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Year-End Giving Trends: 2012 Poll Results

November 16, 2012

 
 

We recently invited donors and charities to take part in a poll about their year-end giving plan and expectations for 2012. 175 donors and 40 charities completed our survey. Below is a closer look at the results, which is an update to last year’s more extensive survey (which tabulated responses from 565 donors and 101 charities).

Importance of Year-End Donations

First, we wanted to set the stage and understand the importance of year-end giving to the average charity’s bottom line. So, the first question we asked the charities was “what percentage of annual contributions from individuals does your charity receive at year-end (roughly speaking the time from Thanksgiving to New Years)?" The answers ranged from 3% to 90%. But on average, these charities receive 40% of their annual contributions in the last few weeks of the year! For the charities in this survey, that equates to $600,000 (median value) in donations.

And if we probe deeper it appears that online giving, probably due to its convenience, may actually be stronger during the holidays than other types of giving. Specifically, Network for Good reports that >30% of annual giving via their donation processing system occurs during December. Furthermore, 10% of the donations they process annually come in on the last 2 days of the year.

Donors’ Plans for 2012Year-End Giving

Of the donors that took our survey, 85% donated during the 2011 year-end giving season.  Even more (88%), plan to give this year-end giving season.

  • Of those that are planning to give this year, 56% of donors expect to give the same amount as last year, 29% will give more, and 15% will give less.
  • Of the 15% donors that plan to give less, 46% expect to give up to 15% less.  But although most of these donors anticipate a modest drop in their giving a whopping 23% expect to give as much as 50% less. 
  • Of the 29% of donors that plan to donate more this year, a full 75% expect to give only up to 15% more.

Charities’ Expectations for 2012 Year-End Giving

Of the charities that took our poll this year, 51% of the charities anticipate that giving this year-end will be about the same as last year-end, 32% anticipate giving will be greater and 6% anticipate that it will be less.

  • On average, those predicting that giving to their charity will be lower this year-end giving season expect a decrease of 15% which equates to more than $800,000.
  • On average, those expecting an increase in giving this year-end season say that contributions will grow by 13% which amounts to roughly $114,000. 

Importance of Various Issues When Selecting a Charity 

We asked both the donors and the charities to tell us how important various issues are when a donor is considering which charity to support. We wanted to see if there were in any gaps between what donors said was important and what charities believed their donors find to be important. Specifically, we asked the respondents to indicate the importance of each of these factors on a scale of 1 (not important to my decision to support a particular charity) to 5 (very important to my decision to support a particular charity).

The charity’s level of Accountability and Transparency (this includes ethics, good governance, and disclosure practices)?

  • 67% of donors ranked this issue a 5 (very important to my decision to support a particular charity).
  • Only 22% of charities believe their donors rank this very important.

The CEO’s salary

  • 31% of donors ranked this as very important
  • Not one of the charities believe their donors rank this as very important

The charity’s Financial Health (including how much of my donation will be spent on programs)

  • 76% of donors ranked this as very important
  • 57% of charities believe their donors rank this as very important

The charity’s results (evidence of their effectiveness)

  • 61% of donors ranked this as very important
  • 59% of charities believe their donors rank this as very important

My familiarity with the charity

  • 36% of donors ranked this as very important
  • 57% of charities believe their donors rank this as very important

Factors that Motivate Year-End Giving

Finally, we explored some of the reasons why people are more motivated to give at the end of the year. Specifically, we asked the respondents to indicate the importance of each of these factors on a scale of 1 (least important) to 5 (most important).

Receiving an appeal from the charity

  • 7% of donors ranked this as highly motivating factor

The religious/ altruistic spirit of the holiday season

  • 10% of donors ranked this as very motivating

Tax benefits

  • 13% of donors ranked this as very motivating

None of the reasons we suggested (tax benefits, receiving an appeal from a charity, the altruistic spirit of the holidays) really resonated with the donors for why they give around the year-end holidays. This result is somewhat suspect, especially with regards to the tax benefits (gifts must be made before Jan 1 if donors want to claim them as a charitable deduction for the year). What else could be responsible for Network for Good processing 10% of annual donations in the last two days of the year with a significant spike between Noon and 7pm on December 31st? 

   
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