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December 3, 2021
Implications of the New Normal for Fundraising
By Carla C. Cataldo, MPP

Carla Cataldo
Carla Cataldo
A recently completed national poll on American attitudes following the great recession produced some startling results that have important ramifications for those involved in nonprofit fundraising.

The poll of more than 1000 Americans, commissioned by the Boston Public Relations firm of SolomonMcCown, contains both good and bad news for nonprofit fundraising.

Entitled “The New Normal,” the presenting poll firm, Anderson Robbins Research, summarized the findings by stating “We care more about the rainbow than the pot of gold.” Making a lot of money ranked dead last in the most important elements of the American Dream.

Eighteen percent of those polled felt no impact from the recession, but only 24% reported they have mostly recovered. Forty-one percent indicated that they still have a ways to go to be financially whole, and 14% think that won’t ever fully recover. More than half of all adults polled have been impacted severely and negatively over the past few years.

People Feel less Charitable and more Worried
More concerning, most people felt less charitable and more worried and thrifty, so fundraisers more than ever need to give compelling reasons why donors should give, and give now. The poll also reiterated how important it is to truly know your donors (do they have kids? Are they single? Married?). Summer is a great time to capture this information for your donor databases, by utilizing interns and/or volunteers.

Characteristics that respondents most valued presently are: honesty, work ethic and good health, so make sure to incorporate those elements into your fundraising. For example, “With your support, we help people develop a strong work ethic to become economically self-sufficient.”

The most important thing people valued was a happy marriage (83%) #147; young professional events, anyone? But the next highest value was at tie between a long and healthy retirement AND living in an environmentally-responsible and sustainable way (both at 77%). So if you are doing more “green” activities, then by all means share that with your donors. They will love you for it.

Home Ownership Equated with Volunteering
Even more surprising was that 67% of those polled valued owning a home exactly the same as volunteering or charity work! They valued helping through volunteering or donations even more than having children (54%) or having a high-paying career (only 46%)!

So if you don’t have a volunteer program in place to engage interested people #147; what have you been waiting for? We know that volunteers give financially in greater portion than non-volunteers, so nonprofits concerned with sustainability cannot afford to ignore starting or expanding a volunteer program . Capacity-building grants are a possible way to start up a new volunteer initiative, or replicate another organization’s successful model.

Finally, the poll revealed that people aren’t always as rationale as we might think when it comes to money decisions. Asked which would get young people today off to a better start, a high-quality college education or $250,000, 71% picked the college education. Never mind that a quarter of a million dollars could finance both a high-quality college and graduate school education after practical work experience, or a house and a college education, etc. Maybe that belief explains the enormous amount of higher education debt that so many take on, without being able to afford repayment. And that debt burden impacts whether young adults make charitable contributions or accept lower-paying nonprofit jobs.

For more details, you can access the complete poll findings by clicking here. Happy fundraising!

Carla C. Cataldo, M.P.P., principal of Proposals, Etc., helps nonprofits raise more money for vital services. Contact her at, or on Twitter at @CarlaCataldo1. — Proposals, Etc.
June 2012.
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