Survey Says: Are Local Fundraisers Too Pessimistic About COVID-19 Effects?

Happy smiley knocking out sad smileysNational and local surveys compared to reveal reasons for optimism

Fundraisers in Southeastern Wisconsin may be too gloomy about the effects of COVID-19 on donor behavior.

That is the unscientific implication of two recent surveys: a national poll that asked donors how they expect to change their patterns of giving in 2020, and another probing AFPSEWI members’ expectations of their own donors.  As a general finding, national donors’ willingness to continue their philanthropic giving is greater than local fundraisers are expecting.

In March, Fidelity Charitable surveyed 1900 donors nationwide who had donated at least $1000 to charity in 2019. In the first week of May, an AFPSEWI poll received 75 responses from local fundraisers who answered questions patterned on the same ones Fidelity had asked of donors.

Regarding expected donations, 54% of national donors said the amount of their giving would not change in 2020 – and 25% indicated they would actually increase their giving. Only 11% of AFPSEWI members expected giving to stay the same and 52% expected to receive less.

Among those who anticipated less giving in 2020, 58% of donors pointed to “Uncertainty about my income this year” and another 58% cited “Worry about recession and the economy” as their reasons for expecting to give less.  Locally, 74% and 63% of fundraisers expect these respective concerns to drive their donors’ behavior.

National donors and local fundraisers who expect more giving in 2020 agree that donors understand the great need and want to help.  However, 42% of donors surveyed indicated they would expand their giving to additional nonprofits that were directly helping with coronavirus; only 19% of local fundraisers anticipated that motivation.

Regarding volunteer time, 43% of Fidelity’s respondents said they would increase or continue their personal volunteering at 2020 levels.  Only 16% of local fundraisers are expecting volunteer commitments to increase or stay the same.

Extrapolating the responses of two different populations at two different points in time cannot be scientifically relied on.  However, if the national numbers do apply to Southeastern Wisconsin donors, then AFPSEWI members have reason to take heart and continue their fundraising with renewed optimism.