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Fundraising Results Overall Stall Mid-Year

Nonprofit Research Collaborative survey shows groups making active effort to retain donors more likely to see increases

In its semi-annual survey, the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) finds that funds raised at organizations studied were largely unchanged from a year ago. The most successful organizations during the first half of 2012 pursued multi-channel marketing, recognized their donors and watched their results closely. The results affirm that sector-wide, good communications and stewardship of philanthropic gifts are associated with raising more through fundraising.

“As the challenging fundraising environment persists, donor retention remains critically important as a focus area for nonprofits,” said Chuck Longfield, chief scientist of Blackbaud, a partner in the NRC. “In addition, we continue to see that multichannel engagement is key for nonprofits’ fundraising success.”

Among all surveyed charities, just under half (46 percent) saw growth in funds raised in January through June 2012 compared with the same months in 2011. In contrast, 60 percent of those actively recognizing donors, reporting results, and using multichannel communication saw gains.

Of the 13 fundraising methods explored in the study, ranging from SMS/text giving (used by just 5 percent of respondents) to board contributions (used by 88 percent), more organizations raised about the same amount as they did last year at this time with that method. However, for two methods, more organizations said they saw increased amounts raised compared to 2011:

  • Major gifts (excluding board giving) increased at 40 percent of responding organizations, held steady at 33 percent, and fell at 23 percent
  • Special events increased at 45 percent, held steady at 27 percent, and declined at 27 percent

“Among the 38 percent of survey participants using social media for fundraising (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), 12 percent started using the approach in 2012,” according to Dirk Rinker, President of Campbell Rinker and a partner in the NRC. “Though not a cure-all, social media marketing is gaining in importance. Half the organizations using it raised more this year than last, and the other half raised about the same.”

The majority of surveyed charities use multiple fundraising approaches. Seventy-five to 90 percent of organizations use foundation proposals, corporate gifts or grants, special events, major gifts, direct response via the mail, and board giving to raise funds. Sixty-three percent of organizations in the study use online approaches and 50 percent use planned giving. Methods used by less than half of survey participants include telephone, gifts from congregations and distributions from federated campaigns, social media, and telephone solicitation. A small number of responding organizations (5 percent) use SMS/texting in their fundraising.

Additional key findings include:

  • 46 percent of responding charitable organizations reported an increase in charitable receipts when comparing the first six months of 2012 with the same months in 2011. One-quarter saw giving remain about the same, and 29 percent reported drops in total funds raised. These results are similar to the same study conducted in mid-2011.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of those that track retention said they achieved a retention rate in 2011 above 50 percent. Retention means a donor who gave in 2010 made at least one more gift at some point in 2011.
  • The most frequently used retention tactics were donor recognition (reported by 69 percent) and reporting results to donors (report by 61 percent).

About the Survey

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) conducts surveys two times a year. The current report is available at

This survey was conducted online August-September 2012. The 781 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)

The NRC formed to reduce the survey burden on nonprofit organizations. 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; Giving USA Foundation; and the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute.

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