U.S. Fundraising Results See No Change in First Half of 2011

As the fourth quarter of 2011 begins – typically the most important time of year for fundraising – fewer than half of surveyed nonprofits reported fundraising increases during the first half of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010.

According to a just released report from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC), of 813 responding nonprofits surveyed in July:

  • Forty-four percent reported increases in charitable contributions received through June, compared with the same period in 2010;
  • Twenty-five percent reported giving remained level;
  • Thirty percent reported charitable contributions have declined so far this year; and
  • One percent did not know.

These numbers are barely changed from the NRC 2010 year-end survey, when 43 percent of respondents indicated they raised more money in 2010 than they did in 2009. At that time, almost a quarter (24 percent) saw giving remaining level, and 33 percent raised less.

These results indicate that nonprofit organizations still face a difficult fundraising climate. In the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) 2007 State of Fundraising Survey, which asked the same questions as the 2011 NRC study, 65 percent of respondents raised more money that year, before the recession, than in 2006. Eleven percent raised about the same, and 24 percent raised less.

Results by Subsector and Growth

The NRC surveys found that the relatively low share of nonprofits reporting growth in contributions received began during the recession and lingered for all subsectors through the first half of 2011. In the current survey, human services organizations fared best, but only 50 percent of those organizations reported increases in the first half of the year. International charities had the smallest share of organizations reporting increases, at just 20 percent, although those numbers may be affected by the Haiti earthquake and high donation levels in 2010.

There were marked differences based on size, with larger organizations achieving greater fundraising success. Fifty-seven percent of the largest organizations in the survey (budgets of $3 million or greater) raised more funds in the first half of 2011, compared with just 34 percent of charities with budgets of less than $250,000.

Implementing Campaigns and What’s Ahead

In one strategy to raise more funds, charities are planning for and implementing capital and other fundraising campaigns. Of the NRC respondents, 12 percent are currently involved in a campaign, while 34 percent are in the planning stages. Organizations currently in specific fundraising campaigns were somewhat more likely to see gifts increasing, with 62 percent reporting they had raised more money in the first half of 2011 compared to the same time in 2010. The only exception was for organizations with annual expenditures of less than $250,000; they did not see any significant increases.

About the Survey

When asked for their thoughts about the most successful fundraising methods for the rest of the year, two-thirds (67 percent) reported they would focus on large-scale efforts to reach many people through direct mail, special events, online campaigns, and similar activities. Forty-five percent said they would focus on larger gifts, while 28 percent said they saw foundation and corporate support as their biggest potential growth area.

The online survey was conducted in July 2011 about fundraising efforts at participating nonprofits from January through June. Eligible and complete responses numbered 813. The respondents as analyzed form a convenience sample. There is no margin of error or measure of statistical significance using this sampling technique, as it is not a random sample of the population studied.