Fundraising, number of donors take dramatic drop

Written on Sep 10, 2019

The mystery of the disappearing donor continues. Fundraising and the number of donors plunged during the first six months of 2019 when compared to the same period of 2018. 

New donors declined 9.5% and new retained donors dropped 8.8% during the comparative periods. Overall, the number of donors declined 5.8% with a corresponding drop in revenue of 7.3%.

At mid-year, revenue was only 41.06% of the total raised during all of 2018 from only 48.97% of donors, according to the data.

The recaptured donor category is doing the best with only a 1.1% drop year-over-year, perhaps showing that fundraisers are focusing on reactivating rather than acquiring donors.

That is data compiled by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) from databases that consist of 4,456 nonprofits where fundraisers brought in a collective $4.76 billion during 2018. Nonprofits included in the quarterly report raised at least $5,000 from 25 or more donors in each of the past six years. The FEP is a project of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and the Urban Institute.

Revenue from gifts of $1,000 or more are down 8.2% while mid-range gifts, from $250 to $999, have fallen 3.5%, the data shows.

Major donors whipped out their checkbooks at the end of 2018, erasing much but not all of the declines during that year. That might not be the case this time. The data shows that major donors made up 33.6% of all donors during the first six months compared to 34.78% at the same period of 2018. That’s also down from 2017 when they comprised 35.4% of those giving to nonprofits but better than the 32.42% during 2016.

By this time in 2018, major gifts made up 37.89% of the category’s eventual annual total. This year it is just 34.78% of the 2018 total.

New donor retention has decreased rather dramatically during the past five years with a 20.1% drop.

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