You’re not alone if it’s feeling harder to raise money as the year winds down. Late November’s stock market rally may help, but it’s still been a tough year.

Indeed, the Winona Community Foundation is here to help you maximize your efforts to grow your endowment and reserve funds, even in a roller coaster market, and also help you facilitate complex gifts where the Foundation can serve as your partner to receive transfers of alternative assets such as real estate and closely-held stock. We can even help you work with a donor who wants to give an alternative asset to benefit your organization along with other organizations. We strive to ensure that no philanthropy is left on the table as you work with donors who are passionate about supporting your mission!

Here’s the reality we’re all dealing with in the philanthropic sector. Though 12-month results for the period ending September 30 have been encouraging for many, more recent year-over-year results for 2022’s third quarter were universally down according to the Blackbaud Institute Index. It reported that organizations raising annual revenues in three ranges—up to $1 million, $1 – 10 million, and $10 million or more—experienced declines of 3.5% to nearly 5% from July to September.

The reasons for the declines are all too familiar:

  • Inflation and fears that it will continue are cutting into donors’ ability to give. Though the inflation rate is widely reported as nearly 8%, it’s likely higher for many willing to calculate a personal inflation rate based on their household’s consumption. There’s just no getting around the high cost of food, shelter, energy and transportation.
  • Covid repercussions and threats of new strains have hampered attendance and participation at in-person events that enjoyed robust turnouts through 2019. While in-person events are making a comeback, attendance is still not back to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Broad stock market declines of 20% or more have reduced the number of appreciated stocks that have traditionally been a gifting source for those donors who’ve benefited from the gains, and people are still feeling the sting even with the recent stock market rally.
  • Fears of recession have grown from “maybe” to “likely” in the minds of many economic analysts as the year has progressed.
  • Job insecurity, amplified by weekly news of layoffs, may be rattling donor confidence, particularly in the tech sector.

All that said—nonprofits, the people who run them and those who support them—are, by definition, an optimistic bunch. In good times or bad, we believe that better days are ahead, filled with hope and promises of progress.

And there are reasons to be hopeful!

Year-over-year fundraising results for the 12 months ended September 30, 2022 were encouraging despite concerns about third quarter results. Blackbaud reported increases of 6.4% – 7.7% for all organizational size categories. For medium and large-sized nonprofits, online fundraising grew by more than 5%. Reaching more donors via digital channels offers broad opportunities for new and sustained conversions.

Another bright spot is that unemployment is low and steady, mirroring 2019 levels; 4.0% was recorded in January and subsequent months leveled off near 3.5% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite inflation, earners largely have a heart for others and a willingness to help.

As your fundraising efforts advance into year end and beyond, it’s wise to know where your money comes from and diversify your fundraising. Apply the same logic to your fundraising as you do to your retirement savings account and avoid reliance on any one tactic in particular.

To that end, now is also the time to take a closer look at your endowment and reserve funds and continue to raise the subject of bequests, planned gifts, and endowment gifts with your donors.

If you’ve already established a legacy society, evaluate what you can do to deepen legacy donor engagement. Review your list of legacy donors and dates of last contact and look for patterns. If it’s been more than a year since you talked with a legacy donor, make a plan for personal outreach in the first quarter of 2023. While it’s true that most charitable giving occurs during the fourth quarter, the beginning of the year can be an excellent time to talk with donors about planned gifts and bequests. Many donors set goals at the beginning of each year to update estate plans, so that’s a perfect time for your organization to be top of mind. If your organization has not yet established a legacy society, now may be the time to do it.

Remember, when you are working with legacy donors and their advisors. make sure that any legal documents related to a planned gift not only properly name your organization using its exact legal name and, ideally, location, but also include protective language such as “and its successors” in case your organization ever merges with another entity. Reach out to the Foundation for assistance with complex cases; frequently a designated fund at the Winona Community Foundation can meet both your organization’s goals and your donor’s goals while ensuring that the donor’s intentions are not thwarted by future, unforeseen legal issues.

The net-net? If you’re experiencing the frustrations of fundraising, a good remedy may be to find the hope that you want donors to see in your own organization, especially as you communicate to donors that your organization is here for the long term, and they can be an integral part of ensuring its future by supporting your endowment.