The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

The Most Valuable Data Discoveries for Small and Mighty Nonprofits

Heather Yandow

When Heather Yandow of Third Space Studios presented an insightful Nonprofit911 webinar earlier this year she shared some data collected from nonprofits to create the Individual Donor Benchmark Report (IDBR). Our ears perked up: a well-researched report documenting individual donor benchmarks for nonprofits with a budget size under $2 million?! We had to learn more!

Heather and I chatted about the valuable discoveries that can be found in your very own database. Read on to learn the most surprising thing she learned from the 2013 data (hint: it has to do with significant jump in online giving) and find out the two big fundraising opportunities that nonprofits should start investing in ASAP.

Why did you start the Individual Donor Benchmark Report? What problems were you hoping to solve?

Heather Yandow: I started this project to help small and mighty organizations understand their fundraising success and opportunities for improvement.

As a professional fundraiser and fundraising consultant, I had a hard time finding good information about individual donor fundraising results. I had questions like, “What does a good recurring donor program look like? How much should I be bringing in online? What percentage of our income should be from individuals?”

If you are looking at a report where the average organization has a budget of $30 million, what conclusions can you draw for your organization with a budget of $300,000?

There were (and are) some studies that look at the whole nonprofit community – but those results are hard to extrapolate to a more modest size. If you are looking at a report where the average organization has a budget of $30 million, what conclusions can you draw for your organization with a budget of $300,000?

So I set out to look for data for the rest of us. The first year, I asked friends and colleagues to share their data, and the project has grown from there.

What was the most surprising thing you discovered after analyzing the data from 2013?

Online donations also grew significantly between 2012 and 2013 – by almost 80%.

HY: One of the most surprising things was that organizations had increased revenues overall and from individual donors. I was thrilled to see, it seems, that things are picking back up for small and mighty organizations.

Online donations also grew significantly between 2012 and 2013 – by almost 80%. Those who used some kind of online platform saw revenue increase more than 120%. It was great to see more small nonprofits taking advantage of online giving tools.

What are some opportunities for improvement that small nonprofits should embrace to help boost individual giving?

HY: Two things jump to mind.

One: recurring giving. There’s still a huge opportunity to build recurring (monthly or quarterly) giving programs. On average, small nonprofits have 20 donors giving in this way – only about 4% of their overall donor base. These folks tend to give significantly more over the year – averaging $625 in total giving per year versus the overall gift average of $403.

Two: larger gifts. The average organization had 16 donors give $1,000 or more per year, representing just over half of the average organization’s individual donor income. Not bad, right? BUT: if you look at a healthy donor pyramid, you want the top 10% of your donors giving 60% of overall revenue (with the middle 20% giving 20% and the bottom 70% giving 20%). For the average organization, this means they should have closer to 50 donors in that $1,000 and up category. So there’s a huge opportunity to be finding more large donors, especially through one-on-one contact – the average organization only held 17 donor meetings in a year!

Since Heather mentioned these two important fundraising strategies, I have to share two things with you: You can create a better monthly giving campaign with the help of our Recurring Giving Challenge. Or if you’re looking for major donors hiding in plain sight, you should check out this webinar. –Liz

How is the data collected?

HY: The data is collected through a simple survey that asks a series of questions about your individual donor fundraising. As you go through, the survey tool will also calculate some of your results (like average gift) as you go to provide you with instant information about your fundraising success. The data will be kept confidential, and you don’t have to answer all of the questions!

How can organizations participate in the 2014 survey? What if nonprofits don’t have all the data you need?

HY: If you want to know more about your individual donor fundraising – and your revenues were under $2 million in 2014 – you can be part of the project. You don’t have to have all of the survey data to participate: in fact there are only two required questions – your name and email address! I do encourage folks to try to find the answers to every question, but if that means hours of Excel hell, then I say skip it.

Here are three steps to help you get started:

  1. Get prepared. Mark your calendar for the survey period – March 2 through March 20 – and see if there’s a good time to dig into your data. To get a better idea of the survey questions, you can take a sneak peek or join me for a webinar on Tuesday, March 3.
  2. Collect your data. It takes most organizations between 15 and 45 minutes to find and enter the data, depending on their database and current use of data. Once the data is collected, walking through the survey questions is easy.
  3. Sit back and enjoy the rewards. By participating in the survey, you’ll get:
  • a report of your results side-by-side with the complete survey results to share with your colleagues and board
  • an invitation to a special webinar just for survey participants where we’ll dig into the results together
  • a chance to win one of five prize packs including a subscription to the Grassroots Fundraising Journal, a book from the Kim Klein Fundraising Series, two hours of consulting from Third Space Studio, and two hours of consulting from BC/DC Ideas
  • the official Individual Donor Benchmark report and infographic

Network for Good is a proud sponsor of this year’s Individual Donor Benchmark Survey. The survey opens on Monday, March 2 but you don’t have to wait until then. Register early!

Big thanks to Heather for doing this research so smaller nonprofits have access to this incredible data!

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Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

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

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