Fundraising Published Date, 2024

Seizing The Moment: How To Leverage The Upcoming Election Season To Boost Nonprofit Fundraising

Created By: Gabe Dewey
May 16, 2024

Setting the Stage

As the November presidential election draws near, the battle for attention – and, critically, funding – intensifies, not just among candidates but also among nonprofits. Over the next seven months, these organizations will face the challenge of distinguishing their causes amid a deluge of fundraising efforts from political campaigns. This competition is heightened by the increased focus on financial commitments directed toward election campaigns, which can seemingly overshadow the ongoing needs of nonprofits.

Historical trends, data, and donor behaviors provide crucial insights into whether election seasons aid or hinder nonprofit fundraising efforts. More importantly, they inform strategies that nonprofits can employ to leverage the unique dynamics of an election year to enhance support. By understanding these patterns, nonprofits can better position themselves to capture donor attention and funding, turning the challenges of an election season into opportunities for growth and impact.

Understanding Historical Data and Trends

During a presidential election season, the surge of campaign advertisements and candidate appearances can seem to monopolize both donors’ attention and their financial contributions.

According to surveys conducted as part of American National Election Studies, Americans are now more likely to donate to political candidates and parties than they were twenty years ago.  Yet, the number of Americans writing a check for federal campaigns remains notably small compared to those supporting nonprofit organizations.

Data from Open Secrets highlights the relatively low percentage of the U.S. population that contributes significant amounts to federal political campaigns. In the 2015-2016 election cycle, for example, only about 0.51% of Americans donated more than $200 to federal candidates, political action committees (PACs), political parties, or outside groups. And during the 2020 election cycle, the percentages jumped to 1.44%. This uptick suggests growing political engagement among Americans, yet it remains a small fraction of the overall population actively contributing significant amounts to political groups and candidates.

Insights from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) reveal that presidential candidates raised and spent $4.1 billion in the 24 months of the 2019-2020 election cycle. Individual charitable giving, by contrast, eclipsed $319 billion in 2022 alone.

Moreover, in 2016, Blackbaud issued a report that refuted the myth that presidential elections dampen overall charitable donations. Instead, it revealed that donors who contributed to federal political campaigns in 2012 increased their charitable giving by 0.9% from 2011 to 2012, while those who abstained from political donations decreased their charity contributions by 2.1% during the same period.

Capitalizing on the Moment

Understanding that political donations during a presidential election do not adversely affect fundraising efforts by nonprofits, the focus shifts to how these organizations can leverage this period to enhance donor contributions. Even without deliberate action, many organizations see a significant boost in donor involvement, especially if their missions are perceived to be at risk due to the policies proposed by a leading candidate.

Regardless of whether a nonprofit is directly affected, election season encourages Americans to reflect deeper on the issues they hold most important. Election years – with their increased public discourse on social, economic, and environmental issues – stimulate a widespread consideration of societal challenges among the public.

This heightened awareness and attention can be quite effective for nonprofits looking to engage with potential and existing donors in meaningful ways. Here are several approaches to capitalize on this moment in time:

  • Leveraging Social Media: With more Americans engaged in political discussions through social media during election season, nonprofits can use these platforms to highlight their work, share impactful stories, and connect pressing issues within the political arena to their missions.
  • Community Events: Hosting forums, webinars, and community meetings (virtually or in-person) on relevant topics can help nonprofits galvanize support, offering a space for people to discuss their concerns and learn how they can contribute to solutions through donations or volunteer work.
  • Direct Appeals: Tailoring communications to demonstrate how individual contributions can make a tangible difference in addressing the issues highlighted by election debates produces a sense of urgency that can motivate donors to give, and give now.
  • Highlight Achievements: Showcasing successes and impact, particularly those relevant to hot-button issues, reinforces the nonprofit’s role in affecting positive change and encourages continued support.

By approaching election season as an opportunity for deeper engagement rather than potential threats to funding, nonprofits can not only sustain but potentially increase their fundraising efforts.

Looking Ahead to November

As November 5th draws nearer, nonprofit leaders should think intentionally about how to better engage their donors – capitalizing on this unique moment to harness heightened public engagement. Presidential election cycles do not inherently detract from charitable giving but can energize donors toward greater generosity. As this democratic process unfolds, nonprofits should lead with purpose, turning electoral energy into philanthropic action, thereby strengthening the foundations of American society.

Orr Group offers creative and sustainable solutions to help nonprofits fundraise effectively. Get in touch to learn more about how we can supply you with the people, resources, and customized approach you need to drive your mission forward.

Gabe Dewey is an Associate at Orr Group. Gabe brings a background in legislation and advocacy work to collaborate with our partners on developing and executing fundraising strategies that drive revenue to enhance programs and services.

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