During election years, news stories abound describing the record amounts of money raised by candidates. With so many philanthropic dollars going toward political campaigns, it is natural to ask, “Will this presidential election impact my organization’s fundraising in 2016?”

Numerous studies have shown that, while nonprofit organizations tend to experience concern that philanthropic dollars will be scarce during election years, there is little evidence to substantiate those fears. The marketing agency Merkle posits that political donors and traditional donors are from totally different demographics, while Dunham and Company suggests that the election does not affect giving because most giving is not planned, but is likely “impulse-driven.”

In fact, the latter study found that, among those donors who planned to give less in 2016, their reasons for doing so had little to do with the election, and more to do with the quality of treatment they received from the organizations they supported in 2015.

In light of this information, we are reminded of the importance of providing meaningful Return on Philanthropic Investments (ROPI) by meeting donor expectations and sharing the impact of contributions. As evidenced by the high percentage of one-time donors (Giving USA reported donor retention at 46% in 2015), most contributions are not stewarded in such a way that donors feel compelled to give again.

Here are three tips for avoiding donor dissatisfaction and ensuring that 2016 remains a strong year for philanthropy at your organization:

1. Don’t accept contributions you don’t need.

This might seem counterintuitive, but consider the frustration donors feel when they invest their philanthropic dollars in a project or program they are passionate about, only to find that the organization is not prioritizing that project. Instead, can you locate one of that donor’s philanthropic passions that aligns with one of your organizations funding priorities?

2. Establish and meet realistic expectations.

Big, bold dreams inspire donors—but they also can take a considerable investment of time and work to become realities. Some contributions may take a long time to produce the outcomes donors want to see. Be up front about this fact, and then share updates—even if the update isn’t always good news.

3. Rely on a mixture of loyalty and passion.

Loyalty gifts are wonderful to have—they keep programs running and show that donors are committed to your organization’s mission. But eventually, donors grow fatigued when they give only loyalty gifts. It may well be that many of the 54% of donors who choose not to give again do so because they weren’t emotionally invested in the first place. Help donors find the place where their passions and your mission meet, and they won’t grow tired of giving.

This election season—and at all times—ensure that donors feel appreciated and valued, setting the stage for future contributions.


Interested in more ideas for how to provide meaningful Return on Philanthropic Investments? Click below to download a complimentary copy of the “Beyond Stewardship” infographic.

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