After a record-breaking GivingTuesday, charities brace for what comes next

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Members of The Nonprofit Alliance worry that a drop in year-end giving could affect crucial charitable services across U.S.

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GivingTuesday kicks off the year-end giving season, which for some charities represents a third or more of the money they raise all year. Last year, a strong GivingTuesday was followed by a sharp drop in year-end donations for many nonprofits.

Another GivingTuesday is in the books, and although the 24-hour global push for charitable donations raised a record $511 million – up 28 percent from last year – many nonprofits could still be in trouble. The GivingTuesday campaign has grown steadily since it started in 2012, but charities say it is what comes next that matters more, and that has many concerned.

“GivingTuesday kicks off the year-end giving season, which for some charities represents a third or more of the money they raise all year,” says Shannon McCracken of The Nonprofit Alliance. “Last year, a strong GivingTuesday was followed by a sharp drop in year-end donations for many nonprofits,” she adds. Many of the organization’s members are bracing the possibility of a similar roller-coaster this year.

Although many factors were at play in late 2018, the changes in tax laws meant most Americans no longer qualified for deductions for their donations, nixing many year-end gifts. Some experts say the full impact of decreased incentives for giving has yet to be felt. This is not good news for many nonprofits that rely on that end-of-year generosity to fuel their services, and who have already been impacted.

According to The Nature Conservancy Director of Global Membership Dave Strauss, the organization’s December 2018 ended with online donations nearly 13 percent lower than December of the previous year, despite positive trending in late summer and early fall. “Year-end 2018 was surprising, and it truly set us back from being able to effectively invest and grow our program,” said Strauss.

“We are really holding our breath to see what the rest of this year brings in,” says Rachel Earl, chief development officer for St. Labre Indian School serving Native American children in rural Montana. The program saw a drop in December 2018 donations over the previous year. "Many donors are just starting to understand the implications of the new tax laws, so we may have only seen the tip of the iceberg of changing donor giving behaviors. Any further drop could affect the programs and services we offer our students,” said Earl.

The shifts that some charities have felt are complicated. Some research has noted a slight rise in overall charitable giving, but that is largely fueled by grants and larger donations which tend to go to major institutions. According to a just-released report from Fundraising Effectiveness Project, which tracks giving to more than 4,400 organizations, the number of donors has declined 3.6 percent and revenue is down 4.6 percent compared to the first nine months of 2018.

“We’re absolutely concerned about these numbers. The drop in individual donors is very significant because most gifts to most nonprofits come from everyday givers in the $25-to-$100 range. The mega gifts go to a select few organizations,” says McCracken. The Nonprofit Alliance reminds people not to underestimate the power of even a small individual gift, and to think beyond GivingTuesday to make a difference.

“Giving to charity is a win-win. The important thing is to give! There’s really nothing like the positive feeling you get when you are part of a bigger movement to feed the hungry, break down prejudicial barriers, protect wildlife, or search for cures to a disease. It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving by strengthening our communities and reducing the burden on government,” says McCracken. “Nonprofits combine the power of many individuals’ generosity to drive the change we want to see.”

TNPA offers these tips for giving:

  • Something for everyone – there are 1.5 million charities in the U.S. that provide significant services and need your help.
  • Think long-term – support a charity that has a significant and long-term impact you find meaningful.
  • Consider spreading your gift out throughout the year – this can have more impact since the charity can plan ahead.
  • Alternative gifting – instead of traditional gifts for the holidays, consider donations to support a meaningful cause.

About The Nonprofit Alliance
The Nonprofit Alliance exists to foster the development and growth of nonprofit organizations and to protect the vital services they provide, as well as the donors, members, partners and volunteers who support them. Members represent a diverse landscape of causes and include industry experts who help nonprofits in their public outreach, fundraising and resource development. For more information, visit

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Shannon McCracken
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