Over the past 12 months there have been some very interesting study results released that indicate distinct synergies between effective fundraising, donor stewardship, staff retention, board involvement and the culture of philanthropy.
The Next Generation of American Giving report by Blackbaud was released recently and provides some insightful data about how donors in various age groupings prefer to donate and volunteer and their crucial connection to engagement. According to survey results, donors pro-actively involve themselves with their favorite causes in a variety of ways:
- Nearly 60% say they donate clothes, food and other items;
- More than 1/3 give time as well as money;
- Approximately 1/5 say they attend or host in-person events;
- Approximately 1/5 also participate in advocacy activities; and
- Overall, a whopping 75% of donors engage online with causes.
The fascinating thing about the Blackbaud report is that all the extensive data reinforces findings from the UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising report with respect to the issues surrounding instability of fundraisers’ job tenure and not having enough human resources to communicate with donors in a timely and meaningful manner. UnderDeveloped was one of the biggest national surveys of its kind which gathered data from more than 2,700 development directors and charity heads. Among its key findings were:
- Half (yes, half!) of the chief fundraisers plan to leave their jobs within two years or less;
- Forty percent are thinking about leaving fundraising entirely; and
- More than half of the executive directors reported that they can’t find well-qualified people to run their fundraising staffs.
Adding extra pressure to those staffing challenges is the observation that charities that succeed at fundraising seem to differ from those that struggle in one key way, according to William Sturtevant, a senior fundraiser at the University of Illinois Foundation: Their leaders are deeply involved in raising money. “It isn’t just the executives who need to be engaged in fundraising, but the board members too. That’s profoundly important,” says Mr. Sturtevant, who also works as a consultant to other charities. Seventy-five percent of the executive directors said their trustees were insufficiently involved in raising money for their charities. Thirty-six percent said their boards had no fundraising committees, and 17 percent of CEO’s said their boards had no involvement in fundraising at all.1
So therein is our conundrum – if it takes a village to nurture donor relationships, and if engagement is a critical factor to strong relationships, how then can charities that struggle to build and maintain effective staff teams and fundraising boards expect to keep existing donors and secure new ones if the very people charged with donor relations aren’t working within a culture of philanthropy that will make that possible?
The good news, according to the Blackbaud findings, is that most donors give despite the internal challenges experienced by a lot of organizations. Some donors will give more than others, some will give items and some will give money and some will expect highly transparent and impactful reporting but, at the end of the fiscal year, it seems we can still count on our donors to give (for now). If we want that to continue, we need to take steps to ensure we understand our donors and earn their time, gifts and advocacy. Here are a few resources to help you get started:
The Getting Attention Blog provides some great tips on how to communicate and build relationships with donors via several channels.
The TDG Tip Sheet for Board Fund Development Engagement Ideas provides tips on how to involve board members, even if they don’t consider themselves “fundraisers”