Index: Some Nonprofits At Pre-Recession Giving Levels

January 18, 2012       Samuel Fanburg      

Fundraising returned to pre-recession levels through the first 11 months of 2011, with overall giving up 3.4 percent compared to 2010 and exceeding levels seen in 2007. But overall giving slowed in during September, October and November.

These are among the results of the latest The Blackbaud Index by software firm Blackbaud in Charleston, S.C. It reports data from 1,281 organizations with $2.5 billion in 12-month combined overall revenue. The online giving index represents 1,769 organizations with $383 million in 12-month combined overall revenue.

This edition of the index compiles charitable giving from the three months ending November 2011. Overall charitable giving increased 1.4 percent for the three months ending November 2011 with online giving revenue increasing 12 percent during the same period.

Chuck Longfield, Blackbaud’s chief scientist and creator of The Blackbaud Index, said that while giving is up, the increases are not the same across all sub-sectors. “Total U.S. charitable giving appears to finally be back to pre-recession levels,” said Longfield. “The last two years has seen growth in charitable giving. That combined with the increase last year, has made up for the losses the sector felt in the years before. We are currently 1 percent above where we were in 2007. It took us several years to get here, but we are now back.”

Medium organizations, (organizations with prior year revenue between $1 million and $10 million) were the only organizations to see a growth in giving, at 8.2 percent, flying past the 6.1 percent decrease seen the prior November.

Small organizations (those with prior year charitable revenues less than $1 million), experienced decreased giving by 2.5 percent in November, compared with a 13.5 percent increase the previous November. Large organizations (organizations with prior year charitable revenue of more than $10 million) decreased 0.4 percent down from the 1.7 percent increase the previous November.

This edition of the index marks seven consecutive months where online giving has increased 10 percent on a year-over-year basis.

“Donors are increasingly becoming more comfortable with transactions online. In turn, nonprofits are moving more and more of their fundraising online,” said Longfield.

In terms of online giving, all types of organizations saw significant growth. Small organizations saw a 15.4 percent increase for November 2011, but it was down from the 22.9 percent growth the previous year.

“Online giving continues to show double-digit growth in November, wrote Steve McLaughlin, Blackbaud’s director or Internet solutions. “Online giving growth remains very positive across small, medium and large sized nonprofit organizations. These trends are important to see in the last quarter when a very significant amount of online giving happens.”

Medium organizations increased online giving respectively by 12.1 percent, declining by a slight 0.3 percent from the year before. Larger organizations experienced a similar 10.8 percent growth, adding to the 9.9 percent increase in November 2010.

“There is more a fundraising mix as more people are giving online,” said Longfield. “Online giving is growing, but it’s a low base. Nonprofits are learning to program the different channels better and getting people to a website is easier. I always say ‘When giving through the mail, it’s you and your checkbook, but when you are online, it’s you and your credit card.’ Most donors want to a mix and studies show people are more likely to give more online.”

Breaking down the organizations by type illustrates that charitable returns were volatile and no type of organization had comparable results.

Healthcare organizations saw a 2.1 percent increase in overall giving, while enjoying a 4.2 percent increase in online giving. On the other hand, international affair organizations had a 4 percent decrease in overall giving, but had an 18.6 increase in online giving. Similarly, environmental and animal welfare groups witnessed a 5.4 percent decrease in overall giving, but saw online giving creep up 8.2 percent.

Human services increased overall giving 1.3 percent during this period and had an online giving increase of 20.6 percent. Finally, arts, culture and humanity organizations experienced a 7.7 percent increase to overall giving and an 8.4 increase to online giving. Public, society benefit organizations recognized a 5.4 percent increase in overall charitable revenue with an 11.9 percent surge in online revenue.