An American fundraising think tank recently conducted a survey of more than 450 non-profit organisations in the United States and Canada, querying them on fundraising expectations for 2020, their interpretation of trends in the sector and methods they expect to employ going forward in pursuit of fundraising goals.

Whilst the survey focused on North America, the intelligence collected has implications for New Zealand as well.

The survey revealed:

  • As at June 2019, seventy percent of non-profit organizations indicated they were on track to meet fundraising goals for fiscal year 2019
  • Larger charities are more likely to be on track to meet fundraising goals
  • Most organisations are placing greater emphasis on strengthening donor and prospect relationships
  • Major gift contributions continue to be a steady source of increased charitable receipts at most organizations, with expectations for more to come
  • Gifts through direct mail continue to decrease at a rapid pace. Less than a third of organizations saw increased gifts through direct mail, making it the method to see the lowest share reporting increased gifts compared to all other methods
  • The are no evident regional trends in giving – the numbers are relatively steady geographically
  • 65 percent of surveyed non-profits expect 2020 fundraising results to exceed what they raised in 2019
  • 38 percent are planning around a possible recession
  • 29 percent are making plans around the 2020 US presidential campaign

The survey offers a glimpse into what non-profit organisations think and hints at the evolution of donor behaviour and attitudes – and, in that regard, New Zealand shares a similar profile to the US and Canada.  The rise of digital communication, the reduced reliance on postal mail, and the prevalence of online shopping have permeated the modern economy around the world. Donor attitudes continue to evolve, with many now taking the view that successful non-profits should operate like a for-profit business with results to demonstrate value to donors.

New Zealanders are generous, consistently ranked among the most giving people in the world. Data suggests Kiwis donate $1.5 billion a year as individuals; support from trusts, foundations, and businesses push the nation’s total philanthropy up to nearly $3 billion per annum – and New Zealand has the most registered charities per capita (about 27,000) than any other nation (NZ Herald, 5-12-18).

90 percent of personal gifts in New Zealand are made to charitable organizations (Stuff, 7-10-17) – and if Kiwi philanthropists are not as easily identified as many in America, it’s because, in New Zealand, donors tend to keep a lower profile.

Around the world, philanthropist motivations are evolving and their expectations rising. The National Philanthropic Trust has written about the traction impact investing has gained in recent years and states that one-third of family trusts in the US are engaged in impact investments, which seek to provide positive social return in addition to profits. (, 2019 Philanthropy Trends to Watch, 7-1-19).

Venture Philanthropy, which matches investors wishing to promote social good with entrepreneurs whose business goals go deeper than profit alone, is catching on in New Zealand, with restaurants and other SME’s and family businesses whose idea of success includes giving back to the community.

The growing prevalence of donor advised funds, which allow donors to make charitable gifts and enjoy the tax benefits while making grants from the fund over time, is an indicator that donors are keen to stay in touch with their gifts to charity. As millennials move into their higher-income years, this trend figures to continue.

In New Zealand, the desire of donors to engage with the causes they care about is nothing new. In its July 2019 publication The Philanthropic Landscape: A Review of Trends and Contemporary Practices, the JR Mckenzie Trust and Centre for Social Impact reports on the increasingly common shift among Kiwi philanthropists from traditional forms of charity – prioritising the impact of giving, shifting the underlying conditions which are holding a problem in place, i.e. don’t just fund homeless shelters and food banks; end homelessness and hunger.

These global trends, featuring larger gifts along with heightened expectations and increased donor involvement will benefit New Zealand’s non-profit organisations well, because Kiwis generally don’t mind lending a hand – or getting their hands dirty.