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Giving Trends in Annual Giving

By Cynthia Woolbright

It’s vital to keep abreast of trends in annual giving. Here we have a few of the more notable trends.

Some of the trends in annual giving include, but are not limited to: an increase in donor advised funds; an increase in on-line giving; increases in organizational giving; a decrease in the past few years in overall individual giving as we learn more about the full impact of the 2017 tax laws and donor behavior and motivation.

According to the Voluntary Support of Education, we are witnessing a decline in giving to education, which is down 1.3% (when adjusted for inflation it is down 3.7%). Personal giving overall declined in 2019. Is this the result of the tax laws, changes in donor giving behavior, or something else?

We also know that more annual giving programs are segmenting their strategies, whether by affinity or generation. Data is more readily available for us to dig deeper into these segments, especially behavioral assessments. Businesses and vendors are providing much more support in our profession for deeper dives, more digital support, more stewardship opportunities and more.

We recently asked some colleagues about trends they are seeing. Beth Marks, Director of The Stuart Fund and Planned Giving at Stuart School in New Jersey, is seeing a growing trend of donors giving through their advised fund. She also offered that donors are focusing their gifts on end results, which centers on how students are making an impact on others and changing the world for the betterment of others.

As donors become more sophisticated in their giving, the desire to target their gifts become increasingly important. According to Marks, donors are identifying areas such as STEM, arts, athletics, faculty and leadership development, and financial aid rather than the general, annual fund. They “are craving” tangible programs and want giving to be easy, noted Marks.

Donors are more interested in specific areas and they want to know how students and their alumni are impacting the world. Here, Marks added, is where the narrative is extremely valuable. Demonstrating the story is more important than ever and donors don’t mind being asked multiple times for gifts.

Knowing trends and keeping fresh are vital, yet there remains the importance of engagement strategies with our alumni before an ask. Building relationships is key even in the Annual Fund!

Ask your colleagues at other institutions what they are doing to increase and retain their donors and dollars. CASE is a great way to develop or enhance your network.


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