the 2020 election and it’s impact on events

By: Kalsey Beach

Special thank you to Glen Fladeboe of Fladeboe Advancement, and Dannielle Hokanson of OneCause, fundraising solutions platform.

There are a lot of things that impact events – some that we can control and others that are out of our control. Many of our clients have been asking about the upcoming election and how it might impact their event and what elements that we can control we should prepare for. I turned to two fundraising experts to hear their thoughts and past experiences about how the election will impact upcoming events.

I chatted with auctioneer Glen Fladeboe of Fladeboe Advancement and Dannielle Hokanson from OneCause, a fundraising solutions platform.

  • Any predictions for how the 2020 election will impact events?

Glen: Overall, big picture I am not too concerned. Being sensitive to hosting events 10-days before the election and a couple days after. Looking back, there is no evidence to support that an election interrupted giving – both when Obama was elected in 2008 & 2012 and when Trump was elected in 2016.

Dannielle: From a personal experience and expertise, I don’t see much of an impact in events leading up to the election. I have seen clients whose communities were nervous based on election results and their events were well-supported. There may be particular causes that could see increased support, if they felt the incoming administration was not going to be favorable to their cause.

The last election was a huge unknown and there were some major cases going in front of the supreme court too, so, there was a lot of messaging around that at some of our events.

  • How have past elections impacted the giving moment?

Glen: I am not concerned about that, I haven’t seen that it does that. And it can have an opposite effect, if you feel like your candidate lost you can still make an impact – I think we saw that in late November & December 2016.

  • Should things be considered differently if before or after election? Is one better than the other?

Glen: In the 7 – 10 days right before or right after the election, I would be very sensitive about messaging. Be careful with speakers that they are on-point and strategic. For the most part, no dramatic changes. We will still see the core of great messaging, a great lead into the fund a need and a timely & compelling program being the main drivers of success.

If your event is after the election, you could do a community pivot. Something along these lines during the welcome – ‘Half of you may be excited and half of you may be disappointed but we can make a difference here tonight’

Dannielle: Avoid anything too close! I don’t recall that previously having much of an impact. But, if your organization could be strongly impacted, to have a supportive or not supportive candidate you could probably benefit, so, I can’t imagine it hurting the event. I am unsure of how many people that may be potential high-level donors that might also be invested in campaigns and giving large donations to a political campaign. What is the impact of your major gift donors?

  • What suggestions do you have for non-profits as they create their 2020 budgets and in particular event budgets?

Glen: Look at national trends, we saw the Q3 2019 trend that giving was down. We track these trends and I believe end of year giving in 2019 is going to be a much greater driver in setting 2020 budgets than the 2020 election. We are seeing a slight decline in giving overall because it is difficult to sustain at this level. When we look at event budgets, something like a recognizable drop in the stock market are much more concerning to me than the election.

Dannielle: I suggest creating messaging around it.  You can let your constituents know your organization may need to rely more heavily on individuals.  Clients consider where most of their funding comes from and is there a chance they can be impacted? Are they thinking about that in their messaging?

  • Will it impact revenue streams in addition to the giving moment?

Glen: We may see some people thinking they plan to make political contributions in 2020 and there may be some people that hit their family limits for charitable giving, I think that will be a slight factor but overall inconsequential.

The fall of 2008 was the biggest impact to giving we have seen. Even those years, giving was down but not dramatically – given we were facing a major economic crisis that giving was relatively sustained is our biggest case study to believe the election won’t have a strong impact.

Dannielle: I don’t see there being a blanket effect – it will really depend on the cause and audience and how political your audience is. I would anticipate less impact in 2020 than 2016 because we know what one side looks like now.

Thank you to Dannielle & Glen for sharing their insights. If you continue to have questions on how the election may impact your event, please reach out and we would be happy to discuss further,

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