The Election Year Fundraising Myth

Every election year, non-profit organizations inevitably start worrying about what to do differently to protect revenue and avoid losing valuable donors. Suspicion builds about the growing attention to the Presidential race, thinking it will become a major distraction to giving.

Total_contributionsAfter all, modern Presidential campaigns utilize some of the most advanced new fundraising methods, and candidates are relying more and more on smaller donations to support their race to the White House.

It’s true that total contributions to political campaigns have grown significantly over the past decade, but most contributions are actually coming from a small number of very wealthy families. And the rise of political fundraising hasn’t stopped charitable giving from growing for the 5th straight year, according to Charity Navigator and Giving USA.

In 2016, what do you need to do to avoid getting crushed by these political fundraising giants?


Donors giving less to charities during election years is a myth.

I’ve seen too many organizations naively reduce their marketing budget during an election year, especially acquisition, afraid of getting poor results because they think that donors only focus on elections (and not giving to charities) at this time. Unfortunately, while I don’t believe the election will result in less giving, slashing your marketing budget certainly will. The worst thing you can do during an election year is communicate less with your donors.

Avoid making major shifts in your strategy and budget this year solely based on the election, because it should have little to no effect on donor giving decisions. And research proves it.

Blackbaud recently released a report on Giving in an Election Year that completely contradicts the notion that Presidential fundraising decreases charitable support in election years. Donors who gave to federal political campaigns in 2012 gave 0.9% more to charitable organizations than they had given in 2011.

Only 0.5% of all charitable donors even make donations to federal election campaigns, and even if they do, there’s nothing to suggest they won’t continue to support your cause this year.

The hard facts are also backed up by a recent survey conducted by Campbell Rinker, indicating that most donors plan to give the same or more than they gave in 2015 to charitable causes. None of those planning to give less even mentioned the upcoming election. In addition, survey responders indicated that one of the most important reasons they would increase giving to a charity had to do with the way they were treated after giving a gift.

This means your focus this year should be the same as any other year, election or not. Stick with best practices that establish and build healthy relationships with donors.