5 fundraising lessons we learned in June

Here are five lessons we learned last month: 

Overall giving last year accounted for the highest share of total GDP in decades

Overall giving reached $471.44 billion in 2020, setting a new record with a 5.1% growth rate, the largest one-year growth rate in five years, according to The Giving Institute’s “Giving USA 2021: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2020.” To put that $471.44 billion in perspective, overall giving accounted for 2.3% of total GDP—the largest share in more than 40 years. That’s particularly notable given the numerous challenges that nonprofits faced last year, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the racial justice and social justice movements, widespread economic need, and a highly contested presidential election. That’s thanks to the innovative ways that nonprofits sought to ensure their survival, which included developing new partnerships, exhibiting creativity in terms of messaging and new virtual engagement strategies, and rethinking the ways in which they operate.

Learn more about Giving USA 2021 by clicking here.


Online giving grew in size, gift amounts, retention rates, and the overall percentage of giving in 2020

The growth in digital fundraising was evident across the board and was helped, in part, by the pandemic shifting people’s lives online. That said, the pandemic amplified an already-existing trend: a longitudinal three-year view of fundraising from the same organizations revealed a 32.4% increase in online giving. The data suggests there is a significant potential for people to give a lot more online. But that will only happen if institutions find ways to drive donors to give online.

Learn how to benefit from the online giving boom by clicking here.


It’s important to be mindful of an institution’s unique elements when setting goals

Drexel University’s planned giving operation is strong. However, the number of traditionally aged alumni that Drexel would be looking at to make a planned gift is much smaller than its size would suggest given that roughly 50% of its alumni population graduated in the last 20 years, said David Unruh, Drexel University’s Senior Vice President, in a recent GG+A webinar. As a result, it needed to be thoughtful as it set realistic goals to expand its philanthropic giving in that space.

Learn how Drexel has driven fundraising performance and inspired a new philanthropic culture on campus with its ambitious $750 million campaign, The Campaign for Drexel, by clicking here.


It’s never been more important for fundraising leaders to invest in retention and promotion strategies for top talent

Employee turnover is a longstanding problem in fundraising. That problem stands to be magnified in the post-pandemic boom when turnover is expected to be extraordinarily high. That poses significant challenges to nonprofit institutions given that the ongoing pressure to close budget gaps through fundraising has led to explosive growth in fundraising programs across North America, but the development of fundraising talent has not kept pace. Several surveys show that high-performing gift officers are in short supply. This reality increases competition for top talent and makes it exceedingly hard for small institutions to attract and keep them.

Learn how to calculate the cost of losing high-performing fundraisers by clicking here.


Small, targeted gift projects can be powerful tools—but they require a similar structure to a campaign

Not every fundraising initiative is going to rise to the occasion of a full comprehensive campaign with a campaign cabinet, a feasibility study, and five-year timetable. Yet reunion class gifts, small capital projects, and focused endowment drives can be powerful tools to address a pressing need (e.g., resurfacing a turf field, ramping up DEI programming, initiating 1:1 technology in the lower school) or to seize upon an opportunity that calls for fundraising (e.g., the reunion of a historically generous class, the retirement of a popular teacher). But to achieve success, these types of “nano-campaigns” require the same foundational elements of a fully-articulated campaign, including a strong case, a sound plan, volunteer leadership, and a viable prospect pool.

Learn more about the fundamentals of a nano-campaign by clicking here.

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