Will Midterm Election Fundraising Impact Year-End Giving?
The upcoming midterm elections are more hotly contested than others in recent years, evidenced by the record-breaking fundraising hauls enjoyed by Democratic candidates across the United States. Take, for example, Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke; the Texas Democrat raised a remarkable $38 million over the past four months, which is the highest quarterly fundraising total on record for any Senate candidate in history.
Democrats have generally smashed fundraising records this cycle, cultivating a notable financial edge in an astonishing 53 out of 72 House races. Grassroots donors made this situation possible. Hot button issues ranging from immigration to transgender rights have sparked political passions in millions of engaged donors, resulting in an incredible fundraising windfall.
There is, however, a question lingering over these midterms that could have a major impact on nonprofits: will donor fatigue set in following November 6?
The amount of philanthropic dollars that Americans donate is projected to shrink as we close the first calendar year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The GOP’s legislation eliminated incentives for most donors and encouraged the use of Donor Advised Funds for wealthy individuals, which provide a tax incentive up front without actually making a donation to a cause. An exhausted donor base could further exacerbate this situation, as ground swell supporters who have already donated to their preferred candidates and political causes take stock of their contributions for the year.
There are concrete steps your nonprofit can take to ensure fundraising success during this period. Focus your year-end giving efforts on building affinity for your organization and the work you do. Make a strong case for support that aligns closely with your donor base’s priorities. Identify relevant activities happening locally, nationally and internationally that will appeal to your supporters’ generosity. Donors came out in droves to support immigration-related nonprofits after stories broke of children being ripped from their families. Appealing to your supporters’ compassion and ethical stances while connecting them to your organization’s work addressing those issues will make a big difference this fall.
Though far from conclusive, some evidence from previous election cycles indicates that donor fatigue does not necessarily factor in to year-end giving, as politically active contributors from all economic brackets continued their philanthropic giving throughout the holiday season. These days, however, historical and political norms are destroyed seemingly every month. Nonprofit professionals would be wise to consider the worst case scenario and plan accordingly.