U.S. Charities Saw Increased Contributions in 2011

Economy the biggest challenge to fundraising, study says

Things may finally be looking up for American nonprofit organizations. Last year, for the first time since 2007, more than half of nonprofits experienced an increase in charitable receipts, according to a new report by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative.

NRC’s study found that 53% of U.S. charities surveyed received more contributions in 2011 than in 2010. Just 16% saw charitable receipts remain flat, compared with 24% a year ago.

Less than a third of charities reported a drop in contributions in 2011, a big improvement over the 46% in 2009 that experienced a decline, NRC said in a statement.

Last year’s good news apparently came on the heels of an uptick in contributions during the fourth quarter. “These findings are a pleasant surprise, given that the Collaborative’s surveys through September 2011 showed relatively flat levels of fundraising,” Andrew Watt, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, an NRC founder, said in the statement.

“We saw a strong surge in year-end giving, helped by the slowly growing economy and people responding to the needs of their communities.”

More than 70% of organizations in the study said they expected to receive increased contributions in 2012. About a third said that the national and global economy is the greatest challenge to fundraising this year.

The study found that most nonprofits employ a wide variety of fundraising techniques. On average, respondents used eight of the 10 different fundraising methods studied, including direct mail, major gifts and online appeals.

According to the study, board members—especially in organizations with $1 million or more in expenditures—are likely to be involved in fundraising in a combination of ways. Fifty-seven percent of all board members among the survey respondents and 62% of those in large charities are expected to make a contribution and to connect their personal networks to the organization by using their names in fundraising pitches or making introductions.

Between 50% and 60% of organizations have board members who take a more

active role in fundraising, which includes:

  • Chairing events (65%)
  • Securing sponsorship funding (62%)
  • Making personal visits to prospective donors (58%).
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