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The 2019 ANA Chicago Nonprofit Conference: An Insight Into 2018’s Most Discussed Industry Question

The 2019 ANA Chicago Nonprofit Conference (otherwise known as #ANACHINP) took place last week at downtown’s Renaissance Hotel, and it did not disappoint. The two-and-a-half-day agenda was packed with great speakers and covered many industry “hot topics,” including leadership development, marketing evolution, big data and innovation.  

Since I live and breathe in the digital space these days, I found one session of particular interest: “What Happened in December 2018, and What to Do About It.” Now, we all know there have been countless blogs written on this topic, and the hypotheses are all generally the same: The combination of the stock market instability, the newly instituted tax laws, and the crazy political times we are in formed the perfect storm together—and our donors got scared.  

Maybe #GivingTuesday cannibalized year-end giving, especially online giving, which was down 4.4%. Or maybe the giving landscape is simply changing with peer-to-peer fundraising on the rise and more and more donors contributing to their friends’ Facebook Fundraisers. There have been many conversations among marketers regarding potential reasons for the drop-in donations…but have any of us bothered to ask the donors directly?  

Well, fortunately, someone finally did!  And all I can say is “Thank you!”  

In this session, Justin McCord of RKD Group revealed the results from a research study that was co-commissioned by RKD and the research firm McQueen, Mackin and Associates. The purpose of the study was to survey 10,000 average donors and try to understand December 2018 through their eyes. You may find the results intriguing, as did I, primarily because the study revealed that December took a dive for reasons OTHER than what we marketers actually thought. Here are the top three reasons people did not give in December 2018:

  • Donors felt unengaged and disconnected to the charity that they gave to in 2017, so they did not give in 2018.
  • Many donors gave locally—to those with an immediate need in their communities.
  • A whopping 64% indicated that their income was lower in 2018 than in 2017.

So much for our hypotheses. But, the good news is that the #1 reason for giving less in December 2018 is something we can work to improve as we approach this giving season.   

The competition is growing. There are more than 1.5MM nonprofits in the US alone, and that number continues to increase. On average, donors will give to you and at least three other organizations this year. So, the bottom line is simply this: Donors need and want to feel informed, impactful and involved.  If we can accomplish those three things (sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?) through our fundraising efforts, we can stand out among our competition and cultivate loyal brand ambassadors. Now, go forth and connect with those donors! 



Meg Dawes

Vice President, Integrated Marketing