Blackbaud’s report and the future of fundraising

November 4, 2011

Can it be true?  Blackbaud’s recently released report, Growing Philanthropy in the United States,  notes that philanthropic giving stands at a paltry 2% of the average disposable income – a 40 year average.


How can nonprofit fundraisers increase giving to keep up with the pace of society’s increased demand?

Blackbaud brought together a think tank of 35 fundraising leaders at their first Growing Philanthopy Summit in June and arrived at a plethora of recommendations for growing individual donors in the new economy.

The resulting report, authored by Adrian Sargent and Jen Shang arrived at a host of recommendations, just a few of which I’ll touch on here:

Redefine relationships from donor relationships to individual relationships.
You’ve heard it before:  your donors are not atm machines.  Your supporters support what they’re accomplishing through you – not your annual fund (ugh, can we agree to get rid of that term once and for all?).  Increased donor surveying is one way to gain a deeper understanding of their motivations.  Recognize that there’s no such thing as generic persuasion.

Re-orient toward longer term measures of fundraising performance.
In everything that we do, we should be thinking about the lifetime value of a donor.   We know this intrinsically, but how do we apply measurements?  Perhaps more importantly, how do you educate executive directors and boards to the concept?

Enhance focus on retention and building supporter loyalty.“A 10 percent improvement in attrition can yield up to a 200 percent increase in projected value.”  Yet organizations continue to focus on new donor acquisition to the exclusion of true relationship building.  Is stewardship in your organization an afterthought or relegated to an underpaid admin?  Get with the program!  Showing your gratitude is fun, it makes for good karma and it’s everyone’s responsibility.

Promote the development of shared back office facilities.
The study “recommended that groups of nonprofits in a given community get together and share fundraising expertise with the creation of one central back office facility.”  Or think about starting a mastermind group like my friend Heather did!

Encourage the adoption of monthly giving.
“The wider adoption of monthly giving (also known as regular or sustained giving) in the U.S. could itself transform philanthropy.”  No!  Really???  GET OUT!  I’ve been beating this drum for the past three years.  Start it, nurture it, grow it.  End of story.

Redesign the system of professional development and certification for fundraisers.
Hmmm.   Membership associations are struggling mightily in the new economy, more than likely because they need to take a hard look at what’s in it for members, not vice versa.  I am not a huge fan of certification programs.  What, after all, do they prove?  That one has obtained the required credit hours and mastered the test taking process or concepts deemed by the accrediting organization to be valuable?  I don’t believe certification truly can measure who is best in their field or, for that matter, creativity and passion for a mission.

Educate board members about the intricacies of fundraising.BINGO!  Fundraising is everyone’s job.  Period.  You’ve got to recognize too that board education is a process.

Break down organizational silos and encourage greater collaboration between teams.How can your marketing department and your development office operate in a vacuum?

Blow the whistle on organizations claiming to have zero costs of fundraising.
Can we have a “Hallelujah and amen!”?

Encourage and promote best practices in social media.
It’s called “social” media for a reason and, in my humble opinion, the potential for building relationships – not necessarily fundraising, but building relationships – is unlimited.  How can you integrate social media (and don’t forget email!) within your fundraising plan?

Tackle high turnover rates in the fundraising profession.The sector has been talking about fundraising employee turnover for years with little resolution in sight.  I’ve faced it myself as a development director, coming on board as the fifth DD in three years.  Developing continuity and true relationships is next to impossible in that kind of environment.  I’ve faced it myself as a consultant, chided that my work was too “market-y” and “it won’t work for us.”  Fundraisers need to take the reins and lead.  We can’t ask for permission.

There’s more.  A whole lot more.  Do your organization a favor.  Download Growing Philanthropy in the United States, print out a copy for your ED and every member of your board and make it an agenda item it at your next board meeting.  Better yet, make it the focus of your next board meeting.

The future of your organization depends on it.

How does the small nonprofit organization create a donor-centric “road map to success that can take the scary out and bring in a sense of comfort, self-confidence, and focus about what can and should be done?”  Simple Development Systems: Successful fundraising for the one-person shop is on sale now!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: