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Study Links Charity Fundraising Results to Annual Fund Campaigns

Those most likely to raise more have at least 50% renewal rate and at least 5% of donors giving more than last year

Carmel, IN: Charitable organizations in the U.S. and Canada are more likely to raise funds successfully when they have a formal, annual fundraising drive, according to survey results released by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative. This is some of the first research to look at how annual funds are conducted and the role the annual fund plays in helping an organization reach fundraising goals. 

“Seven in 10 organizations had annual funds, and they were significantly more likely to be hitting their fundraising targets,” said Eva Aldrich, CFRE, President and CEO of CFRE International, which awards the globally recognized Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) credential. “This finding suggests that organizations focusing primarily on major gifts, without also having an annual fund campaign, might be at risk of missing their fundraising goals in the long-run.”

The organizations with a formal annual fund drive were 20 percentage points more likely to be on track in 2013 to meet their fund raising goals (77 percent on track versus 57 percent of those without an annual fund). This finding held even after taking budget size into account.

“Among the larger organizations responding to the survey, those with gift clubs that recognized different gift amounts were most likely to meet fundraising goals,” according to Tom Pollak of the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute. He went on to note that, “The majority of charities are small, with annual expenditures under $1 million. For these organizations, our survey found no evidence that gift clubs increased their contributions.”

Among the 42 percent of organizations that offered donor benefits, the most common was invitation to special “donor-only” events. Far less frequent were commemorative items such as plaques or pins; privileges such as parking or concierge service; communications such as donor newsletters; or access to organizational leadership or “backstage” activities.

The survey asked about donor renewal rates and about the percentage of annual fund donors that “upgraded,” or increased their gift over the prior year. Organizations were highly likely to be on track to meet fundraising goals in 2013 if they had renewal rates above 50 percent and/or upgrade rates of 5 percent and above.

About the Survey

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) conducts surveys two times a year. The current report and prior reports from the NRC are available at

This survey was conducted online in August and September 2013 about fundraising results from the first half of 2013 compared with 2012 and about annual fund drives. The 945 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)

NRC members have direct experience collecting information from nonprofits concerning charitable receipts, fundraising practices, and/or grantmaking activities. NRC partners as of June 2014 are the Association of Fundraising Professionals; CFRE International; Campbell Rinker; Giving USA Foundation; the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning; and the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute. The Association of Philanthropic Counsel is joining the NRC in July 2014.

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