4 Key Fundraising Trends to Watch from the Rogare Think Tank

What really is the true state of fundraising in the US?

Our nonprofit landscape keeps shifting and changing more than ever. Can anybody tell us what really is the true state of fundraising in the US right now?

Fortunately, the international think tank Rogare has the answer.

Headed by the very cool Ian MacQuillin out of London, Rogare does amazing work by bringing academia and fundraising practitioners together to focus on broader sector issues and trends.

Today we’re looking at Rogare’s new Critical Fundraising Report (USA). 

Here’s a guest post from Barbara O’Reilly, who chaired the Task Group composed of nonprofit leaders James Green, Marc Pittman, T. Clay Buck, Heather Hill, Cherian Koshy, Ashley Belanger, and Taylor Shanklin.

Here’s Barbara’s summary of their report. Let’s look at the trends they identified for us:

Public Trust, Retention Rates, and Tax Reform

It seems like we’ve been talking about declining trust and stagnant donor retention for at least a decade.

Yet, in the U.S., giving levels still only comprise 2% of the US GDP.  And donor retention still hovers around a very low 45%.

Trust levels in the nonprofit sector range anywhere from 19%, according to the Better Business Bureau, to 52% as cited in the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer.

We as a sector have not been able to inspire more people to give — and it’s possible that lack of trust plays a role as well.

The 2018 Tax Laws may, in fact, decrease giving although it will likely be another year or two until we can really see the full effect on charitable contributions.

What we do know is that the number of people who itemize their tax returns decreased. Even worse,  there has been a worrisome decline—almost disappearance—in smaller to mid-level donors.

Tax deductibility is never the main driver for donors. Yet these early behavior changes among donors are enough of a warning.

Defining Standards and Anticipated Talent Crisis

How about the fundraisers within our sector?  What are our standards?

Unfortunately, there’s no established and accepted body of knowledge for our field. There’s no required education or skills, and no standard job descriptions for various fundraising positions.

This might be why executive and board leaders don’t know how to value and compensate their fundraising staff.  The skills that fundraisers must have to be successful seem unclear.

Fundraising is becoming a more popular career choice. The talent pool has been increasing in recent years.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people who identify themselves as “fundraisers” is expected to grow by 14% by 2026.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that younger fundraisers tend to have a very short tenure in each job.

Why the high attrition rates among younger professionals? Some of the causes are: lack of investment in professional development, compensation, and few opportunities for clear advancement tracks.

Our leadership pipeline for the profession is draining away when all these younger fundraisers leave their jobs and/or our field.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Gender Equity

Diversity, inclusion, and gender equity issues pervade both the practice of fundraising and our donor bases:

  • Fundraising is still largely a white-dominated field.
  • Although females comprise 75% of the workforce, they hold a shockingly small percentage of leadership roles.
  • Women do not earn as much as male peers.

We can make improvements: studies show the positive benefits of intentionally incorporating diversity and inclusion.

This step can improve performance, increase satisfaction of employees, and lead to more effective solutions to addressing the core problems the nonprofits were created to solve.

Looking at the future – by 2044, the US Census Bureau predicts that the country will be a majority minority nation with no single ethnic or racial minority.

So we can see that it’s past time to start reshaping how nonprofits refocus their hiring practices and volunteer and donor engagement.

Clearly nonprofits need to reflect the American population “whether because it’s a moral obligation among organizations seeking to address inequality or because it’s the best thing to do for the fundraising bottom line.”

The Rise of Data, Technology, and Social Media

We live in a hyper-connected and technological world unlike any other moment in time.

All of this technology at our fingertips factors in to how donors give and how fundraisers do their jobs more effectively.

But for small and overstretched fundraising staff, technology and social media can feel out of reach, overwhelming, and time consuming.

It can also be deceiving leading some to believe that social media and online giving will be the golden goose egg for their revenue.

According to Blackbaud’s 2017 Charitable Giving Report, an estimated 21% of gifts were made online and 7% made by mobile devices.

The pervasiveness of mobile and online access in our everyday world means that nonprofit communications and engagement will simply have to keep pace.

Fundraisers do not have to utilize every social media tool — but multi-channel communication and engagement is the new way of donor relations.

Bottom Line from Rogare:

As much pride as we can take in the American nonprofit landscape, it’s also equally important to take a temperature check to determine what improvements must we make, where are the untapped opportunities, and how can we as a sector build on all of our strengths.

This report doesn’t seek to answer all of the questions but is an important conversation starter. To read the report in full, visit, www.rogare.net.