Political and nonprofit fundraising can coexist, study says

Direct-mail fundraising for presidential elections has no noticeable impact on the level of charitable contributions, a new study says.

The slumping economy and increased emphasis on presidential fundraising have been cited as primary reasons for weaker performance for nonprofits in 2008.

But while political fundraising levels reach new heights with each presidential election, charitable giving also continues to grow, meaning that both fundraising groups have a wider base from which to find donors, says the study by Merkle, a provider of data-driven marketing solutions.

The study examined similarities and differences between donors who give to presidential campaigns and those who give to nonprofit organizations. It also reviewed historical direct-mail performance data from large national nonprofits in various sectors, including health, environment, military, political, domestic relief and international aid.

And it compared that data with political-contribution data obtained from the Federal Election Commission.

Data from before, during and after an active election cycle were analyzed.

The study concluded donors to political campaigns are typically younger, more likely to be male, have higher incomes and tend to be located in the Northeast.

Nonprofit donors are typically older, more likely to be female, and are located across the U.S.

Greg Fox, Merkle’s chief strategy officer, acknowledged that for most nonprofits, the direct-mail fundraising climate is far more challenging than in previous years and that it is becoming more difficult and expensive to acquire and retain active donors.

But the study found little evidence to suggest people are giving money to presidential candidates rather than making charitable donations.

“In fact, the data leads us to believe that for the most part, people that make political contributions are very different than those who support their favorite charitable organization,” Fox says. “Therefore, there doesn’t appear to be too much competition for a share of the contributor’s wallet.”

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