The superb data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s annual report is always comprehensive and insightful. FEP is one of the most important reference tools any professional fundraiser can have here in the United States to guide their actions in several key areas of their day to day work.

Let’s dig into the tasty morsels of data coming straight from thousands of donor databases across America:

1. Overall Giving Grew by 5.3%

Based upon nearly 10,000 participating organizations across the country the amount of overall dollars raised increased from 8.196 billion in 2014 to 8.628 billion in 2015!

This 5.3% increase is not speculative or inferred in any manner. This is based upon summary data from 9,922 actual nonprofit organizations. Just as important, the drill-down details discussed below are 100% actual data too!

Such a healthy increase can be an excellent guide as your organization looks to establish its fundraising goals for this current year.

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2. Total Donors Grew 2%

The increase in giving outlined above was more a result of increased giving by donors than the donor pool increasing. 5.3% is 3.3% more than the donor pool increase of 2% and speaks volumes regarding the sentiment toward increasing gift size by those donors whether they are repeat or new donors.

This also shows the importance of a steady flow of new donors via various acquisition methods. Caution, however must be added to not allow the acquisition efforts to overshadow the vital and game changing results that can come from improved donor retention efforts. These two efforts must work in concert with each other and not be in conflict in any manner.

3. Median Donor Retention Remained at 43%

Staying exactly the same donor retention rate from 2014 to 2015 is guardedly good news. The efforts of the professional and volunteer fundraisers during the course of the past year did not allow any slippage to occur. Unfortunately, in the ten year history of this report the retention rate has never reached 50%!

However, this still means the following:

4. 57 of Every 100 Donors Did NOT Give Again the Next Year!

When compared to customers in every vertical of the commercial business world and their customers the nonprofit sector’s donor retention rate falls far short.

This is not true for every participating nonprofit organization in the report. There are shining examples of retention rates 10-30% higher.

Our experience in measuring donor retention rates daily for hundreds and hundreds of customers is that paying close attention to the rate can and will make a difference in virtually all cases. Let’s all hope more and more of the organizations engaged in professional fundraising do just that.

5. Larger Organizations Fare Better

Sadly, the smaller the nonprofit is in annual revenue the lower the rate of growth in giving performance. Here are the stats:

  • Organizations raising $500,000 or more had an average 10.7 percent rate of growth.
  • Organizations raising $100,000 to $500,000 had an average 0.6 percent rate of growth.
  • Organizations in the under $100,000 groups had an average loss of -11.8 percent.

The possible reasons for this are not outlined, but the obvious fact that most larger organizations are able to hire professional fundraisers many of who are certified via proper credentials may be the difference. Those individuals are aware of the key benefits of focusing in on donor retention via proper engagement.

Those organizations below $500,000 should have their staff and volunteers who work with prospects and donors seek out training and resources to aid in improving knowledge regarding best practices. It does make a difference!

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6. Five Software Firms Lead the Way in Sharing Data for This Report

Finally, special mention and thank you must be given to the five technology vendors – Bloomerang, Abila, eTapestry, DonorPerfect and Neon – who provided all of the data to make this report and the numerous benefits happen. These five had the vision to know just what a difference having 100% accurate comparison data to work with can mean!

These six morsels of key and insightful information should entice everyone to peruse, if not devour, the entire report who has a career in fundraising.

You can read the full 2016 FEP report here.

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Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.
Jay Love