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Fundraising Improving for Nonprofits

WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - Oct. 14, 2003) - Fundraising efforts fared better in the beginning of 2003 compared to the previous year, but many nonprofits are still struggling, a new survey shows.

The survey Charitable Organizations and the Economy was conducted online by Guidestar in July, with results released in September.

Of the 795 public charities and private foundations that responded to the survey, 39 percent said contributions increased in the first six months of 2003, while only 28 percent said contributions had increased in the first six months of 2002.

Guidestar President and CEO Robert G. Ottenhoff said the findings were good news for nonprofits. In a Guidestar article about the survey, Ottenhoff said 'Because most charities receive the bulk of donations in November and December, this is a particularly encouraging trend.'

However, 35 percent of respondents said contributions decreased in the first half of 2003, while 48 percent said the same in early 2002. At the same time, 63 percent of respondents said the demand for their services had increased.

When questioned about what led to a decrease in contributions, 58 percent said individual gifts were smaller, 46 percent said private foundation grants were smaller and 37 percent said corporate gifts were smaller. Only 7 percent said fewer people gave.

The survey included several comments from respondents about their fundraising experiences at the beginning of this year. Many discussed how they were forced to lay off staff or cut costs, yet there were several that said fundraising efforts were a great success.

Some respondents discussed their strategies that allowed them to continue to bring in the contributions.

'We began making strategic changes in fundraising by focusing on donors who will contribute at an annual gift level of $5,000 or more,' the survey quoted David M. Coleman, president and CEO of the Atlanta Union Mission and a member of the AFP Greater Atlanta Chapter. 'We wanted a better balance between dollars raised from direct mail and other sources. Thus far, it has been reasonably successful.'

Fundraisers at the Oakland Public Library Foundation in Oakland, Calif., have focused their attention on individual giving, according to Executive Director Duff Axsom, a member of the AFP Golden Gate Chapter, who was quoted in the survey report.

Individual gifts to the foundation increased by 27 percent from the beginning of 2002 to the first six months of 2003, according to Axsom.

'Importantly, we have seen a significant number of past donors who did not give between December 2001 and January 2003 [now] responding to our spring appeal,' Axsom said in the report. 'We feel this indicates that individuals who were concerned about their own financial situation during this economic downturn are becoming more confident and thereby responding to organizations that they have supported and care about.'

To view the survey findings, visit the Guidestar website.

Guidestar planned to conduct a follow-up survey this month and release results in mid-November.

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