Fundraisers, unlike practitioners in most other sectors, generally navigate their way forward by steering through the rear view mirror.

Today, we’re offering Agitator readers two rear view mirror views … and one through-the-windshield view.

Two recent reports on 2012 US giving have just hit our desk. Plus one sophisticated forecast for 2013.

I regret to inform you that the 2013 forecast doesn’t seem all that rosy when compared to 2012. But first, the past.

Yesterday Blackbaud released its Charitable Giving Report for 2012. You can download it free here.

Key findings of the Blackbaud Report:

  • In 2012 overall giving continued its slow recovery and grew approximately 2% in the year.
  •  Online giving grew by about 11% in 2012 compared to 2011.
  • Online fundraising represented 7% of all giving in 2012, an increase from 2011.
  • Small nonprofits showed the greatest increase in overall fundraising in 2012, while medium-sized organizations led in the online realm.
  • All in all, giving throughout 2012 was “flat”, with Super-Storm Sandy relief efforts helping to boost year-end fundraising.

Next, a different view of 2012 and a preview of 2013 in two Reports published last week by The Atlas of Giving. You can download those reports free by clicking here.

Key findings of The Atlas of Giving 2012 Report:

  • Giving to nonprofits rose 6.7% in 2012, an increase of $23.32 billion over 2011.
  • Giving to environmental causes grew by 11% in 2012, more than any other portion of the US charitable economy.
  • Gifts to the education sector increased by 8.8%, as did disaster-related giving, the latter fueled in large part by donations in the aftermath of Super-Storm Sandy.
  • Meanwhile, giving to religion, the long dominant charitable sector, saw continued erosion of its share of the national giving pie — down to 35%. As recently as 2002, religious giving accounted for over 50% of all charitable donations.

“Overall, 2012 was a very solid year for giving,” said Rob Mitchell, CEO of The Atlas of Giving. “Robust stock market performance, an improving economy, and a few very large individual contributions were significant factors.”

So … how come Blackbaud is reporting an increase of only 2% and Atlas an increase of 6.7% for 2012 compared to 2011?

Blackbaud employs a sampling methodology weighted to larger nonprofits that raise lots of money via direct response. Some analysts I talked to feel Higher Education is underrepresented and there is no accounting for religious giving, which represents nearly 1/3 of all U.S. charitable giving. Nor, I’m told, is there inclusion of proceeds from Donor Advised Funds.

The Atlas of Giving tracks all gifts, including those to the education and religious sectors, as well as mega-gifts and contributions from Donor Advised Funds.

The manner in which each nonprofit raises money affects gift receipts. Thus, in a year like 2012 organizations that relied on large numbers of relatively small gifts from individuals were hit hardest because of high unemployment and an uncertain economic climate. And thus the principal difference between the Blackbaud and Atlas findings.

What about the future?

As we’ve noted in previous posts – here  and here, the Atlas of Giving employs a series of sophisticated econometric models that are updated monthly. In the three years I’ve been tracking their forecasts they’ve been right on target: annually 97.5% accurate; for 6 months 98.9%; for 3 months 99.4% and for 1 month 99.99%.

For 2013 The Atlas giving forecast calls for only modest growth of 1.6%, one of the slowest growth rates in 50 years.

They reason:

“Expected declines in stock market returns, coupled with a 2% across the board hike in the payroll tax will hamper growth. An elimination or reduction of the charitable deduction would most certainly have an even greater negative impact on giving.

“The stock market and growing GDP is primarily what made 2012 a reasonably good year for many nonprofits. Our analysis tells us that forecasted drops in the investment markets will produce corresponding drops in giving,” says Rob Mitchell the CEO of Atlas.  “At the same time, the drop in discretionary income resulting from the 2% payroll tax hike will be a factor in individual and family giving decisions.”

Again, you can read the Atlas of Giving full report, including the 2013 forecast and the 2012 data, at no charge here. And the Blackbaud 2012 Charitable Giving Report at no charge here.

What are you forecasting for 2013? Expecting to beat 1.6%?


P.S. Forecasting varies from organization to organization, region to region, so I was delighted to learn that The Atlas of Giving now makes available a Custom Giving version. For less than $1 a day you can get a windshield view of your future. Check it out here.




This article was posted in: Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing.
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