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53 Percent of U.S. Charitable Organizations Surveyed Say Contributions Rose in 2011

Nonprofit Research Collaborative report shows first signs of increase in four years

Contacts: John Skendall, 202/329.2971

Melanie Mathos, 843/654.3307

Vancouver, BC: For the first time since 2007, more than half of surveyed United States charitable organizations saw growth in charitable giving, according to the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC), which conducts a survey twice annually.

Of surveyed charities in the U.S., 53 percent said contributions increased in 2011, compared with 2010. Just 16 percent saw charitable receipts remain flat in 2011, compared with 24 percent a year ago. Less than a third saw received contributions fall in 2011, a marked change from the 46 percent in 2009 that experienced a decline.

“These findings are a pleasant surprise, given that the Collaborative’s surveys through September 2011 showed relatively flat levels of fundraising,” said Andrew Watt, FInstF, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), one of the founders of the NRC. “We saw a strong surge in year-end giving, helped by the slowly growing economy and people responding to the needs of their communities.”

Looking ahead for 2012, more than 70 percent of organizations in this latest study anticipate increases in charitable contributions received. However, the economy remains a concern to many. About a third said that the economy, both nationally and globally, is the greatest challenge to fundraising this year.

The study found that most charities don’t rely on just one fundraising method, but rather employ a wide variety of techniques. On average, respondents used 8 of the 10 different fundraising methods studied. The report includes trend analysis of changes in receipts for fundraising online, through direct mail or events, and planned gifts and major gifts, using NRC data for 2011 and 2010 and  AFP survey results from years prior to that.

"Donors are increasingly responding online; this study shows a remarkable result, that almost 60 percent of responding organizations reported an increase in online fundraising in 2011," said Chuck Longfield, Blackbaud's chief scientist. "From what we have seen in the industry, to drive this successful level of online response, fundraisers must engage their donors across multiple channels."

Board members and charitable giving

NRC survey respondents answered questions about board member giving and board member engagement in fundraising. In the U.S., for organizations with revenue above $250,000, nearly 6 in 10 respondents require every board member to make a contribution. About a third of respondents reported that their organizations set a minimum contribution amount, which averages $4,977. The average for the minimum board member gift is higher for arts organizations ($5,655) and educational institutions ($12,520).

About three-quarters of responding charities said that their board members assist with fundraising by making links between the organization and a prospective donor, either through:

  • Use of the board member’s name in appeals (79 percent),
  • Asking friends and associates (78 percent), or
  • Making introductions (76 percent).

 Between 50 and 60 percent of organizations have board members who take a more active role in fundraising, which includes:

  • Chairing events (65 percent),
  • Securing sponsorship funding (62 percent), or
  • Making personal visits to prospective donors (58 percent).

About the Survey

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) conducts surveys two times a year. The current report and prior reports from the NRC will be available after April 1, 2012 at

This survey was conducted online in January and February 2012 about fundraising results from 2011 and plans for 2012. The 1,602 U.S. respondents form a convenience sample. There is no margin of error, as it is not a random sample of the population studied. Reported results are statistically significant using chi-square analysis. 

About the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC)

Each NRC member has, at a minimum, a decade of direct experience collecting information from nonprofits concerning charitable receipts, fundraising practices, and/or grantmaking activities. NRC partners are the Association of Fundraising Professionals; Blackbaud; Campbell Rinker; the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University; Convio; Giving USA Foundation; and the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute.

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