The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Data Discoveries for Small and Mighty Nonprofits: Take Two

Network for Good was a proud sponsor of the annual Individual Donor Benchmark Report. The results are in, and the report is ready for you to download! The most surprising takeaway from the report really isn’t surprising at all: Nonprofits that have a fundraising plan raise more money than those that do not.

Read on to discover what Heather learned during her research, and see how you can leverage this report to improve your fundraising strategy

Network for Good: Why do you think a fundraising plan is so crucial to fundraising success?

Heather Yandow: I think a fundraising plan is critical because it forces organizations to have strategic conversations, identify priorities, and think through activities for the year. The Individual Donor Benchmark Report found that having a plan was the number one indicator of fundraising success. What’s interesting to me is that organizations didn’t report using their plan on a regular basis (on average), but they still saw improved results over organizations that did not have a plan. To me, that says the planning is what’s important, not just the plan itself.

Annual fundraising plans are also useful because they provide a yearly opportunity to evaluate past activities. It can be hard to find time to determine what worked, what didn’t, and what was learned over the past year. Habitual annual fundraising planning ensures that reflection and evaluation happens at least once a year.

If you are interested in creating a fundraising plan, Network for Good has just published a great guide to help you do just that.

Based on the report results, what were the biggest challenges in executing individual donor fundraising strategies?

HY: The biggest challenge for fundraisers continues to be time. Participants identified that lack of time to execute new strategies was more of a challenge than funding, knowledge and expertise, or buy-in from decision makers.

This was supported by the finding that if fundraisers were magically given more resources to support individual donor work, the first thing they would do is hire help. The kind of help ranged from a full-time development director to a staffer focused on major gifts to part-time administrative help.

What’s interesting is that fundraisers don’t feel like a lack of funding is the barrier for trying activities or training on some great new strategy. What’s holding them back is finding time to do the work.

Do you have a recommendation on how much nonprofits should invest (time, money, resources) in growing their individual donor program?

HY: It’s safe to say that the number one investment nonprofits should make is to create a fundraising plan. Putting together a plan doesn’t have to take a lot of time or expense, but having a plan will help bolster any other investments you make. Specifically, the data showed that investments in hiring fundraising staff, higher salaries for fundraisers, and time to meet with donors paid off only if you had a plan in place. (Download our template for a quick and easy fundraising plan.)

From our data, we saw how investing in staff to do the individual donor work was a good investment. On average, one full-time equivalent devoted to individual donor fundraising, even if it’s spread out over several staff members, brings in an average of $280,000 in individual gifts—if you have a plan. The average individual donor staffer makes about $47,000 and costs the organization about $111,000, including salary, benefits, overhead, and program costs.

Are there basic metrics about individual donors that you recommend all nonprofits should know?

HY: In the world of individual donor fundraising, nonprofits need to focus on three goals each year: retaining current donors, increasing gifts from current donors, and finding new donors. Any fundraising plan should include strategies for each goal.

Aligned with these goals, I recommend that nonprofits track several basic metrics, including:

  • Average gift overall and for different sources, such as online, annual appeal, or major gifts
  • Number of donors overall and by source
  • Number of new donors overall and by source
  • Retention rate (the percentage of donors who gave last year and this year) overall and by source

How can nonprofits use the IDB Report?

HY: You can use the report in a number of ways. I suggest you use the report to:

  • Celebrate your strengths. Find areas where you are doing well and build on that success. Be sure to share your success with your colleagues and board!
  • Identify your challenges. This report is your annual opportunity to check in on how you are faring against the average and where you might want to grow your fundraising program.
  • Find metrics that motivate your team. If your staff and board are talking about increasing online donations, focus there and use the averages in the report as a guide. Pick two to three markers of success for your organization and work on those goals.

Thanks to Heather Yandow for doing this important research for the nonprofit sector. Be sure to download a copy of the current Individual Donor Benchmark Report and start benchmarking!

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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