Don’t worry if you missed the year-end giving rush. Generosity hasn’t gone away.

Over the coming months, I look forward to exploring with Generous Matters readers some of the myths and silly tales that inform the way development staff, CEOs, and board members think about and approach fundraising. I do so knowing that old ways aren’t given up easily and that fundraisers are firm in believing the “true myths” of the profession. Yet here I go, beginning with a seasonal topic.



The nonprofit community has bought hook, line, and sinker the “truth” that people are more generous in November and December than at other times of year. Charitable organizations talk about year-end giving in the same words as retail businesses about holiday spending. And for seemly good reason.

Tracking agencies report that donations during the holiday season (October to December) comprise more than a third of the annual charitable take, year after year. You don’t have to be the brightest bulb on the tree to get the point. Missing the Christmas rush means trouble.

Never mind that two-thirds of giving is spread across the rest of the year. Believing that generosity plummets along with the thermometer come January, fundraisers – including those faced with a June 30 fiscal year-end – go into hibernation mode until early spring. When they do emerge, it’s usually without the intensity of the holiday season.

And so the pattern continues. Conventional wisdom linking personal giving patterns to time of year is reinforced. The myth of year-end generosity is confirmed as truth.


At year-end, the blogosphere is alive with reminders that “people are naturally inclined to give during December.” To which I add January, February, March, April , May, June, July, August, September, October, and November.  Generosity isn’t put away with the holiday trappings, even if fundraisers act that way.

Which leads to my conclusion that there are other explanations for the year-end gift giving phenomenon. For example,

  • Might it be that nonprofit organizations have not at other times of the year because there is less asking going on?
  • Would there be fewer philanthropic procrastinators – donors who wait until year-end to give – if fundraisers were as diligent and deliberate from January through October as in the last months of the year?
  • What if fundraisers repeated fourth quarter strategies during the other three quarters?

I find it especially troubling when leaders in faith-based organizations live by the myth of seasonal generosity. When conventional wisdom gets in the way of growing givers’ hearts, it’s time to ask questions, to test long-help assumptions against the principles of fundraising as ministry.

In other words, be a myth buster. Assume that generosity is active year-round. January through December, present opportunities for donors to respond to God’s grace in their lives and to celebrate the good work that God will do with their gifts.

There’s no need to cram your best work into two or three months of the year. It’s a long giving season.

What's your take on this topic?

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