Let the Reviews Begin!

Blackbaud recently released its 2014 Charitable Giving Report, the self-proclaimed "largest analysis of overall and online giving data in the nonprofit sector."

That claim is based on the number of organizations (4,798, up 16% from 2013) and amount of revenue ($16.2 million, up almost 30% from 2013).

While some of the insights offered may not be groundbreaking ("Nonprofits must continue to focus on both donor acquisition and retention to drive sustainable growth."), the sheer volume of data demands some respect. In addition, it's one of the earliest, most authoritative perspectives on how the nonprofit sector performed in 2014.*

Some trends worth noting:

  • Overall giving increased 2.1% (down from its 4.9% pace of 2013). This was somewhat lower for large organizations (1.3%) and higher for small organizations (5.8%).
  • Online giving showed a greater increase (8.9%, also down from the 13.5% of the prior year) Again, this was somewhat lower for large organizations (8.0%) and higher for small organizations (10.6%).
  • Online giving grew to 6.7% of overall giving (from 6.4% in 2013).
  • For the third consecutive year, December continued to shrink as a percent of total annual giving (from 18% in 2012, to 17.5% in 2013 to 17.4% in 2014).

I think this final observation is interesting for several reasons.

Hopefully it speaks to the efforts organizations are making throughout the year to build ongoing support. This has been particularly noticeable in the increasing emphasis on monthly giving programs.

It may also foretell the consequences of the arms-race-like competition among fundraisers - especially online fundraisers - during the end-of-year giving period. Blackbaud has not yet published its stats on end-of-year activity, but I anticipate trends similar to what was reported in last year's benchmark report: more total emails and more versions of those emails.

For online fundraisers, the impact of the fourth quarter fell significantly, from 35.4% in 2013 to 32% in 2014.

How can you use industry trends to fine tune your development efforts?

*Note: In the early assessment department, Paypal has reported that it saw an increase in donations processed of nearly 50% this past December. However that's likely more reflective of the increase in mobile payments - or the effectiveness of its 1% match - than an overall increase in giving.

"Bye, Bye, Love ..."

Because you're one of most generous supporters, I wanted to include you in an exciting opportunity to double your holiday giving, the letter opened.

A group of generous, anonymous donors had issued the matching gift challenge.

It's a great technique:

  • Matching funds to increase the impact of my giving. Help me make an even greater difference. 
  • Tied to holidays (and/or year-end giving season). 
  • They may have even limited the offer to supporters who hadn't given in a while in an attempt to reactivate lapsed donors. (The ask was based on my HPC, btw.)

The problem is, it's not going to work. And I realized as I read the rest of the letter, even the best technique is no substitute for touch.

A little background. I have more than 20 years of history with this organization. Untold hours volunteering. Board service. Many consecutive years of giving.

Then my feelings got hurt.

It wasn't really that big of deal at the time. I felt unappreciated. Taken for granted. So I pulled back. Stopped volunteering. Stopped giving. Showed up a lot less.

And nobody noticed.

I didn't even get a letter that said "We miss you." Or at least, maybe in January, "We missed your year-end gift this year." Let alone a phone call (from someone on staff … don't even get me started on what I would have said to a telemarketer!)

What can you do? Do you just let supporters fade away? (No!) Or are some constituents valuable enough to warrant extra attention? (Yes!)

We recommend clients identify a pre-defined level of top-tier donors. Not just major (high dollar) donors, but constituents who have been involved for some time (two-plus consecutive years) and have multiple interactions (giving, event participation, volunteering, etc.) and do meet a minimum threshold of total annual giving.

We suggest they considered what level of support might warrant extra concern, determined in part by how many people that is and how much capacity the organization can commit to response.

And that they try to identify signs that may indicate that the relationship is in trouble. (For example, a regular donor who hasn't given in six or nine months; a volunteer who stops showing up, etc.)

Develop a pre-lapse strategy. It's a proven approach. You can't save everyone. But the sooner you try to salvage a shaky relationship the greater the likelihood you'll succeed.

As for me, a matching gift offer just ain't gonna cut it. Not even a triple, or quadruple match. Not after 18-plus months.

I'll admit it pains me a bit. But I think I can find somebody else to care about.

I know I get lots of requests. Especially this time of year!

Back from Bridge: the Highlights

Monica and I recently returned from our third year at the Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference. It’s a worthwhile trek to D.C., and I love their concept of “bridging” the most effective strategies in direct marketing and fundraising. Not to mention the chance to see east coast friends, clients and colleagues.

There’s no way of course to recap an entire conference in a blog, but here are some of the high points:
  • There is a cost to fundraising that shouldn’t be viewed as shameful or unethical. The CEO of Wounded Warrior, Steven Nardizzi, encouraged nonprofits to rise up and defend investing in growth.
  • Content development continues to reign supreme. Many sessions covered the need to provide different content tracks for the user experience. The U.S. Holocaust Museum employed a new strategy along these lines and saw great gains in engagement and fundraising.
  • Donor engagement by generation—Session encourages attendees to find ways to involve every generation of giver by providing philanthropic opportunities that are relevant to them (by lifestage).
  • Acquiring monthly donors was a hot topic. Speakers suggested looking for ways to infuse a sustainer appeal at communication points you might not have considered before (thank you messages and reply forms, for example).
  • Gamification—The rise of gaming is influencing philanthropy more than you might think. Its sophistication and interactivity ups the bar on technical fundraising efforts and what donors enjoy and expect. You can use this to your advantage by creating simple, fun experiences.
Check out a quick recap from this terrific conference and follow Bridge on Twitter.