Fundraising Ain’t Dead Yet

February 22, 2019      Roger Craver

Back on January 9th in Poor Year-End Giving we noted that it’s “clear from the moaning and groaning reaching our Agitator ears that, for many, year-end giving fell short of expectations and projections.

“Just how much off the mark?”, we asked.  Results vary but overall the shortfall may be as much as 25% for some organizations.  For others there was no shortfall, and, in fact, 2018 year-end exceeded 2017 totals. There seems to be no pattern—at least no patterns that are identifiable until the benchmark numbers from Blackbaud and the Fundraising Effectiveness Project come out in a few weeks.”

This week The Blackbaud Institute released its 2018 Charitable Giving Report and the Fundraising Effectiveness Project will release their 2018 Report shortly.

According to the Blackbaud Institute, total giving in 2018 ended above 2017 by  1.5% on a year-over year basis.

Although the 1.5% increase sure doesn’t represent hockey stick-like growth, it’s more impressive than I would have estimated. And when I talked to Steve MacLaughlin, Blackbaud’s VP of Data and Analytics a co-author of the report along with Chuck Longfield and Angele Vellake, he agreed given events of the past year.

And if you’re looking at longer-term trends and not just counting 2018 gifts then the 3-year growth trend is positive. Overall, since 2016, total giving is up 9%, with online giving up17%. As Steve noted, just look at some of the external events that may have impacted our sector since 2016 –the US Presidential Election, Brexit, Cambridge Analytica, the Syrian Refugee Crisis, Mass Shootings, Hurricanes, Travel Ban, #MeToo, Tax Law Changes, Charlottesville, GDPR, Mid-term Elections, Wildfires and Zika.

With tongue-in-cheek Steve noted “With all that in mind I’d say reports of the demise of fundraising have been greatly exaggerated.”

Key Points & Highlights

The 2018 Charitable Giving Report includes overall giving data from 9,029 nonprofit organizations representing $31.9 billion in total fundraising in 2018. The Report also includes online giving data from 5,537 nonprofits representing $2.7 billion in online fundraising in 2018.

Despite all the tumult the Blackbaud researchers found for 2018 exactly they found in their what they reported in their Vital Signsresearch series:  “while fewer households are giving, those that give are donating at higher levels than ever before. Buoyed by these generous donors, organizations that prioritize stewardship and retention of their donors continue to find the greatest success.”:

  • Overall charitable giving in the United States increased 1.5% on a year-over-year basis, with large organizations growing by 2.3%, medium-sized organizations growing by 2.0%, and small nonprofits experiencing a decrease of 2.3%. Since 2016, overall giving has grown 9%.
  • In Canada overall charitable giving was up 1.9% in 2018 and Online giving increased 6.9% for nonprofits
  • In the UK the Blackbaud Index added tracking of online and overall giving during 2018. The UK Index includes giving data from 311 organizations with over $484 million in charitable giving. Overall charitable giving was down 4.2% among UK not-for-profits in 2018 while Online giving increased 5.5%.
  • The Blackbaud Index also added tracking of overall giving in Australia and New Zealand during 2018. The Australia and New Zealand Index includes giving data from 191 organizations with over $654 million in charitable giving.Overall charitable giving was up 4% among Australian and New Zealand nonprofits in 2018
  • Back in the US…. Online giving grew 1.2% in 2018, with large organizations decreasing 0.5%, medium-sized organizations growing 3.7%, and small nonprofits growing 0.7%. Since 2016, online giving has grown 17% and average online gift amounts have continued to increase. The average online donation in 2018 was $147.
  • Approximately 8.5% of overall fundraising revenue, excluding grants, was raised online in 2018—another record high. [ Agitator Note to the “Direct Mail Is Dead Crowd”. That’s right online accounts for only 8.5% of overall fundraising.]
  • In 2018, 24% of online transactions were made using a mobile device. [Agitator Note:  Please re-read and heed that sentence. Stay out of mobile and you’ll soon be out of any serious online fundraising.]

Some Nuggets

I urge you to download and read the full 2018 Charitable Giving Report, but wanted to excerpt a few goodies you’ll find more fully described in the Report.

Online: “Nonprofit organizations had varying degrees of growth in their online fundraising in 2018 compared to 2017. Large organizations, with annual total fundraising more than $10 million, had a decrease of 0.5% in their online fundraising in 2018. Medium- sized nonprofits, with annual total fundraising between $1 million and $10 million, had an increase of 3.7% in their online fundraising. Small nonprofits, with annual total fundraising less than $1 million, grew their online fundraising 0.7% compared to 2017.”

Sector Growth:  “Arts and Culture organizations grew by 5.5%, Animal Welfare grew by 5.1%, and Public and Society Benefit nonprofits grew by 3% in year-over-year fundraising. Any look at smaller growth rates in other sectors must take into consideration higher levels of giving in 2016 and 2017. In many cases, this is a return to normal fundraising levels after spikes in giving.”

Giving Tuesday: “Blackbaud’s analysis found that #GivingTuesday donations continue to shift toward medium- and smaller- sized organizations. In 2018, large organizations only represented 56% of #GivingTuesday revenue compared to 80% in 2012. Medium-sized nonprofits received 29% of #GivingTuesday revenue, followed by 15% for smaller organizations.

Giving Amounts:

Median donation amount –$2,049–for gifts above $1,000 in the US

Median donation amount — $20–for gifts below $1,000 in the US

Average online donation amount:  $147


First-year, offline-only donor–  29%retention rate for nonprofits in US

Multi-year, offline-only donor– 60%retention rate for nonprofits in US

First-year, online-only donor –22%retention rate for nonprofits in US

Multi-year, online-only—64% donor retention rate for nonprofits in US


If you’d like to measure your organization against other organizations,  Blackbaud has this online calculator that lets you Benchmark your organization’s performance against the Blackbaud indices.

How did your organization fare in 2018?



5 responses to “Fundraising Ain’t Dead Yet”

  1. Mike says:

    This is very trivial but your font is difficult to read.

  2. Max Harris says:

    We agree that donor retention is critical. For personalized touches, sending handwritten cards can be very impactful, and to o make this process easier you might want to check out (part of It lets you automate the process by integrating it with your CRM or other donor software. Or we can help you with one-off projects and custom cards. You can go to to get a free sample.

  3. Cathe Hoerth says:

    I would be curious to see that overall OL fundraising percentage adjusted to remove major gifts. With giving today skewed towards large gifts, apparently, and the regular donor base evaporating, doesn’t that low OL percentage stand to reason because most major gifts are not made online? A useful percentage when looking at your whole program, but perhaps not helpful if you’re asking yourself whether it’s best to cultivate your regular donors via mail or email? I’m not giving up on my DM program anytime soon, just curious about what exactly that stat is telling us.

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