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Fundraisers Cite Challenges, Hope for Better 2020

Fundraisers are concerned about a possible recession, the presidential election and a change in leadership at their own organizations. But 2019 was so challenging that they are actually looking forward to 2020 and expect better results.

Those are some of the compiled responses from 450 nonprofit leaders surveyed by The Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC). The NRC asks the same questions twice a year, and each time, adds questions on a special topic. The latest survey that was in the field in September and October 2019, and asked organizations about charitable receipts for January through June of 2019.

Compared to a year ago, every size of organization was more likely to report a drop in charitable receipts. The differences range from 8 percentage points to 15 percentage points comparing mid-2019 results for “giving declined” with mid-2018 results. But, nearly two-thirds of respondents predicted that 2020 will yield better fundraising results compared with 2019.

When asked what would affect the organization’s planning for 2020, the most frequent response was changes in staffing. This includes loss of staff and increased fundraising staff.

More than seven in 10 organizations are planning some change in how they seek or ask for major gifts. One-quarter (25 percent) of the 284 organizations that provided a response indicate that they will make “significant changes” in major gift fundraising. Nearly half (46 percent) will make some change.

The next largest set of responses apply to online fundraising, with 62 percent planning changes. It appears from these data, according to researcher Melissa Brown, that more organizations are planning changes in online fundraising, which accounts for around 10 percent of all giving nationally. That’s more than those planning changes in events (combined changes at 56 percent) or in direct response (combined changes planned at 52 percent).

Respondents were invited to describe specific steps they are taking in 2020 to improve fundraising. Across fundraising methods where organizations are planning change, the most frequent strategies proposed were strengthening relationships with donors and improving communications with donors.

At the time of the survey, some economists were predicting a recession. Some 38 percent of respondents indicated planning for a potential recession. And, 29 percent of respondents reported making plans around the 2020 presidential campaign.

Presidential campaigns in the past have raised, among all candidates, around $2 billion, or one-half of one percent of total charitable giving. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of high-net worth households gave or intended to give for the 2016 elections, according to previous research. For 2020, 29 percent of survey participants said they are planning for the potential impact of campaigns on charitable giving.

The NRC is made up of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Association of Philanthropic Counsel, CFRE International and the Giving USA Foundation. To see the complete report, go to

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