What new research tells us about how donors give in December (and year-round!)

By Tim Sarrantonio, Director of Partnerships at Neon One

The following is an advanced excerpt from the upcoming Neon One industry report entitled “Donors: Understanding The Future Of Individual Giving.” This report will examine the who, what, when, where, why, and how of individual donor behavior and the changes we have seen across the sector throughout the pandemic. 

It has long been an adage in the nonprofit sector that December is one of the most significant times of giving during the year for nonprofits. Yet the data typically cited does not have much itemized detail when it comes to what that entails.

The most often cited resource for December giving is the Network for Good Digital Giving Index, which has tracked online giving through its platform to represent between 29% to 31% of all giving occurring during the month of December.

Yet this resource seems to be a few years out of date, so Neon One reviewed its own data panel and found a different balance of revenue when looking at 2020 data specifically.

The fourth quarter absolutely still dominates compared to the other times of year for a nonprofit, as the following chart outlines when looking at all giving across all types of nonprofits and all ways that donors may be supporting the organization.

 

Source: Neon One Data Panel, NTEE & Income



Yet when we filter down into December specifically, it certainly represents a healthy percentage of giving but is not necessarily the dominating figure that we have been led to believe when we look at all the ways that donors give.

Source: Neon One Data Panel, NTEE & Income

What about online giving then? If we just focus on gifts that were made with a credit card or through an ACH payment, it tells generally the same story – December is absolutely an important time for nonprofits to focus on getting revenue in but that it isn’t representing nearly one-third of giving.

Source: Neon One Data Panel, NTEE & Income

There are simply more opportunities throughout the year where donors may step up and choose to support an organization’s mission.

17% – 22% of an organization’s revenue coming in December still warrants a deeper focus on that month in particular. What are we seeing in terms of donor behavior during this month? And how does December change for different types of donors and the nonprofits they support?

 

Source: Neon One Data Panel, December Giving (note that December 3, 2019 was GivingTuesday and December 1, 2020 was GivingTuesday)

When looking at overall giving compared between 2019 and 2020, the flow of revenue throughout the month tends to stay the same with a few differences between the two years. What is also interesting is when we compare the daily flow of revenue between check giving versus credit card giving through an online payment processor tied to the CRM.

While there are variations in the middle of the month, the final days of December tend to attract the largest flow of gifts no matter what. Furthermore, there is no surprise that online gifts spiked in particular on GivingTuesday for both 2019 and 2020. We also saw similar trends on GivingTuesday 2021 for both online and offline giving.

What is far more interesting is when we drill into giving flows in December by type of nonprofit mission. In our research, we found that arts / cultural organizations, environmental / animal rights organizations, and educational organizations had a steady ebb and flow throughout the month of December.

Health, human service, and international tended to have a more steady spike on GivingTuesday and then evened out until December 31 for a major spike in giving. Public and societal benefit organizations were a bit of an outlier, with their biggest spike happening right before the Christmas holiday.

Yet the most starkly different experience comes from religious organizations of all types, where giving throughout December is nearly flat every day of the month until December 31. Then for both online and offline giving we see major spikes in support on that one day.

This tells a much different story in terms of what a nonprofit professional should think about when engaging with their donor base. Creating a blanket communications plan to solely focus on a rush to give on December 31 may be a perfectly acceptable baseline strategy, but the reality is that different efforts can likely be adjusted depending on the type of nonprofit that you are and the types of donors that you may attract.

Timing is everything. Nonprofit professionals need to step back and start to understand the larger context of what their gifts mean for both their organization as well as the community and world they are trying to build. The reality is that for all the data presented, its underlying message should be – listen to the people who support you.

We all have so much going on in our lives and supporting charities may not be the top item on our donors’ lists. Yet in many ways, it becomes one of the most important things people prioritize when they truly love a mission.

Our time on this mortal coil is limited – let’s make the most of it and continue to pay attention to the details that make donors love what we do.

If you would like more information on obtaining our upcoming report, visit our website here.

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Author Bio: Tim Sarrantonio is a team member at Neon One and has more than 10 years of experience working for and volunteering with nonprofits. Tim has raised over $3 million for various causes, engaged and enhanced databases of all sizes, procured multiple successful grants, and formulated engaging communications and fundraising campaigns for several nonprofits. He has presented at international conferences and is a TEDx speaker on technology and philanthropy. He volunteers heavily in his community around Niskayuna, NY.