Giving Fell Slightly in 2019, 2020 Outlook Uncertain, Report Finds

Giving Fell Slightly in 2019, 2020 Outlook Uncertain, Report Finds

After surging in 2018, charitable giving fell slightly in 2019, while a drop in the number of new donors adds to the uncertainty about the outlook for 2020, a report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project finds. 

Conducted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, the analysis of sample data from AFP's Growth in Giving Database found that giving — after dropping 5.7 percent through June — was down 1.4 percent for the year, though it was 6 percent above 2017 levels. Revenue from donors who gave at least $1,000, which accounted for 84.5 percent of the total, was down 1.4 percent on a year-over-year basis, while revenue from those who gave between $250 and $999 (6.7 percent of the total) and those who gave less than $250 (7.5 percent of the total) was down 1 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively. 

The report also found that the total number of donors fell 3 percent, the number of new donors fell 5.7 percent, the number of new donors in 2018 who gave again in 2019 fell 6.4 percent, and the number of repeat retained donors (existing donors who gave in both 2018 and 2019) fell 2.1 percent. The overall repeat retention rate and new donor retention rate remained essentially flat at 61.3 percent and 20.3 percent, while the recapture rate of previously lapsed donors continued a downward trend, at 3.93 percent.

One of the biggest questions facing the charitable sector in 2020 — especially for nonprofits not directly serving those affected by the coronavirus pandemic — is whether they can attract new donors and keep existing donors engaged, FEP notes. "Losses in new, first-time donors is not unusual, but nonprofits should focus their time and budget on retaining current donors," said Jim Greenfield, a member of the Growth in Giving Initiative Steering Committee. "Not only is their retention rate higher, but [it] is accompanied by their higher gift revenues than first-time donors."