Posts Tagged ‘Research’

A Potpourri of Research for Fundraisers

Posted by Gayle Gifford on July 8, 2013 in Fundraising

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Have you ever thought:

I really want to keep up with the latest research in nonprofit fundraising. But I barely have time to care for all of my donors. I wish someone would just share a list with me.

Well, here’s one I pulled together for fundraisers like you with the help of my Twitter peeps. It ranges from broad studies on the state of fundraising to more specific research on donors or online giving. There’s even a study on how much fundraisers get paid.

Consider it a place to start. And please, I welcome your contributions of research reports that have helped you be more thoughtful about your fundraising.

Thought provoking, must reads:

Underdeveloped:  A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. CompassPoint. 2013

What it costs: Free download

What it says: Troubling findings documenting widespread instability in the profession, including high turnover, lack of commitment to profession, performance problems and long vacancies in positions. Small and medium sized nonprofits can’t find enough qualified fundraisers at a cost they can afford. Small and medium sized nonprofits lack many of the conditions for fundraising success including basics such as fundraising plans and data management systems to poor relationships between development and executive directors and lack of an organization wide culture of philanthropy.

Great Fundraising. Clayton Burnett, researched by Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, 2013

What it costs: Free download.

What it says: This study of 5 top performing UK fundraising charities, as identified by 20 “leading thinkers”  asks and answers: What makes for great fundraising? Described as delivering substantive growth, it requires Level 5 leadership, a talented and experienced team, a culture of organizational learning, effective communicators, and individual and team systems thinkers. Read the executive summary. Read More >>

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Noticeable differences in funding between the smallest charities and the rest

Posted by Gayle Gifford on January 21, 2011 in Fundraising, Research

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I just discovered Grassroots Civil Society, the Scope and Dimensions of Small Public Charities, released in 2010 by the Urban Institute.

In the report, authors Elizabeth Boris and Katie Roeger hoped to shed a bit more light on the smallest reporting public charities. Accounting for three out of ten of all public charities, these small organizations weighed in with total revenues, expenses and assets below $100,000.

I’ve written a lot about the special role these tiny organizations can play in our social fabric. (Eg. See Hope Dignity and Quality of Life are also valuable outcomes, even when measured in hours.) While this report wasn’t designed to look at social impact, any nod toward this large segment of nonprofits is welcome as all attention lately seems to be focused on being or getting big.

What particularly struck me was the difference in the revenue types of these small organizations. Small public charities rely heavily on private contributions ( 52.7%)  while the sector as a whole depends largely on fee for service revenues (67.1%).

Small charities also receive 16.8% of income from “other revenue” which includes net income from special events, gross profit from sale of inventory and other revenue (my guess is that those special events make up the bulk of this income) — the percentage for the category overall is 2.1%. According to the report, these patterns have been pretty consistent over the 10 years studied.

I’m infinitely interested in understanding how organizations grow. While an article like How Nonprofits Get Really Big helped shed a lot of light on nonprofit growth, it doesn’t address the path between start-up and reaching that qualifying $50 million in revenues.

I think it would be very interesting to understand how these revenue patterns shift by size of organization and also whether the numbers are consistent within particular types of organizations (arts, environment, social service) regardless of size or if the revenue proportions hold as size changes.

Why bother with all this data? I don’t think we do nonprofits a service by prescribing remedies that ignore the huge differences among us and act instead as if the sector were a monolith. I welcome more research that can help us better understand the similarities and the vast differences in the sector.

P.S. Check out other studies at the Urban Institute. You might want to start with Nonprofit Governance in the United States, an exhaustive look at our boards.


Nonprofit data at your fingertips

Posted by Gayle Gifford on September 30, 2010 in Helpful sites

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I’d like to give a shout out to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, a project of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, at the Urban Institute. I find that I probably visit the NCCS free Table Wizard at least once a month. (Of course, I’m always scrounging for data).

Maybe it’s just me, but I often overhear conversations among nonprofit executives, service providers, or board members who make statements like “I wish we knew how many nonprofits there were in our state” or “how does our organization measure up to the larger nonprofit landscape in terms of revenues.” I suggest that they check out NCCS.

There’s lots of great data already compiled on the site (like the number of registered 501(c)3 organizations by state). I urge you to look around. I know I’ve barely tapped what is there.

Last month, I was completing a development audit for a provider of adult education services and was interested in where they stood among their state colleagues. So I went to the NCCS Table Wizard and asked for Registered Nonprofits, Total Revenue Levels, the state (let’s try Indiana), Major Category Education and subcategory Adult Education in the NTEE code and then Public Charity.

This is what I got.

Now, the table wizards are only as specific as the data reported on the 990. So while I can get gross revenue breakdowns under the big categories of “Contributions, Gifts and Grants” or “Program Services and Contracts,” the 990s doesn’t tell us whether those contributions were from companies, individuals, private or foundations.  For the casual user, it’s a great start in helping you understand just where in the landscape of organizations you might be.

Besides data on nonprofits, you can look at household charitable giving in your state and get some numbers on average gifts and number of itemized returns who make charitable gifts.

Some of the ways I’ve used the tables include looking at the stratification  of the sector by revenues and assets, understanding in a gross way how a particular sector receives its income, or what household giving looks like on average in various states by income level.

I know that there are many more uses of the data for serious researchers. I’d love to hear your stories of how you’ve used data from NCCS. Or please share other data sources that you rely on.


Surprise! Fundraising is the top US volunteer activity

Posted by Gayle Gifford on January 11, 2010 in Fundraising

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I was just re-reading the report released last January this time  “Call to Service Assessment 2008: Community Volunteer Service Needs and Opportunities; July – September 2008″ of Serve Rhode Island (the RI Commission on National and Community Service). 

Among other things, I was struck by the data on where volunteers spend their time. According to statistics gathered by the US Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported here:

Main Activities of Volunteers (2005-2007)

Fundraise                                          29.7% (RI)                       27.9% (US)
Collect/Distribute Food                 19.5%   (RI)                      24.5% (US)
Professional/Management           16.6%    (RI)                      17.4% (US)
Tutor/Teach                                       15.7%   (RI)                       20.5% (US)

At first glance I was somewhat surprised that fundraising was at the top of the volunteer activity list given the number of complaints I hear from organizations about their inability to recruit volunteers to help them raise funds.  (Don’t the choices of volunteer activities seem pretty limited.)

But when activities are matched against the top places where volunteers serve — overwhelmingly education and religious groups — the numbers made much more sense.

If you think about the legions of parents who raise money for their kids’ schools, or run events and raise money for their religious congregations, it’s not too surprising that fundraising might come out on top.

Unfortunately, what the study doesn’t tell us is the relationship of the volunteering to the amount of funds raised. Now that would be a number worth gathering.

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8/100 Things – Try role playing to train and perfect

Posted by Gayle Gifford on March 27, 2009 in 100 Things We've Learned, Better Boards, Communicating, Little ideas

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Most people say they hate role playing. But it can be really helpful.

I spent this morning rehearsing interview questions with a few board members and staff of one of my clients. This small nonprofit came to me looking for help building its board. In that initial discussion, it became clear to me that the organization was running a few programs but was pretty unclear as to how relevant and valuable it was to the community it had traditionally served.

Board members agreed to get out and interview about 20 community members face to face over the next month or so. As we talked about who they might interview, I was impressed by their connections within their community … and curious as to when they had stopped having ongoing conversations with all of these people.  Unfortunately, I no longer find this unusual among groups that come seeking my help.

So we practiced interviewing each other to test our questions. This helped us structure a nice flow as well as highlighting missing questions or confusing ones.

AND, even though this was just practice with each other, I think we learned a lot about the two people who were interviewed this morning… and a lot about each other’s perceptions of the community and their own organization’s role in it. Just by role playing.

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