November 16, 2012

Charities Bring in Bucks With Simple Touches, Survey Finds

Donor-retention efforts pay off in increased giving

Simple things, like saying thank you and staying in touch, mean a lot.

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative reported Tuesday that organizations were likely to see an increase in charitable dollars received in the first half of 2012 when the organization used any one of three “best practice” donor-retention communications: donor recognition, reporting results and multiple channels of disseminating information.

The finding was part of NRC’s semi-annual survey of fundraising by nonprofit organizations. Conducted online in August and September, it drew 781 responses.

Among all surveyed charities, 46% saw growth in funds raised in January through June 2012 compared with the first half of 2011. In contrast, 60% of those that actively engaged donors saw gains.

NRC said its study was one of the first to explore the link between retention rates and the direction of change in charitable receipts and with actual retention initiatives.

Among survey participants with less than $3 million in total revenue, those with retention rates in 2011 of 60% or better were likely to see increases in their charitable receipts in the first six months of 2012, compared with 2011.

For organizations with less than $10 million in expenditures, retention rates were likely to be higher when a nonprofit organization used multiple efforts (four or more) to retain existing donors.

For organizations with $10 million or more in expenditures, efforts to regain lapsed donors were associated with higher retention rates.

“As the challenging fundraising environment persists, donor retention remains critically important as a focus area for nonprofits,” Chuck Longfield, chief scientist of NRC’s partner Blackbaud, said in a statement.

“In addition, we continue to see that multichannel engagement is key for nonprofits’ fundraising success.”

The majority of surveyed charities used multiple fundraising approaches. Seventy-five percent to 90% of organizations used 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 used online approaches and 50% use planned giving.

Methods used by less than half of survey participants were gifts from congregations and distributions from federated campaigns, social media and telephone solicitation.

A small number of responding organizations (5%) use SMS/texting in their fundraising.

For 10 of 13 fundraising methods studied, more respondents said results “stayed the same” rather than increased or decreased. The exceptions:

  • Special events (45% saw an increase while 37% reported that receipts stayed the same)
  • Major gifts (40% had an increase compared with 33% where receipts were about the same)
  • Foundation grants (38% experienced an increase, compared with 33% reporting level receipts).

Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported using some type of social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) as part of their fundraising. Indeed, use of social media was by far the most often added method in early 2012, with nearly 12% of organizations reporting it was a new endeavor for them. 

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