Five months from the US 2024 election and the campaign cycle is well underway. On the web and the airwaves, political advertising has increased while inboxes and mailboxes are crowded with fundraising appeals from candidates and political parties.

New research from Blue State reveals how the surge in political fundraising is being experienced by nonprofit charitable donors. Based on a nationally representative survey of over 2,100 Americans conducted in April 2024, the study uncovers key insights into donor sentiment, giving habits and the challenges facing both political campaigns and charitable organizations.

Mid-level and higher income donors: Invested, interested, and engaged

The study reveals a high level of engagement and interest in the election among donors who have previously given $1,000 or more to charitable causes. Further, this group is significantly more likely to engage with political fundraising appeals, opting to read (43%) or share (11%) the materials while other cohorts were more likely to ignore content.

Similarly, households with an income exceeding $150,000 are highly attuned to the 2024 election, with 74% expressing greater interest than in 2020. This group is most likely to encounter political outreach across various channels, including email, SMS and television advertising.

While digital campaigns have generally been synonymous with grassroots tactics, this finding suggests that both causes and campaigns should consider online engagement with a broader range of donors – especially those with significant means. While this playbook may feel uncomfortable to organizations that think of digital as primarily a “small dollar” solution, the research suggests a stronger cross-channel strategy may be merited. 

Generational divide: Younger donors support both political and charitable causes

The research also points to a distinct generational divide in giving patterns. Donors under 45 are significantly more likely to support both nonprofits and political entities in 2024 while older cohorts are more likely to support either political, religious, or charitable causes. This finding is even more pronounced among higher income individuals under 45 (>$150,000 household income per year) – highlighting the importance of tailored outreach strategies for different age groups.

“Rage giving” is real… but only with a subset of donors

The study confirms the phenomenon of “rage giving”, with nearly 25% of nonprofit donors reporting giving in response to an election outcome. Clearly, reactive giving isn’t a widespread trend, but instead a more pronounced phenomenon amongst donors under 55 years old, higher income households, and those who identify as Democrats. Notably – holding all other factors constant – mid-level donors are the most likely to engage in this behavior, highlighting the potential for strategic fundraising efforts tied to election results.

Not every cause will feel it is appropriate to fundraise in response to election results and that’s OK. But for organizations with related C4 entities or issues interwoven with political debates, contingency plans should be put in place, regardless of the election’s outcome. Similar to rapid response or other media moments, a well-prepared playbook and response plan could lead to greater brand and/or issue awareness as well as fundraising returns. Now is the time to plan for those scenarios.

Battleground states: A different story

Across 12 states considered to be competitive in the presidential election, interest in the 2024 election has not been as pronounced as the rest of the country. Individuals in these states aren’t seeing political fundraising in their inboxes, but rather are experiencing the influx of political ads and solicitations on social media and linear TV. Amidst the overall lower interest – when donors are exposed to political fundraising –  they are less likely to read, share, or otherwise engage those materials. 

Amidst what is projected to be the most expensive election cycle in history, this finding can have implications for nonprofit advertising in these contested states. Causes should be mindful of the both the substance and tone of their fundraising campaigns to ensure their messaging is not mistaken for campaign and candidate materials. Further, as the election draws closer, nonprofits should also closely monitor their advertising performance by state and throttle their spend in states with diminished returns or efficiency (e.g. ROAS).

Diverse donors: Untapped potential and unique challenges

Finally, the research suggests a significant opportunity for both causes and campaigns to better engage BIPOC donors. African American donors were the most likely demographic to indicate the intention to make a donation to a campaign or candidate in the next 12 months. Similarly, when asked if they’ve made a donation in response to an election result – to a campaign or a charitable cause – both Latinx and African American donors were 54% more likely to make a post-election donation than White or Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) cohorts.  

However, current outreach tactics may be missing the mark. Despite increased exposure to political fundraising and advertising, the survey finds that African American donors had the most significant decline in interest in the 2024 election compared to 2020. This paradox, coupled with the fact that they are also the most likely to unsubscribe or block political solicitations online, underscores the need for campaigns and causes to actively test and ensure their messaging and strategies resonate with these crucial donor cohorts.

So what can nonprofits takeaway when it comes to fundraising?

  • Digital isn’t just for small dollar donors: Higher income and mid-level donors are highly interested in the upcoming election and engaging with fundraising content. Reach these cohorts with substance and storytelling across channels to unlock their full value.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of younger donors: Donors between the age of 25 and 45 are highly interested in both causes and candidates this year. Causes have an opportunity to craft compelling narratives and digital-first strategies to grow their files and acquire the next generation of advocates and donors this election year.
  • Diversify your outreach: Tailor messaging and engagement to resonate with diverse demographics, particularly BIPOC communities. For major campaigns, invest in focus groups and rapid message testing to ensure your appeals resonate with diverse audiences.
  • Capitalize on election-related giving: Reactive giving isn’t for all donors, but it can drive meaningful revenue. Develop targeted campaigns around key election moments and plan ahead to leverage the “rage giving” phenomenon (regardless of the election’s outcome).
  • Be battleground smart: Amidst historic levels of political advertising, donors in battleground states are already underwhelmed by the upcoming elections. False urgency and click bait tactics won’t cut it; nonprofits should craft compelling and story-driven appeals to position their work as trust-worthy and solving real world problems. 

The 2024 election cycle presents both challenges and opportunities for nonprofits. By understanding the evolving donor landscape and adapting fundraising strategies accordingly, organizations can ensure their missions remain front and center amidst the political clamor, the antidote to election-year conflicts and cynicism.