Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2010: Balancing Optimism with Reality

The promise of a new year is always reason for optimism, especially given the tough times fundraisers and charities have experienced over the past couple of years. This year, though, there may be some good reason for optimism.

In AFP’s latest Holiday Giving Survey, conducted mid-December 2009, we asked participants to compare their giving totals for the last three months of the year in 2009 to the same time period in 2008. Just 34 percent of fundraisers said they were raising more money—a very low figure compared with past surveys. However, compare that number to holiday giving in 2008, when just 23 percent of organizations were raising more money that year than compared to 2007.

Most signs indicate that 2009 was, in general, a better year for fundraising than 2008—even if by just a little bit. It certainly wasn’t a great year by any stretch. But the survey confirmed what we have been hearing from members throughout 2009. Slowly—very slowly—but surely, giving is coming back.

These little increases have led to strong increases in fundraising optimism. When asked about estimated 2010 fundraising results, 59 percent expected their organizations to raise more funds in 2010 than in 2009. That’s the highest level of optimism among fundraisers in two years.

I’ve traveled to a few chapters so far this year, and I’m sensing this optimism from just about everywhere. Members are seeing donors who six months ago said they couldn’t give but are now returning with contributions. I’ve talked with members who lost their jobs because of the economy, and to a person, most are very confident about finding a job in the near future. The optimism Is infectious, and that’s a good thing—for the most part.

We’re all excited about the prospect of better times, but we have to balance that optimism with reality. The recovery is going to happen, but it is going to occur very slowly. The rebuilding economy isn’t going to affect everyone the same way, and we may well see more decreases before giving starts to really grow again in the latter half of the year.

We’re going to have to plan appropriately, and be bullish on the future, while acknowledging the transitory nature of this time. We have to continue to work with donors to develop giving plans that work for their unique situations while still trying to challenge them. As I’ve said before, generosity still exists in abundance; it simply has to be channeled in the right manner.

I’m going to post more in the near future about strategies for 2010, but want to hear what you think. Are you optimistic about 2010? When did you foresee giving really coming back in force—later this year? Not until 2011?


  1. I am very optimistic, Paulette. The signs are there. We're seeing more donors than in the past. They are just making smaller contributions. So penetration is good. We just need a better economy and even better stock market so folk who are able to make 6 & 7-figure gifts start doing so again. My glass is half full and think we'll see better times by this Summer.

  2. Granted, we here in Texas were not as hard-struck by the economic downturn, but yes, I am optimistic that 2010 will be a turnaround year for fundraising. John is right -- all the signs are pointing in that direction.

  3. From a prospecting point of view, I am optimistic as well. Wealth is recovering in the US and growing substantially overseas, new fundraising channels (e.g. social media) are blossoming and organizations seem to be taking an active interest in diversifying their constituencies, opening themselves to a larger and growing market of new donors. There are risks, of course, especially if NPOs fall into old patterns of one-way communications and limited transparency, but the newest generation of donors, with their high expectations for "authentic" engagement and results, should keep most organizations alert and ready-for-action.