Fundraising Will Get Harder: How to Succeed When It Does

A few weeks ago, Inside Philanthropy posted a great article that exposed the future of giving back and the uphill battle fundraisers will face in the coming years. The article shared eye-opening statistics that if utilized properly, can help one create a game plan for growth no matter what the economy brings.

To summarize the article, it stressed how gifts from mid-level donors, small level contributors and those who made repeat gifts are on the decline. Experts are forecasting that multiple factors will effect the success of fundraising efforts:

  • Receiving lower than expected refunds following the 2017 tax reform may effect charitable giving in the years to follow
  • IRS data has shown that individuals under 55 years of age reduced their giving during the recession, and have not given back to charities like they have in years’ prior
  • Studies show that the median net worth of households fell for every age group with the exception of those 75 years and older. For individuals in older age brackets who usually make their largest gifts, contributions fell as well
  • While baby boomers continue to be the largest supporters of charity, subsequent generations will be smaller in size and harder to reach. Millennials and Generation X for instance may face other pressing needs, such as paying back student loan debt and experiencing lower wages


So with this culmination of factors, what should one do now? 


As an athletics fundraiser, commit to growing the future of your development department. This can be done in many ways, but I suggest spending time investing in constituencies that historically aren’t given TLC. A few suggestions I have include:

Understand Who Your Alumni Really Are: Understand alumni’s current interests and segment your donor groups very specifically. Do your alumni have the same interests as they did in college? Where do they work and do they have a family? Are they consistent donors or do they give to specific groups on campus?

Unlike in years past, you cannot segment these groups just by wealth scores. Instead, focus on interests, economic circumstances, giving history and more. As an athletics fundraiser, create as many ‘layers’ or segments as possible for your donors so that you can better connect with them over the long haul. Their interests as a former athlete might have changed dramatically since graduation.


Play the Long Game: Don’t make the mistake of asking for too much too soon. Instead, take the time to educate yourself on the culture of your school, the history of philanthropy at your institution and what motivates your donors. Invest in strategies or programs that will help grow your donor base instead of a quick crowdfunding subscription for a giving day. Play the long game.


Highlight ALL Donors: Stop highlighting donors that make major gifts. Showcase the accomplishments of your most recent alumni, such as service awards, family announcements, work awards and more. If you haven’t already, create a giving society for young alumni that’s inclusive for all, especially for groups with student loan debt and modest starting salaries.


Being strategic and patient requires a unique acceptance from your department, university board, etc.  Results won’t happen right away, but understand that you are investing in a strategy and process that will eventually yield great results. Similar to athletes: starting spots, first place trophies, scholarships, or opportunities to play professionally don’t happen after a few years of practice. Instead, it takes years of strategy, commitment, consistency. With patience, fundraisers can make it happen. 🙂