Posted , by Keith Curtis, President. Topic: Campaigns & Campaign Planning, Development Plan, Donor Advised Funds, Donors, Fundraising, High-Net-Worth Individuals, Major Donors, Making the Ask, Philanthropy Research & Events, Planned Giving.

5 Key Focus Areas to Make Sure Your Fundraising Vision is 2020


By Keith Curtis
President and Founder

After 30 years of experience partnering with nonprofits, spending time with philanthropists and serving on boards throughout the country, these are 5 fundraising tips we think you should focus on this year.

Focus #1: Keep up the good work. Americans are generous. Your role is to connect them to the mission of your organization

  • Over $420 billion was contributed to nonprofits in 2018, and 57% of American households made a charitable donation. We aren’t sure yet about the figures for 2019, but I know we will find that Americans will continue to be generous. Even as policies shift, presidents come and go and the stock market rises and falls, charitable giving has increased every year for the last 33 years since 1977, except three years that saw declines (1987, 2008 and 2009). Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018
  • Be sure to build strong relationships with high-net-worth donors in particular. Over 90% of high-net-worth donors make a contribution each year. These households are generous with their dollars, giving an average of over $29,000 in 2017 and giving to an average of seven different nonprofit organizations (The 2018 U.S. Trust Study of High Net-Worth Philanthropy).

Focus #2: Stay informed about the economy and tax policy to look at potential giving patterns that might impact your organization

  • There are many economic indicators that are directly linked to charitable giving patterns. Stay informed in particular about the ebbs and flows of the stock market, the GDP, and disposable personal income. This information can impact the timing of your ask for support, as well as the size, timing and type of contributions you receive.
  • ​Tax policy can also shift giving patterns for your supporters. Already this year, new tax law has changed the age for IRA automatic withdrawals from 70 ½ to 72. However, anyone 70 ½ can still withdraw money from retirement accounts if it is given to charity (up to $100,000). Donors should consult financial advisors for specifics. It is important as a nonprofit executive and fundraising professional that you stay in the know about policies that could impact your supporters. Follow our Facebook page and blog, and we can help keep you informed.

Focus #3: Understand the various giving vehicles available to your donors

  • Donor-advised funds continue to be growing in popularity as a giving vehicle. Make sure your organization is equipped and prepared to receive, acknowledge and cultivate donor-advised fund donors.
  • ​Planned giving is another giving vehicle that is often overlooked when communicating with donors. Strengthen your planned giving program this year. The Giving USA Foundation recently released a new report that found that the average age at which donors made their first planned gift was 52.8. Are you communicating with this age group about making a charitable bequest? (Leaving a Legacy: A New Look at Planned Giving Donors).

Focus #4: Invest in donor relationships

  • When surveyed, two out of three donors expect to give the same as or less than they gave last year. BUT, 72% would actually give more if fundraisers made adjustments that captured their attention (Penelope Burk Donor Survey).  Smart cultivation and stewardship are the critical pieces of fundraising. Call your donors to thank them for their support. Invite donors on a tour of your facility or to a behind-the-scenes event. Get to know your donors and demonstrate impact. Involve your entire staff and board in the process. For more ideas, visit our blog for articles on how to retain your donors and increasing your fundraising.

Focus #5: Make a Development Plan and a long-term strategic plan

  • With the start of a new year, consider either creating or fine-tuning your annual fundraising plan. Does it include clearly defined goals and tangible tracking? Does it involve your leadership and staff? For more on your development plan, check out this article.
  • We know that most nonprofits are not operating with huge endowments, and that you are doing great work with what you have. I would encourage you to sit down with your board and senior team to outline plans for the future. If you are thinking about a capital campaign, consider the possibility of including endowment and/or operating plans into that campaign. Discuss opportunities to grow your cash reserve and be prepared to weather a recession.
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