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2016 ended on a high note with $23 billion in charitable donations—a one percent increase over 2015’s record-breaking year. The slow, but steady, upward momentum is a positive sign for the nonprofit industry, but there is another emerging trend that could be a boom or bust depending on the type of organization—rage donating. On the heels of what for many was a shocking election result, donors redirected their post-election fears and fury into giving both time and money to organizations that would likely be impacted by the newly elected President. The trend has continued—and even grown—in 2017, but how long will it last?
The Boston Globe made note of the trend only weeks after the election, reporting that contributions to groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Conservation Law Foundation, Planned Parenthood, Muslim Advocates and others saw double- and triple-digit jumps in donations. Eileen Heisman, chief executive of the National Philanthropic Trust, told the Boston Globe, “This giving burst we’re seeing is another way people can have passive resistance to policies they don’t like or believe in. You need to have your voice known, and one way you can have your voice known in the United States of America is to give to nonprofits important to you.”
Journalists weren’t the only ones to spot the trend. The Boston Globe article noted the launch of the RageDonate website that “… is encouraging the trend by facilitating online gifts to charities that advocate for women, immigrants, and other groups Trump has disparaged.” And like a scene from Field of Dreams, it appears that if you build it, they will come; the site reportedly attracted 10,000 views within 48 hours of launching.
While some predicted that the trend would lose steam, rage donating seems to be chugging along still in 2017. In February, for example, a Twitter®-based app called Trigger started enabling social media users to vent their frustrations when they see an “infuriating tweet.” Mashable reports that creator Isaac Alfton came up with “retaliatory giving” because he “wished there were an easy way to give to charity as a spiteful response” to the tweets filling his feed.
Our own research, using Nexis® and LexisNexis Newsdesk®, shows the link between the new administration’s policies and rage donating. The word cloud below, for example, features organizations and subjects mentioned in articles related to ‘Rage Donations’ for the last 100 days.
As you can see, the ‘Muslim ban’ has inspired giving to organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Kayany Foundation’s Telyani School in Lebanon that serves the children of Syrian refugees. Likewise, proposed cuts to spending for healthcare and social services have pushed organizations like Planned Parenthood and Meals on Wheels into the spotlight. While all of this is good news for some nonprofits, it could pose a challenge for others who may miss out on donation dollars as a result. What’s more, sometime in the future, the rage will dissipate—or at least find a new focus—which means that charitable organizations need the right systems and tools in place to conduct donor research and drive on-going donor engagement when the fear and frustration wear off. Are you ready?