Fundraising in an Election Year

I might be alone here, but I have really been enjoying our late spring warmth.  The evenings are just magical, and though I am not a native Tucsonan, I am from the tropics of Florida, and I love walking out of a chilly movie theatre into the warm sunshine…

At our Fundraiser’s Forum last month, a question came up about fundraising in an election year – does it impact how much our donors give to nonprofits?  If so, how? We planned to have a discussion about it, but Blackbaud came to our rescue with a very well-timed webinar on that very subject, and the findings were so clear and helpful that we decided to share them with everyone!

The first finding: elections don’t impact donations to nonprofits very much.  The surprising thing is that people who donate to political campaigns typically donate a little more to philanthropic causes in election years (about 1% more, so don’t get too excited). However, people who don’t donate to political campaigns typically donate about 2% less than in non-election years.  Overall it seems to balance out.

How do you know where your major donors fall?  You can check with the Federal Election Commission, which publishes any political donation over $200.  They only list first name, last name, and zip code, but there are rarely duplicates even with just those three data points.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Don’t waste your resources on new donor acquisition this year – the election will make people less receptive.  You’re better off emphasizing retention.

  • Be aware of peak election-frenzy times.  You probably don’t want to schedule your gala for election night, or a major mail campaign for the few weeks before.

  • Use this as an opportunity to step up your advocacy game.  Jenny and I recently attended an ‘Advocacy 101’ workshop, and the big takeaway was that politicians really do listen to the people who come talk to them, so go talk to them!  Really as often as you can – if you aren’t telling them how to make our community stronger, someone else is…

  • To access the full report (a free download from Blackbaud), click on the graphic below.


Screenshot 2016-05-23 11.03.29


All my best,

Hanna 2016

Hanna J. Miller