AFP Data Suggest Donors Will Support Nonprofits in Uncertain Times

AFP Data Suggest Donors Will Support Nonprofits in Uncertain Times

While thousands of charity fundraising events have been delayed or canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofit boards and fundraisers need not panic, an analysis by the Association of Fundraising Professionals argues.

Although the growing public health crisis and plunging financial markets have nonprofit boards, staff, and fundraisers worried about the impact on charitable giving, trends that emerged during the 2008-09 Great Recession suggest that most nonprofits can survive a period of fear and uncertainty. An analysis of data from a subset of more than twenty-five hundred small and midsize nonprofits in AFP's Growth in Giving Database shows that "giving to nonprofits [in 2008-09] remained steady, with only slight declines [of 8 percent] over the entire period," said Ben Miller, chief analytic officer of DonorTrends and secretary of AFP's Growth in Giving Initiative. 

"While we have to be careful, because it is not a true apples-to-apples comparison to today's headlines and the concept of 'social distancing,'" Miller added, "the data does suggest that donors are very supportive of their nonprofits through uncertain economic times."

According to AFP, donors want to make a difference, even in times of financial stress, and feel they can exert some control over the situation by continuing to support their favorite charities. For nonprofits, that means focusing on online donations, holding virtual fundraising events instead of in-person events, and/or shifting resources to things like monthly fundraising appeals, which provide a more reliable and predictable cash flow. 

"When the current crisis ends, history will show that the most successful nonprofits continued to ask for donations, although likely in a different way," said Miller. "Those nonprofits who go 'silent' or attempt to give their donors a break will likely see the same results as others before them — and suffer or even go out of business as a result."

"Charitable Giving in Times of Fear and Uncertainty." Association of Fundraising Professionals 03/20/2020.