I get things wrong all the time.
Back in 1993 when I quit my first ‘real’ job in the newspaper business I predicted printed newspapers would be gone by now. Sure, they are having a hard time these days but they are still kicking!
A couple of years ago, I predicted Hillary Clinton would be president (I don’t think I was the only one).
And, earlier this year, I predicted the Rams would win the Super Bowl.
But here’s one I got right.
A while back, when I saw all the drama unfolding over the Tax Law and the Lilly School’s dire prediction of it resulting in a loss of $13 billion in charitable dollars, I just had to save every doomsday article I could find because I thought they were dead wrong. Some even predicted a $24 billion decline. Boy were they off base!
What really happened?
Well, according to my handy, dandy little Fundraising Report Card app (which I give away to thousands of organizations for free… imagine that?… a software vendor who actually ‘gets’ philanthropy… and yes I guess I’m bragging about it) giving in 2018 actually went up by about $10 billion, not down by $12 to $24 billion.
NOTE: Don’t go shouting about that figure just yet since we’re still analyzing the data. We’ve got almost 4,300 organizations supplying data and we’re measuring over $40 billion in charitable donations.
Egg meet face.
The prognosticators were wrong! After all, people don’t give for the tax write-offs. They give to feel good! Unfortunately, too many don’t understand that simple notion.
Plus, donors are NOT disappearing!
Duh! That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. Yet I keep hearing people say, “The donors are disappearing. It must be the economy. It must be income inequality. It must be President Trump!”
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
Look, the U.S. population is only growing (more potential donors)! Wages are increasing (by 2.1% over the past year). Unemployment is low and employment across the board is high.
How on earth can donors be disappearing? Of course, they aren’t!
Here’s what’s happening: Donors are fed up!
I wrote about this at length in my book and I’ve been shouting about it for a decade. What’s happening is what I call Fundraising Climate Change (a phrase I coined a long time ago… honestly I can’t remember exactly when).
The so-called ‘disappearing donors’ are simply tired of being treated unfairly. So they’re spending their hard-earned dollars elsewhere. Can you blame them?
Why on earth would they give their money to charities that betray their trust by selling their names to competitors, that fail to say thank you with emotion (always remember, donors don’t want to be thanked, they want to feel good and feel appreciated), that pelt them with irrelevant SPAM, that annoy them with telemarketing, and that harm the environment with solicitous, unrewarding, gimmicky junk mail?
Instead, they can go to Starbucks and add some pep to their day with friends. Or, they can get their car washed so they feel renewed and confident that they are protecting their investment. Also, they can buy a book to escape reality or learn something new. Or go to the movies. Or do a bazillion other things. I wrote about this in more detail last year here.
Get the drift?
Donors aren’t disappearing. The drop in low-dollar donations isn’t caused by some income inequality boogeyman. No, they’re simply finding value elsewhere.
That’s right! Because you aren’t just competing with other charities…. You’re competing with anyone and any business that wants your donors’ share of wallet and is willing to provide more value to them than you. You’re competing with anyone and any business that is willing to treat people kindly. And, you’re competing with anyone or any business that has amazing leadership willing to change with the times!
The donors are still here.
They never left! In fact, it’s the nonprofit sector’s poor treatment of them and lack of interest in changing with the times that needs to disappear.
So, for those of you who heard me call bullsh#t on the bogus prognostications way back then… here are the ridiculous dire predictions I saved. Let’s take a victory lap together. We were right; they were wrong.
Are you surprised? I’m not.
>>3 Reasons Why You Need to Stop Worrying About the Darn Tax Law
>>Now Available Dr Russell James Visual Planned Giving Textbook Updated for the 2018 Tax Law
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Greg, I’m with you on this. For a longtime, I’ve felt like a salmon swimming upstream. Prognosticators kept pitching doom-and-gloom scenarios regarding the new tax code’s predicted impact on philanthropy. Fundraising professionals began wringing their hands or, worse yet, embracing the doom-and-gloom stories to secure their latest excuse for missing goal. Through it all, like you, I remained optimistic. Now, I remain with you. It does feel good to say, “I told you so.” But, will any of those doomsayers apologize or correct their original stories? I suspect most won’t. So, I’m glad you called many of them out.
Thanks Michael. It’s always great to have you on the team!!
[…] In fact, as a few of my favorite industry pundits have put it, most of the doom and gloom about fundraising results is overblown, tax policy didn’t really have that much impact and most of the problem is how we’re enga… […]