondering what to expect from donors. Experts say only time will tell, but clues from the past indicate that while some donors may back off, many are more generous during times of economic uncertainty.
Generosity, however, doesn’t magically materialize. Nonprofits still have to ask. Amid this year’s economy, charities are trying to make the most of GivingTuesday by lengthening its duration, teaming up with colleagues, and changing how they talk about giving.
Will Donors Give Less?
When there’s economic uncertainty, it’s easy to worry donations could plummet. This year, fundraisers are uncertain about what to expect.
“I think it’s a question mark,” says Garrett Hall, chief fundraiser at the Fundraising Authority, a consulting firm. “Organizations like Amazon are predicting lower profits than previous years and lower sales than previous years, so that’s an indicator that maybe people are tightening their belts. But unemployment rates are still low, so that’s a positive.”
When looking at the data on charitable giving in down economies, there is good news, says Tim Sarrantonio, vice chair of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, a research effort focused on fundraising analytics.
“In times of economic recession and uncertainty, there is almost an inverse reaction by donors to be more generous in the beginning intensity of when you might see prices going up,” he says.
“Why America Gives 2022,” a report released this month, found donors plan to give, despite economic worries. According to the report, 49 percent of respondents have a “pessimistic view of the economy,” but 90 percent say they “plan to donate the same or more in 2022 than last year.” The report also found that 53 percent of respondents take donations into account “when planning their financial budget.”
While this is good news in general, Woodrow Rosenbaum, chief data officer at GivingTuesday, notes larger donors are “more responsive to economic shocks” and sometimes pull back when the stock market cools.
The SPCA of Northern Nevada has already experienced this. In years past, it secured $50,000 in matching funds for GivingTuesday, but the group’s match this year is $40,000 because the “stock market is down so much,” says development director Sean Farnan.
Lengthen Giving Time
GivingTuesday being a single day makes some fundraisers worry that the event is too crowded to pick up significant donations. To alleviate this concern and position themselves for stronger giving, many charities, like the SPCA of Northern Nevada, are planning a monthlong push.
“It’s crowded on that Tuesday, but it’s not crowded on November 1, and that’s why I start so early,” says Farnan. “I’m getting the first money that they’re going to give. We dropped [our first campaign video] and did over $4,000. That’s 10 percent of the goal on the first day.”
Shaina Fraser, executive director of Families First Community Center in Ellsworth, Maine, is spearheading the group’s first GivingTuesday effort; it spans all of November. The charity helps families emerge from homelessness, so Fraser has been writing a weekly newsletter including updates on help they’ve provided, an inspirational giving quote, lists of most needed items, and volunteer and donation opportunities.
“We’re not immune to inflation,” Fraser says. “We are seeing increases on our electricity, a huge increase in fuel bills. We are definitely trying to counteract that and be more productive in our fundraising.”
Donors have been very responsive so far, a trait Fraser also spotted during the pandemic.
“I have found during tough times, people look at nonprofits and say they need extra help,” she says. “A lot of people drop supplies. With the donation of household products, that is one less thing that we have to take out of our own pockets.”
Extending the event also gives development teams more chances to make contact with potential donors.
“We are a pretty small team here, so it’s just not feasible to do one day with a really large-scale outreach,” says Katlyn Porter, director of advancement at Zane State College, which is doing a monthlong GivingTuesday campaign that includes volunteer opportunities.
Build Connections, Tweak Messaging
Charities are trying to help donors feel more connected to them during this time rather than just being asked to give online. Florida nonprofits Coral Springs Museum of Art and the Sawgrass Nature Center and Wildlife Hospital wanted to broaden their reach, so they joined forces and will hold a Bob Ross-inspired paint night for GivingTuesday. The two organizations are neighbors whose executive directors often cross paths in the community.
“It’s a really great opportunity for museum folks to be exposed to the nature center and vice versa,” says Jill Brown, executive director of the museum. “So often, organizations silo themselves because they’re trying to maintain and stay alive. I think it’s better to partner. You have more opportunities to expose people to both organizations, share resources, and share ideas.”
The museum alone hosted a GivingTuesday paint night last year, but on a smaller scale. This year, by partnering, they expect the event to be bigger due to cross promotion, and participants will get the opportunity to meet rescued animals from the nature center. The organizations will split event proceeds 50/50. Robin Reccasina, executive director of the nature center, found that in recent years, their efforts felt “diluted” by the throng of charities making appeals. She expects the joint event to make more of a connection with donors than the primarily online solicitations the nature center made on past GivingTuesdays.
The SPCA of Northern Nevada is changing the way it talks to donors, too. Farnan says the organization has traditionally marketed positivity, showing the good the group does for animals. In this year’s GivingTuesday video, executive director Jill Dobbs talks about the rising costs of necessities like pet food, staff salaries, and veterinary care.
“We felt it important to send a very honest message about how the last couple of years have impacted animal welfare and how the slowing economy and down markets create more need for our services while also negatively impacting our donations,” Dobbs says.
Sarrantonio, with the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, contends talk like this can help organizations connect to donors.
“I think that’s actually a smart thing to do — to talk about the economic reality that we’re living because your donors are going through the same thing,” he says. “It’s creating a sense of empathy and connection. That is where we all should be focusing our efforts. When you connect with somebody on an individual level and find that common ground of their lived experience, too, that’s when you form that relationship for life.”
Giving at All Levels, Especially Monthly
Given the economic headwinds, any bit of giving helps, and organizations are stressing that message this season.
“We want people to know that any gift they make, big or small, is appreciated by us,” says Kate Azizi, vice president for institutional advancement at the Medical University of South Carolina. The organization has had past success with GivingTuesday and wants to keep participation high. “We’ve really expanded the scope of what we’re doing — reaching out to more people year over year,” she adds.
Asha Curran, CEO of GivingTuesday, notes that when times are tough economically, it’s important to view giving as a broad spectrum, not just financial support.
“People act out, or manifest, their generosity in a huge range of ways,” she says. “It is an acknowledgment of the tough spot that many people are in economically to offer them the opportunity to give in a multitude of ways that can fit whatever their context and circumstances.”
Sarrantonio adds that getting donors to become recurring givers is also a way charities can weather tough economic times. He recommends educating donors about the benefits of recurring gifts and making those options prominent in messaging.
“Recurring giving is one of the most effective and scalable things that small-shop nonprofits can do,” he says. “We found that the average small-dollar donor is giving $64 per month. We also found that about 13 percent of recurring gifts were initiated on GivingTuesday itself.”