In March of 2009, early in Obama's first term, David Crary wrote a story for the Associated Press entitled: "These are Uneasy Times for Nonprofits, and Their Donors" and went to explain that "many donors and recipients in the philanthropic world are worrying that Obama's new tax proposals could deter future giving at a time when many nonprofits are in crisis mode." The fear was that Obama's new tax codes and proposed limits on tax deductible contributions would constrain giving to nonprofits at a time when it was most needed. In the article, Crary point out that according to 2006 tax data, the most recent available, Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy estimated that affluent households would give 4.8% less if Obama's proposed higher taxes and deduction limits had been in effect -- a drop of $3.87 billion.
With the luxury of hindsight, we know that charitable giving, after falling initially due to the Great Recession, has risen under the Obama administration. In 2015, philanthropy has risen for the fifth consecutive year. In fact, according to GivingUSA, Americans donated an estimated $358.38 billion to charity in 2014, the highest total in the report's 60-year history. This robust philanthropic marketplace is clearly proof that the fears of 2008 were unfounded.
Some nonprofits, whose missions align with oppositional views to Donald Trump's politics, have seen an immediate benefit to the election. According to the New York Times, The Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which supports women's reproductive rights, received donations from nearly 200,000 people in the week after the election, about 40 times more than in a typical week, a spokesman said on the week after the election.
However, there are fears for some other nonprofits. What changes are coming to the tax code? How will those changes affect charitable giving? Will donors feel uncertain about their financial futures? Will public funding dry up even more?
At the Lapin Group, in our 25 years of experience as leaders in the philanthropic arena, we have seen many factors make an impact on giving, from politics, to natural disasters, to upheavals and radical changes in world markets. As the end of the year approaches, we maintain that best practices, patience, and creativity are essential to weathering this uncertain time:
Communicate: Reach out to supporters to update on news, progress and achievements throughout the year; this is vital to engaging donors and building prospective donors.
Show Results and Impact: Donors are looking for results and impact more than ever. They are looking to support those organizations which have a clear mission and path to achieving their goals. Use data, testimonials and photos to show how donors' gifts are being used to create change and improve lives and our communities.
Use Multiple Vehicles: Using different approaches not only speaks to a wider audience of supporters, but also ensures that your message is heard. Using phone calls, in-person meetings, newsletters, emails, texting and social media are all good ways to keep constituents, supporters and potential donors aware and excited about your organization's work.
Be grateful: Gratitude is simple, yet often overlooked. Make sure to thank donors, volunteers, staff and supporters throughout the year. No one can hear the words "thank you, you really helped" too often.
We at The Lapin Group do not have a crystal ball to predict the future. And for some donors, this turmoil may impact year-end giving both positively or perhaps negatively. We are continuously following legal developments, financial markets and consumer trends, and will advise our clients and friends about their options and how to respond to these external forces. However, we believe firmly that there is no substitute for solid relationships, a clear mission that makes a difference in people's lives, and a vision that makes it possible to build trust and a horizon for the future.