Fundraising in an Election Year Requires Strategic Planning

Fundraising in a presidential election year requires striking a delicate balance between aligning with hot-button issues and preserving an organization’s mission. At VISIONALITY, we’ve identified patterns in donor behavior during election cycles, revealing the profound impact of politically debated topics on fundraising dynamics.

During a presidential election, organizations tied to contentious issues like gun control, abortion, LGBTQIA+ rights, and immigration often see a surge in donations. Urgency and heightened public discourse lead donors to support causes aligned with their beliefs, resulting in increased funds for organizations at the forefront of these debates.

Conversely, organizations not directly aligned with these issues may face reduced giving during the election as donors, seeking to make immediate impact, may give instead to politically charged causes. The potential threats that come with the election may overshadow the ongoing work of organizations working on less contentious – but equally vital – causes.

In 2020, I had a longtime donor and board member sit me down and say they were redirecting their annual gift and their service time to their electoral work. That was the moment that shifted the way I needed to approach election year fundraising strategy. My annual plans for election years are structurally different from non-election years to accommodate and anticipate the shifts that come from the heightened political angst.

In 2024, fundraising professionals and organizations must prioritize strategic considerations. Those aligned with politically charged issues should leverage election momentum through compelling narratives, while organizations with less contentious missions should innovate to emphasize the long-term impact, ensuring donors recognize sustained importance beyond the election cycle.

For those organizations who I just (unintentionally) instilled fear into for meeting this year’s goals, I have some advice:

  1. Stay On Mission – Remember to stay mission-focused because the work you do is still important before and after November 5th. It is not a given that your donors will redirect funds or give less this year – they might be able to support both.
  1. Circle Back – If a donor is redirecting some funds away from your organization this year to put into political interest, that is okay. Use that conversation to thank them for letting you know ahead of time and acknowledge their commitment to the causes that mean so much to them. Close the conversation by asking if you can circle back in 6 months once the election has passed.
  1. Front Load – When writing up your development plan and calendar, front load as much as you can into the first 8 months of the year. This includes events! Take a good look at that fall fundraiser and see how you can move it into a more stable time of the year.
  1. Upgrade Other Donors – Use this opportunity to focus on some strategic donor upgrades. Have the conversation with your other donors that others have chosen to redirect funds this year into electoral work, and you are asking them to upgrade their giving this year. Emphasizing the sustained importance of their contributions can help maintain donor loyalty during turbulent political times.

In the complexity of fundraising during a presidential election year, nonprofits face both challenges and opportunities. The key lies in understanding the shifts in donor behavior, adapting strategies accordingly, and staying true to the mission. And if you are looking for some creative ways to meet your goals this year, schedule a FREE consultation with the VISIONALITY Fundraising Team!