It seems every year, we look back and say, “That was a year like no other.” But in the case of 2018’s holiday season, it truly was unique. It’s hard to think of another year with more volatility, uncertainty, change, and ambiguity. This year during the holiday season, natural disasters — floods and fires particularly — drew so much of the nation’s attention. Political discord, tariffs and furloughs added to the uncertainty. Add a lack of clarity on how these will resolve, and most donors were left feeling a guttural concern of “what’s next?”
Faithful major donors weren’t immune, either. Changes in the tax laws and bumps in the stock market, created concern with that group as well.
One & All’s R&A group analyzed more than $85 million in holiday giving to Rescue Missions to quantify the pause in giving many Missions saw in December. The question becomes, how do we hit the play button again?
A few key trends became clear. The first is that there was no “norm”. Typically, Missions as a whole go up or down together. That wasn’t so in the 2018 holiday season. When we looked deeper into what made some Missions more successful, a key trend was micro-strategies. Solid, intentional strategic plans local to a Mission’s community outweighed the effects of national downward trends. Finally, many of those micro-strategies centered on diversifying fundraising programs and channels. Missions who were over-reliant on one channel saw greater drops in performance.
What then, does all this mean for 2019? For one, the time to diversify funding is now. You have benchmarks on digital revenue, you have strategies for major donors and your donor file is prime for planned giving. If you don’t have plans in place for 2019 on those key areas, stop reading and email me now. I’d love to talk and help. Second, let’s anticipate the future disruptions. Let’s not be caught off-guard, but be nimble and strategic. There is already talk of 2020, an election year, being tumultuous, so 2019 is not a year to waste. Finally, take a deep breath! You are not in charge! And isn’t there great comfort in that? Be a good steward, shepherd your fundraising, and remember that God has a plan. And it’s better than any plan we might even dream.