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Live From AFP: Fundraisers Report Improved Results, Hitting Goals

By The NonProfit Times - April 8, 2013

A majority of respondents to the annual Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) study reported improved fundraising during 2012 and nearly two-thirds of them met their fundraising goals. Those meeting goal was the largest percentage since 2006.

Some 58 percent of respondents in the United States and Canada reported gains, up from 53 percent in 2011 and 43 percent in 2010. When it came to meeting goal, 63 percent, the highest share since the NRC started surveys, met goal in 2012. This is up from 52 percent in 2010 and 59 percent in 2011.

The percentage seeing an increase in funds raised was nearly identical in the U.S. and Canada, across all four regions of the United States, and in most subsectors, according to the report, which was released today in San Diego, Calif., at the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ annual international conference. According to the researchers, two subsectors with a lower share of respondents seeing increases — religion and international — each had too few respondents to use to draw firm conclusions.

“The NRC survey also asked about donor engagement and confirmed that simple steps are critical to giving and philanthropy,” said Andrew Watt, FInstF, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “Charities that routinely send thank-you letters to every donor were significantly more likely to meet their fundraising goal for 2012 than those that did not send a thank you at all. Surprisingly, 29 percent of charities did not routinely send thank-you letters or emails for contributions received. This basic principle of successful fundraising cannot be stressed enough.”

The NRC is comprised of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, which surveyed members for an annual state of fundraising study from 2002 through 2010; CFRE International, which encourages research that helps fundraising professional achieve the highest standards of professional competence and ethical practice; consultancy Campbell Rinker, which publishes the bi-monthly Donor Confidence Report and conducts numerous studies among nonprofit donors and nonprofit professionals; the Giving USA Foundation, which has published the Giving USA Annual Report on Philanthropy for nearly 60 years; The Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, which conducts research, education, advocacy, community dialogue and the setting of standards and best practices in philanthropic planning; and, The National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute, which tracks the finances and activities of nonprofit organizations and prepares The Nonprofit Almanac and other publications and resources.

Major gifts, online gift receipts, and special event proceeds increased at half or more of the responding charities. Major gift amounts received increased at 50 percent of responding organizations, online receipts increased 60 percent, and special event proceeds increased at 54 percent.

Other fundraising methods tracked since 2002 saw receipts rise at more organizations in 2012 than had been the case in 2011 or 2010. Specifically, direct mail increased at 48 percent compared with 45 percent in 2011 and 43 percent in 2010; Planned gifts received increased at 36 percent of responding organizations in 2012, compared with 29 percent in 2011 and 27 percent in 2010.

Foundation receipts increased at 41 percent of organizations in this survey, compared with 42 percent in 2011 and 40 percent in 2010. These are virtually identical results.

Corporate gifts and corporate foundation grants rose at 38 percent of responding organizations, compared with 34 percent in 2010 (data for 2011 could not be analyzed).

Board member contributions increased at 39 percent of participating organizations in 2012, compared with 42 percent in 2011 and 39 percent in 2010.

The results were culled from responses of 1,167 organizations representing organizations with more than $33.33 billion in expenditures in 2011. The survey invitation was sent by email and through social media postings beginning on Jan. 16 2012. The online-only survey response remained open through February 3, 2012. Invitations were sent to several distinct groups:

This report and links to earlier reports can be found at

Just slightly more than one-third of surveyed charities had formal planned giving programs (34 percent). A formal program could include doing research, cultivating prospective planned gift donors, printing information in materials about planned giving options, or including staff time or budgeting expenses for planned giving.

Donor engagement strategies most frequently used with all donors including sending a thank you letter (71 percent) and providing either written or electronic information, such as newsletters or annual reports. Nearly three-quarters of organizations recruit volunteers from their donor lists, at least donors above a certain level, according to the research report.

Some strategies are most often reserved for donors above a certain gift level, including handwritten thank you notes or telephone calls to thank a donor; inviting donors to receptions or other events at no cost to them; and recruiting leadership-level volunteers.

Use of the Internet is widespread, with eight in 10 respondents reporting that they post new content online about their organization’s work regularly. When analyzed against success at meeting fundraising goal, two online techniques particularly stand out: sharing free information (white papers, reports) and posting infographics. Each of these is associated with a greater probability of meeting fundraising goal at organizations that use them.


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