Across the world, 2017 was a year defined by change and uncertainty. We saw our landscape shaped by political divides, natural disasters, and tense reform. And the question all along has been: through all this tumult, how was philanthropy affected?
This 2017 Charitable Giving Report gives us our first means of answering that question through data. The data supports many of the trends we saw shaping up over the year. As political rifts deepened around us and natural disasters called on our reflexes to help, more and more people started to get involved directly with the causes that matter to them. Many organizations have seen a huge influx of new donors, particularly when their causes are in the political spotlight. While new donors are less likely to continue their support long-term, organizations willing to put in the effort for strong stewardship will likely find many of these passionate supporters sticking around.
In the same theme, the ways in which people donated throughout 2017 continued to shift the donor into the driver’s seat. Giving platforms and other intermediaries such as donor-advised funds (DAFs) continued to proliferate, allowing donors even more avenues for giving. Though the donor may enjoy the increased options, organizations still struggle with the complexities of not having a direct tie to the people giving them money. As these giving vehicles play a much larger role in philanthropy, nonprofits are navigating the intricacies of soliciting and acknowledging those gifts. Organizations continue to test and learn the balance between democratizing giving and setting guidelines that still allow them to represent their mission and connect with donors.
Perhaps the most momentous change to philanthropy in 2017 happened in the last few weeks of the year: the passing of the new federal tax law. With so little time between the passing of the law and the end-of-year giving season, it remains to be seen how many donors and organizations responded directly to the reform by changing their giving and fundraising habits.
For now, what is certain is that a focus on the fundamentals of fundraising and relationship building has never been more important. Organizations facing tight budgets and changing market conditions must steward their donors and retain them, with the knowledge that previous giving incentives like tax deductions may not be enough to keep donations coming in.
Overall, the full effects of 2017’s many shakeups will take time to show themselves. As our first glimpse into the data behind the trends, the 2017 Charitable Giving Report offers us a place to start.