Donors to Political Campaigns Don’t Reduce Giving, Study Finds

Donors who give to political campaigns also tend to continue to fund charitable causes they hold dear, a new report from Blackbaud finds.

According to Giving in an Election Year (11 pages, PDF), donors who contributed to a federal political campaign in 2012 gave 0.9 percent more to charitable organizations in 2012 compared to 2011, while donors who didn't contribute to a political campaign reduced their giving to charities by slightly more than 2 percent. The findings held true across all sub-sectors as well as the demographic segments of age range, household income, and head of household gender.

The study examined the 2011 and 2012 charitable giving of donors identified in the donor records of the Federal Election Commission and the nonprofit cooperative database of one hundred and forty-three nonprofits maintained by Blackbaud. Four hundred thousand donors were identified as appearing in both the FEC and nonprofit databases. In the case of charitable giving, Blackbaud examined the political donors' giving to the same sets of 501(c)(3) organizations in 2011 and 2012 and compared it to giving to the same organizations by non-political donors in 2011 and 2012.

The report also offers recommendations to nonprofits looking to leverage their donor outreach efforts in this election year. For example, while the alignment of campaign issues, organizational mission, and programs can be the basis of a successful approach, decisions regarding acquisition and reinstatement of lapsed donors should be grounded in an assessment of the aggressiveness of campaign fundraising overall and consumer confidence heading into the fall. The reports also suggests that nonprofits should look for opportunities to rally issue-focused advocates around their cause and use the election cycle as an opportunity to align their internal fundraising teams and advocacy efforts around shared goals.

"As fundraisers and nonprofit leaders, we're taught to be careful at these times — that donors who give to political candidates and causes will naturally turn away from charitable causes to focus on the issue in hand," said Andrew Watt, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and author of the report's forward. "What the findings in this report demonstrate is that, just over a hundred and eighty years after Alexis de Tocqueville published Democracy in America, civic engagement is as highly valued today as it was then."