The Blackbaud Institute’s Giving in an Election Year study has found that:
• Donors who gave to federal political campaigns during the 2012 election gave 0.9% more to charitable organizations than they had in the year prior
• Donors who did not give to a political campaign reduced their giving to charities by 2.1%
• These findings held true across all subsectors as well as demographic segments, including age range, household income, and head of household gender
Overall, political giving in federal campaign years has correlated with an increase in charitable giving from donors. Furthermore, political giving did not displace regular giving, but demonstrated how engaged supporters gave more to the causes they care about. This presents a valuable opportunity for fundraisers to harness these findings throughout their election year fundraising strategies.
Fundraising and nonprofit leaders can leverage the opportunities presented by election years. Nonprofits with programming related to prominent campaign issues can benefit from the spotlight that candidates place on certain themes. Public & Society Benefit and Environmental organizations have experienced increased giving when public discourse centers on their mission areas.
Focusing your efforts on several areas can prepare you for success:
• Prepare communications strategies in advance. With rapid news cycles and 24-hour media coverage, you’ll want to be prepared to keep your issue at the forefront of supporters’ minds. Have a communications campaign ready to go – complete with emails, talking points, social posts, graphics, and tweets. When and if your issue gains steam, you will be ready.
• Become a part of the debate. Take part in the discussions happening across popular media and ensure that you have content ready to share when candidates are both discussing and not discussing issues tied to your mission.
• Repeat your asks. Organizations shouldn’t fear recycling posts or asking for supporters to take action more than once. A lot can happen throughout an election cycle, and several repeated asks can help convey the importance of taking action.
Organizations can position themselves to respond by preparing thoughtful calls to action, social media posts, email campaigns, and donation pages if they suddenly receive a jump in attention from politically attuned supporters.
Organizations should pay special attention to the major donors whose engagement in politics is known – particularly if the organization’s mission and programs are tied to issues surfaced in an election. Donors who give to political campaigns while supporting other nonprofits are indicating a capacity for increased giving. The more you understand your donors’ preferences, the more you can tailor your outreach and communications to those interests and steward them and their connection to your cause.
Election years present many opportunities, including the chance to emphasize retention across your organization. By connecting your cause to the political discourse, you’ll welcome new donors into the fold. In particular, data from the Giving in an Election Year study has found that young donors between the ages of 25 and 34 are especially likely to be inspired by political campaigns to increase their charitable giving. As you welcome these donors, remember that they are entering a prime age range in which giving habits are established. Steward these donors to ensure you can continue to build strong relationships over time.