The storm rages

January 30, 2017

For a week now, millions of Americans have stood together in protest. Park service staffers and government workers have refused to be silenced. Legal teams are out in full force. Civic and religious leaders, as well as celebrities and high-profile business leaders are speaking out loud and clear.

When it comes to fundraising, this weekend’s developments were a keen illustration of the continued unpredictability we face as America battles with itself over it’s vision of the future, and perhaps its very existence as a democratic nation. (More on this in our post from January 26.)

The incredible story of the weekend is the ACLU receiving $24 million in online donations from more than 350,000 people – six times its typical annual online revenue. This is a truly unprecedented and powerful response, resembling the significant outpouring for Planned Parenthood that occurred in late 2017 – it’s something we should all celebrate.

In all of its glory however, this stunning response moves other nonprofits further down the path of uncertainty.

  • Are these donors new to philanthropy (the ACLU reports that up to 2/3 of them were new to their organization)?
  • Could these cause-related surges help stem the years-long trend of a shrinking nationwide donor pool as a new generation begins to give more widely?
  • Will this lift all boats, or is the rising tide of these in-the-moment acts of support and resistance something that will diminish other fundraising efforts in 2017 and beyond?

While we won’t have definitive answers to these questions until later in the year when quarterly trends are analyzed and shared, fundraisers must continue to devise strategies and plans of action. This requires the creation of assumptions to work from.

With that in mind, there is one noticeable anecdote worth sharing, and that is, that this may be America’s turning point in monthly giving.

If you took notice over the weekend, no longer did most of the social media comments and shares about supporting the ACLU simply note “I just donated to the ACLU.” Instead, many people noticeably called out monthly giving. “I just became a monthly donor at ACLU.” “I increased my monthly donation.” “I’m giving monthly so I can give more over time.”

Slowly, but surely, led by big national nonprofits and public media, the monthly giving message has become a seamless ever-present element in fundraising, a giving option that now seems to be comfortable and sensible to many donors.

Here’s your challenge: If increased monthly giving is part of your future growth strategy, but you’re not fully up to speed with your messaging and online giving techniques: make it a priority today.

Data available to-date has demonstrated that most people will become monthly donors to only a handful of organizations. Once that limit is reached, monthly giving commitments cease. While we don’t know if this limit will expand over time as monthly giving becomes even more common, it’s best to proceed as if your organization’s future depends on securing a slice of this pie.

Uncharted territory provides opportunity and challenge. It favors the prepared.

P.S. The photo below shows LKA staffer, Gwen Colwell, peacefully protesting the immigration ban at Seattle’s SeaTac Airport. Yes, that’s pepper spray being casually squirted into her face as the other officers stand back and watch. Disappointing. Fortunately, she is not easily deterred. Nor should you be from doing your utmost to secure the future of the organizations and causes that you serve and care for.

gwen seatac