7 Data Points That Prove ‘Fundraising Climate Change’ Is Real And Happening Now

What’s in a name?

In my book (titled Engagement Fundraising) I briefly described the changes affecting nonprofits and their fundraising staff. The label I applied to the trend was ‘Fundraising Climate Change.’

I had been monitoring some metrics for some time until, finally, I concluded that sh#t was about to go down — big time. And now, it’s beginning to hit the fan.

So I conducted a webinar.

Although I wrote about the clouds gathering on the horizon a while back, this year it seemed like the velocity of the change was increasing. So I decided to put my thoughts together and present them in this webinar titled Fundraising Climate Change And What You Can Do About It. You can view the recording anytime here for free.

But if you don’t have time for that, here are 7 of the biggest data points I cited.

1. The number of donors in the U.S has been shrinking — a lot! 

Some researchers began studying this back in 2003 finding that nonprofit mergers were partially to blame. However, subsequent studies and articles these days are finding that people are just plain ceasing to give at a rate of 1% – 5% fewer each year (depending on who you ask). Yet, all the while, the population continues to increase by .6% to 1% each year.

The reasons for the decline include:

2. Competition for your donors’ ‘share of wallet’ keeps increasing.

Charities can be launched almost instantly from anyone’s kitchen table or from a coffee shop. As a result, the number of charities in the U.S. doubled from 2001 – 2015 and will likely to continue to grow.

3. The fragmentation of communication channels keeps growing.

The rise of smart phones, tablets and portable computers have been making media follow users around while social media and other channels are making it more challenging to communicate with prospects and supporters.

4. The number of donors retained and revenue retained each year among all nonprofits has been declining. 

You can see all the data supporting this claim in my Fundraising Report Card’s benchmarks page.

5. The 80/20 Rule is dead!

Now it’s more like 70/.7. In other words, just .7% of donors giving over $5,000 at a time now make up 70% of the average nonprofit’s donation revenue. Again, you can see this on my Fundraising Report Card’s benchmarks page.

6. Donors are becoming more self-sufficient.

For example, after asking planned gift donors whether or not they have a planned gift officer, Penelope Burk found that only 18% said, “Yes” (with many saying for instance, “They give me everything I need, but I don’t need much from them.” Ouch!

7. And finally, donors are sick of the solicitous nature of nonprofit communications.

No story sums this up better than the one about 92-year-old Olive Cooke (in Great Britain) who took her own life after receiving over 3,000 solicitations each year. Yuck!

Remember, you can view the entire webinar here anytime for free.

Fundraising Climate Change Webinar

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Richard Garrigan
Richard Garrigan
4 years ago


Thank you. Keep up the great work. I hope you are getting funded somehow some way to do your research.

Religion research superb as we are counsel to Catholic Organizations and will forward info to our clients and hope the phone rings or inbox dings for the book.


Richard P. Garrigan & Associates
Omaha, NE


Penny Harris, ACC
4 years ago

Hi Greg, From my 30 years of staff fundraising, consulting, and coaching this is my evolving view. Love your feedback.
Giving to help is a personal experience, something we have learned to do since childhood. As Seth Godin writes, ” You (fundraisers) can’t be seen until you can learn to see.” Fundraisers can create the experience for donors that values their commitment to make our communities better places to live. An organization’s donors can become a giving community renewing every year, instead of a list of donors. Fundraisers can lead in changing the culture of fundriasing from money focused to mission forced.

Michael J. Rosen
4 years ago

Greg, your post is excellent and points to a number of challenges facing the nonprofit sector. Unfortunately, I’m not sure whether there is the will and/or ability for the sector to successfully adapt. Nevertheless, I choose to remain hopeful. Last year, I wrote an article for Advancing Philanthropy magazine: “What Will It Take to Dramatically Increase Philanthropy?” (https://michaelrosensays.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/increasing-philanthropy-advancing-philanthropy-418.pdf)

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