Four Takeaways From the Giving USA 2018 Report for Nonprofit Marketers and Communicators

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Charitable giving in the United States is stronger than ever before. Has your nonprofit felt the effects? If you haven’t yet taken a look at the results of Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, we’re here to break down what the findings mean for nonprofit marketers and communicators like yourself.

Charitable giving in the United States is stronger than ever before. Click To Tweet

You may know that the Giving USA 2018 Report gives nonprofit leaders insights into charitable giving trends. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that due to a stronger economy and potentially a shifting political climate, the report states that giving increased 5.2 percent between 2016 and 2017. While recent changes in federal policies and tax laws may have created some new challenges for charitable nonprofits, the results of the Giving USA 2018 Report indicate nonprofit marketers and communicators have reason to take their 2019 campaigns to the next level.

Knowing charitable giving is at an all-time high, here are four ways nonprofit marketers and communicators can use insights from the Giving USA 2018 Report to enhance their campaigns in the year ahead.

1. Consider refreshing your donor profiles and messaging strategy.

Whether you’ve seen an increase in gifts or not, you should make sure you fully understand the reasons donors are compelled to give to your organization.

One way to do this is by reassessing your donor profiles, which may include existing donors, lapsed donors and new donor personas. You can use our donor profile worksheets to guide you as you develop or redevelop these profiles. To gain insights into donors, you can analyze their public records and giving history, and conduct in-person interviews.

As you create donor profiles for your organization, ask questions of your donors, such as:

  • Why are they giving to your organization or foundation, instead of (or in addition to) similar ones?
  • Why might they choose to give to another organization instead of yours?
  • What is their receptivity to marketing/communication?
  • What motivates them to give?

You may also consider researching not just individuals, but corporate giving patterns as well. According to the Giving USA 2018 Report, giving by individuals rose 5.2 percent in 2017, but giving by corporations rose 8 percent. So, don’t discount corporate giving as you create a plan to reach donors in 2019.

2. Pay attention to the giving nuances of your subsector.

The Giving USA 2018 Report also uncovered interesting nuances in giving for specific nonprofit subsectors, such as:

  • Corporate giving rose $405 million through contributions to natural and manmade disaster relief.
  • Giving to foundations is estimated to have increased by 15.5 percent (13.1 percent adjusted for inflation) to $45.89 billion.
  • Giving to arts, culture, and humanities is estimated to have increased 8.7 percent (6.5 percent) to $19.51 billion.

Other subsectors experienced smaller increases or even decreases in gifts, such as:

  • Giving to human services increased by an estimated 5.1 percent (2.9 percent adjusted for inflation) totaling $50.06 billion.
  • Giving to international affairs is estimated to have declined 4.4 percent (6.4 percent adjusted for inflation) to $22.97 billion.

If your nonprofit fits into one of the categories in the Giving USA 2018 Report, consider whether increases or decreases align with what your own organization has experienced over the last year. If your organization appears to be experiencing similar giving trends, think about whether your marketing and communications may have impacted that in addition to other outside factors, like the national political climate and current events. Dig into your marketing campaigns and efforts over the last year –– what drew the most donations? What didn’t work? Use these insights to inform your 2019 plans.

3. Refresh your campaigns with new, creative ideas.

Digital marketing now plays a bigger role in donor acquisition than ever before, and the Giving USA 2018 Report confirms that this has made a difference in giving patterns.

“Donors and funders are becoming ever more sophisticated in their approaches to making gifts as they draw on the increasing availability of new data, new technology and new ideas,” said Rachel Hutchisson, chair of The Giving Institute, and vice president of corporate citizenship and philanthropy for Blackbaud.

If you’ve been using the same marketing tactics in your donor communications and fundraising campaigns over the past several years, now is the time to consider taking a more modern approach. You may want to invest in new inbound marketing tools, or, depending on how long your organization has been around, consider an all-around brand refresh to better align with your communities’ current needs. Refreshing your brand can also help ensure your brand voice and style aligns with how these communities prefer to talk about themselves.

And, don’t forget to ramp up communications during peak giving times like Giving Tuesday, and specific holidays or months that are significant to your subsector, like Breast Cancer Awareness Month or World Alzheimer’s Month. You may also want to brainstorm new campaign ideas that align with these peak giving times and holidays.
Don’t forget to ramp up communications during peak giving times. Click To Tweet

4. Don’t forget to demonstrate your impact.

At the end of the day, donors choose to give to your organization because they want to know they’re making a difference. Today, nonprofits across all subsectors make an effort to demonstrate their impact in order to connect with donors.

While every nonprofit should be putting together an annual report to share with existing and potential donors (here are some of our favorites from 2017), there are other ways to communicate your impact every day. Consider amping up your email marketing strategy to include more personal stories of recipients of your services, or share more statistics of the communities you serve in your regular social posts.

Are you ready to start planning for 2019?

Nonprofit marketers and communicators: keep these takeaways in mind as you begin to strategize and plan for your marketing efforts in 2019. You can use our Essential Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template as a guide for developing a marketing plan that can make an even bigger impact on your fundraising efforts, and ultimately, your mission.

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