Fundraising growth tied to communication, stewardship

Fundraising in the first six months of 2012 generally was flat compared to the same period last year, and those that were most successful improved the rate at which they retain donors, particularly through better communications to recognize donors and report results and through the use of multiple channels to distribute information, a new study says.

Nonprofits generally are sticking with the same fundraising methods they have been using, says the latest Nonprofit Fundraising Study from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative.

The study, which is based on data from over 781 organizations responding to an online survey in August and September, focuses on donor retention, a problem that consultant Penelope Burk found in 2003 was “the most serious problem” in fundraising, the Nonprofit Research Collaborative says.

“In the nearly 10 years since, the problem remains,” the study says.

It cites, for example, a report in August from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, which reported for 2011 that organizations lost 107 donors for every 100 they gained.

The new study from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative says 46 percent of nonprofits responding to the survey saw increases in their charitable receipts, about the same as the previous year.

In contrast, 60 percent of those that actively recognized donors, reported results, and used multi-channel communication saw gains.

One-fourth of nonprofits surveyed reported giving was flat, and 29 percent said it fell,

Among nonprofits that track retention, 73 percent said over half the donors who gave in 2010 made at least one more gift at some point in 2011.

Sixty-nine percent of those employing retention tactics used donor recognition, which was the most popular method, and 61 percent reported results to donors, the second most popular method.

While more organizations raised roughly the same amount in the first six months of 2012 as they did in the same period last year using 13 fundraising methods, such as giving by text messaging or board contributions, major gifts other than from boards grew 40 percent of responding nonprofits, was flat at 33 percent, and fell at 23 percent.

And fundraising from special events grew at 45 percent of nonprofits, held steady at 27 percent, and fell at 27 percent.

While the study found no statistically significant differences in the share of respondents seeing growth when analyzed by region of the U.S., it says it echoed earlier studies in finding that charities with annual operating budgets below $1 million reported increases in charitable receipts less often than larger charities.

Partners in the Nonprofit  Research Collaborative are the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Blackbaud, Campbell Rinker, Giving USA Foundation, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute.

Todd Cohen

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