Donations to charities and donor retention levels through the third quarter are continuing a downward year-over-year trend, a report from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute finds.
Based on data from charities and donor software firms, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project's Quarterly Fundraising Report (5 pages, PDF) found that year-to-date giving through September 30 totaled nearly $4.7 billion, down 4 percent from the same period in 2016, and that the overall donor retention rate was 33 percent, down 1.9 percent on a year-over-year basis. The report also found that the total number of donors through September was down 5 percent from last year, the number of new donors was down 14 percent, and the repeat donor retention rate, which excludes donors who gave to charity for the first time in 2016, was at its lowest level in five years, at 45 percent.
The new donor retention rate also fell to a five-year-low of 17.6 percent, from a five-year-high of 23.2 percent in 2016, continuing a worrisome downward trend. And while the number of donations of less than $250 and those between $250 and $1,000 were up 6.9 percent and 20.1 percent, major gifts of more than $1,000 declined 8 percent on a year-over-year basis. The report suggests that the increase in smaller donations likely reflects the response to multiple natural disasters during the third quarter.
According to Erik J. Daubert, chair of AFP's Growth in Giving Initiative/Fundraising Effectiveness Project, wealthy donors may bee waiting to get a clearer picture of the final tax bill out of Congress before committing to large gifts. "I'm optimistic that giving by major donors will pick up in the fourth quarter," said Daubert, "but my concern is that it won't be enough by year-end to cover the growing needs of the more than fifteen thousand nonprofits we currently track in our research."