ARTICLE: Why All Social Good Organizations Need to Pay Attention to Politics

December 20, 2018 Joe Gianoni

Whether your social good organization has a political affiliation or not, your donors do and their behavior (and your fundraising) is impacted by the state of national politics. That is the focus of episode 79 of The sgENGAGE Podcast: How Elections Influence Charitable Giving. In the episode, Steve MacLaughlin, VP of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud, interviewed Jacqueline Ackerman, Assistant Director for Research and Partnerships at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy on the Institute’s recent research into giving patterns around the 2016 election and the results they found demonstrating the different giving patterns for men and women.

Every great fundraiser knows the key to success is creating the strongest connections possible with your donors. This valuable information comes from a pervasive perspective that cannot be ignored, even for organizations with no political leaning. Understanding giving tendencies like these will help guide your fundraising campaign outreach and storytelling to strengthen those highly valued connections. Check out what Jackie has to say about the thought process behind the research and some of the findings in condensed transcript excerpts below:


On what the study looked at:

For this study, we examined a database of charitable gifts to traditional charities. We use the word nonprofit a lot, but we really mean 501c3 public charities. And so by nature they are vastly nonpolitical. They don’t have a political bent, and we were looking at how people gave to those organizations right around that 2016 election. We looked at the week before and the week after to get a sense for did that day of the election really have an impact on what types of organizations received charitable donations and who was giving to those organizations. Was there a change for either men or women?”


On the key findings:

  • “First we looked to see if there was this rise in giving at all post election, and we found that actually that charitable giving was lower than you would expect immediately following the 2016 election. So in terms of rage giving this idea that people generally, men and women, are increasing their giving across the board. We did not find evidence for that.
  • “We did find a gender effect, so our second key finding is that the lower charitable giving after the 2016 election was concentrated among men. Women’s giving did not experience that same election effect – you don’t see that immediate post election effect once you piece it out and you look at men and women. Women’s giving actually did rise significantly compared to men in that week following the election.”
  • “Our third key finding is that charitable giving after the 2016 election increased significantly for these relevant progressive charities. Of all of our categories, it was the ones that not only were more progressive, but specifically relevant to that 2016 election cycle where you thought after the election, giving to those charities rose.”
  • “And then finally we looked at that intersection of not just the relevant progressive charities, and not just gender, but the intersection of the two. And so we saw that the increase in charitable giving to those relevant progressive charities after the 2016 election was primarily driven by women donors.”


On the gender difference in post-election giving

“It’s pretty straight forward when you look at the research. Especially when you look at how we visualize that in the week before the election…their giving is really tracking very closely to one another in terms of the amount. And then at election day you see those lines just split and women’s giving goes up and up and up and men’s giving continues along the same track. Through the Women’s Philanthropy Institute research, we know that there are gender differences in patterns of giving. Women tend to give more, are more likely to give and give higher amounts when you hold other factors equal, like wealth, income, education. And so you’ve got these general gender differences that are informing our research. But it’s really interesting to see, on election day, that week after, those lines that have tracked closely together, just splitting off and women’s giving, really increasing and that difference between men’s and women’s giving, getting larger and larger. What we have tied that to now, our report looks at giving behavior.”

To hear the whole interview, listen here to the sgENGAGE Podcast Episode 79: How Elections Influence Charitable Giving.

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