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7 Takeaways From Donors About Charitable Behavior in an Uncertain Economy

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By Jess Woloszyn

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Published November 16, 2022 Reading Time: 4 minutes

No one thought interest rates would spike to fight 40-year-high inflation rates and the word recession would pop into headlines weekly in 2022, but here we are. Then there’s the confusion about how charitable giving changes as the economy shifts, which is also real.

Uncertain times can either ignite people to help the rising demand for support or cause them to pull back. To get the clarity nonprofits seek, Classy surveyed 1,000 US donors. Unsurprisingly, our report found that the 2020 pandemic introduced an air of resilience in uncertain times that showcased the strength of the social sector and those who fund it.

Whether it’s an unforeseen health crisis or a changing economy, our data continuously points to donors who do their best to give when their communities need it most. Here, we’re digging into our September 2022 survey of 1,000 nationwide donors to showcase their shared takeaways about how the economy impacts their giving behaviors.

7 Takeaways From Donors About Charitable Behavior in an Uncertain Economy

1. Donors Are Concerned About the Economy

We found that nearly half of US donors share a pessimistic view of the economy. And while the remaining group of donors is mainly neutral, we see that 29% still have optimism for what’s to come.

Uncertainty of any kind in the economy is likely to cause concerns, significantly when prices are rising around us. People are exposed to constant news coverage and projections that seem to share different forecasts for what’s to come, which can also cause people to air on the side of caution.

However, as you go through these takeaways, you’ll see that charitable giving isn’t always a reflection of how a donor views the economy.

2. The Majority of Donors Made Changes to Their Lifestyle

It’s natural to see people take proactive steps to secure their financial position, especially in times of economic uncertainty. It’s crucial for nonprofits to understand this when crafting appeals during economic fluctuations.

We saw that 77% of donors made financial changes to their lifestyles in response to the economy, with 22% making changes they considered significant. Bloomberg’s insights mirrored this, showcasing that US consumers are considering a tighter spending budget for the 2022 holiday season.

While for-profits may see significant changes in how people spend their money, nonprofit organizations could see daily spending cuts in donations.

3. The Cost of Giving Doesn’t Mirror the Cost of Living

Americans are stepping up to meet the increased demand for support from nonprofit organizations and seeing the importance of their contributions. Coming in at the highest percentage we’ve seen in the last four years, 90% of US donors plan to meet their generous giving levels from 2021 or increase it for the 2022 season.

And when more communities need support, the call to help seems to resonate more with donors who see an opportunity to make an impact. So despite constantly changing financial situations, it’s still critical for nonprofits to consider asking for donations. What we hope you take away, however, is that donors are ready to help when they find organizations they trust and rely on to help solve challenges that resonate with them.

4. Many Donors Intentionally Save Money to Donate

Wonder why we see increased giving potential as more donors express concerns over the economy? It makes more sense when you see how they make their donations possible, even in times of financial strain.

We saw that 39% of donors made minor changes and sacrifices in their daily expenses to ensure they had funds to donate in 2022. Across the board, we also saw that over half of donors plan for donations in their budgeting.

Understanding how US donors prioritize their giving behaviors over their personal costs gives us a window into why they continue to give. Next, we’ll share a deeper look into the internal motivations that keep charitable giving top of mind.

5. A Subset of Passionate Donors Will Increase Contributions

Over a quarter of all US donors plan to give more in 2022 than they gave in 2021. We asked that group of donors why they plan to donate more to help nonprofits craft thoughtful, relationship-building strategies.

The Top Reasons Donors Will Give More in 2022

  1. The donor’s passion recently increased
  2. The need for donations recently increased
  3. The cause’s relevance recently increased

This year’s report also separated loyal donors, who give a recurring gift or gave at least three times in the past five years to the same organization, and passive donors. Loyal donors not only plan to give donations 4x the amount that passive supporters plan to give in 2022, but they’re also more resilient in the face of financial stress.

As you dig into the full report online, you’ll see just how to connect with loyal donors and ways to convert passive interest into long-term relationships that can sustain your organization through any future uncertainties.

6. Options Keep Donors From Canceling Donations

Not all donors can continue to give at the amounts they might have if their financial situations hadn’t changed. Still, it’s essential to see that many will change their donations over canceling them entirely.

When you think about recurring contributions, in particular, each cancellation regularly impacts the predictability of income. That’s why we asked donors what would prevent them from canceling a monetary donation.

The responses show that donors would not cancel if the organization offered them the ability to change the donation amount (e.g., reduce the donation by 50%) or the donation frequency (e.g., bimonthly to monthly). These small changes add up when you can retain donors through more challenging times and invite them back to give more as they feel comfortable doing so.

7. Donors Are Showing Nonmonetary Support

There’s value in the way donors step up to the plate to provide nonmonetary support too. In fact, 56% of surveyed donors have already shown nonmonetary support to organizations they feel connected to or plan to by the end of 2022.

Why America Gives showed everything from volunteering time and physical goods donations to advocating to spreading awareness of a cause from today’s donors. This is why it’s a great time to lean on supporters to fill gaps through volunteer time and food or clothing donations. That way, you’re still building relationships and igniting their inner passion for helping, keeping your organization top of mind when they talk to their friends and family or decide to donate a monetary donation again in the future.

Build Loyalty That Outlasts Economic Fluctuations

As you build your new year strategies and determine the best way to stay connected to donors, we’re here to help. Find all the insights we’ve shared here today and so much more to help you foster loyalty among new and existing donors in Why America Gives 2022.

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Get the full data set in our latest report

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