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Charity Navigator's Year-End Giving Survey

December 17, 2008


We recently invited all of the 5,300 plus charities on our site to take part in a survey about the importance of year-end giving to their charity’s bottom line. Via this survey, we also sought to gain a better understanding of the impact that the sour economy is having on fundraising. About 14% of charities responded (generally 10% or better is considered quite good for a survey). They indicated that year-end gifts count for more than a quarter of their annual contributions. And most of them are bracing for a drop in year-end gifts this year versus last.


Below is a closer look at the results.


Question 1: Typically, what percentage of annual contributions does your charity receive at year-end (roughly speaking the time from Thanksgiving to New Years)?


Of the 741 charities that answered this question, the median percentage of their annual contributions that they generate between Thanksgiving and New Years is 29%. Arts, Culture, Humanities and Religion charities raise the least at this time of year (median value of 20%), while Environment and Human Services charities report that they bring in the most (median value of 30%). Larger charities, those with budgets greater than $13.5 million, show a greater dependence on year-end giving (median value of 30%) than those with smaller budgets (median value of 25%).


The above data gives us greater insight into total year-end giving to charities. But 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 45% of annual giving via their online donation system occurs during December and that this figure has remained consistent (within 5%) since 2003. Of the charities that responded to our survey, 17% bring in at least 45% of their annual contributions during the holidays and 9% bring in at least 60%.

Question 2: Given the current economic slump, how confident are you that you'll meet your goal for year-end giving?

The charities responses to this question paint a mixed fundraising outlook. Few of the charities were completely confident (5%) or very confident (14%) in their ability to meet their year-end giving goal. The majority of charities were somewhat confident (43%), although almost as many were not confident (39%). Religion charities expressed the greatest confidence (10% completely confident) while International charities expressed the least (15% not confident at all). Fundraisers seem to be more hopeful in the Southwest and Mountain West (8% completely confident), than those in the South (14% not confident at all).

 Completely ConfidentVery ConfidentSomewhat ConfidentNot Very ConfidentNot Confident at All
Arts, Culture, Humanities2%14%47%24%13%
Human Services6%22%44%24%4%
Public Benefit8%8%50%23%11%


Question 3: If you anticipate a decrease in funding this year-end giving season as compared to the 2007 year-end giving season, how much by percentage?


Although  a majority of the charities stated they are at least somewhat confident that they’ll meet this year’s goals, their goals appear to be less aggressive than last year. We come to this conclusion because, even though they expect to meet their goals, 84% indicated they expect to bring in less money this holiday giving season as compared to last. Therefore we assume they’ve already adjusted their goals for the economic downturn. 


Specifically, the median charity anticipates a decline of 15% in year-end giving in 2008 versus 2007. International charities are predicting the largest decline (median decline of 20%), while Animals, Arts, Culture, Humanities and Health charities are forecasting the smallest drop in year-end gifts (median decline of 10%). Charities in the South (median decline of 20%) seem to be facing a more difficult fundraising climate than those in the Midwest and Mountain West (median decline of 10%).


Question 4: And how much by dollars?


Of the charities that anticipated a drop in funding, the median value reported was $72,000. International charities reported the biggest anticipated dollar drop (median drop of $125,000), while Environment charities reported the least (median drop of $32,500). Looking at the results by region, charities in the South predicted the largest declines (median drop of $100,000) and those in the Mid-Atlantic forecasted the smallest (median drop of $41,750).


Charity Navigator appreciates all of the charities that took part in our survey and we congratulate the Virginia Beach SPCA which won a $50 Good Card (all charities that completed the survey by December 12th were eligible to win the card).
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