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9 Research Reports for Non-Profit Fundraisers

Lori Halley 05 October 2010 1 comments

Veteran fundraisers know that the better your non-profit organization can understand your donors (and potential donors), their motivations, and their patterns of giving, the more effective your fundraising efforts will be. But it’s rare that a small non-profit has the staff time or resources to conduct a comprehensive donor survey each year – let alone the ability to analyze the data collected and pull out actionable insights. Fortunately, there’s no lack of expert research to be found on the Web.

Here, in no particular order, are 9 recent research reports we’ve found that are loaded with practical insights for non-profit fundraisers:

Heart of the Donor

Russ Reid’s original Heart of the Donor study, released in 1995, was a landmark in fundraising research, helping development professionals to better understand the motivations of donors. A new, updated version of the study, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with more than 2000 participants, was released at the Direct Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Conference in August 2010.

Margaret Battistelli shares some of the study’s key highlights at Fundraising Success magazine; the Association of Fundraising Professionals discusses the report’s findings on the Haiti appeal and Taming the Fear of Fundraising Costs; and you can sign up to get a free executive summary of Heart of the Donor: Insights into Donor Motivation and Behavior for the 21st Century at heartofthedonor.com.

Cause Marketing insights

Kate Olsen pulls out 4 key lessons for fundraising from Cone’s Cause Branding benchmark study (PDF), which assesses how consumers feel about corporate cause marketing efforts:

  1. Cause marketing is mainstream and widely accepted – especially among Moms and Millennials.
  2. Consumers are looking for ways to support you – their favorite charity – through corporate cause marketing initiatives.
  3. Cause marketing is not just about consumer product tie-ins anymore.
  4. Local community issues remain a top priority for many Americans.

Read more of Kate’s thoughts on these points, with supporting data from Cone’s study, at Katya Andresen’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog.

Older Adults & Social Media

A recent study by Pew Internet tells us that, “while social media use has grown dramatically across all age groups, older users have been especially enthusiastic over the past year about embracing new networking tools.” In fact, use of social networks by the 50+ crowd jumped from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010 – nearly double! 

The Wired Wealthy

Why is the “greying” of social media of significance to fundraisers? Check out what a recent Convio study has to say about The Wired Wealthy: Using the Internet to Connect with Your Middle and Major Donors (PDF) – those major donors who are increasingly active online. Joanne Fritz, Nonprofit Guide at About.com has an excellent summary of the research data, what the “wired wealthy” expect from nonprofits and recommendations for how charities can better meet those expectations.

Better Non-Profit Websites

In the Nielsen Norman Group study Donation Usability: Design Guidelines for Improving the Donation Process and the Usability of Essential Information on Charity and Non-Profit Websites, it was found that donors look for particular pieces of information when making a decision whether or not to donate, and who to donate to. Naomi Hamilton, over at Blackbaud.com, has the study highlights on encouraging online donations through your website.

Online Giving: Past the Tipping Point

In Canada, Online Giving Reigns for  donors under the age of 65.  The Association of Fundraising Professionals’ review of Penelope Burk’s Cygnus Donor Survey of more than 14,000 North American donors notes:

Three out of every four Canadian donors will transact at least one gift online in 2010. That figure rises to nine out of ten among Canadian donors under the age of 35. Particularly interesting, though, is that among Canadian donors over the age of 65, three out of five will give online this year, challenging the assumption that older donors still confine their giving transactions to older technologies. 

... Compared with American donors, Canadians are more comfortable with giving online, she says. Only 63 percent of Americans have given or plan to give online this year, compared with 72 percent of Canadians. 

The growing popularity of online giving doesn’t mean the day of direct mail is over, however, and Burk notes that nonprofits shouldn’t abandon traditional fundraising methods: 50% of donors over age 35 plan to give by mail this year. 

UK Direct Mail

TNT Post has released the results of a poll of 2,000 British adults on the use of direct mail for fundraising by charitites. The delivery company’s survey reports that 87% of people would go online to get more information about a charity – illustrating the importance of having an integrated communications strategy that includes online channels as well as the traditional – and still effective (57%, according to the TNT poll) – methods of fundraising such as direct mail.

Donors’ Choice

How do donors go about choosing which charities to support? The Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy (CGAP) in the UK has released a report by researcher Beth Breeze on the strategies used by donors to select which nonprofit, between competing causes and charities, will receive their donations.  You can download the report (PDF), free, from the CGAP website.

Fundraising Effectiveness

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project, by AFP and the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute, is a web-based questionnaire that aims to “help nonprofit organizations measure, compare and maximize their annual growth in giving.” You can download the 2010 Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) Survey Report (PDF) – it’s free – or learn more at through the Association of Fundraising Professionals website, AFPnet.org.

What recent fundraising studies have you come across, to add to this list?

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 05 October 2010 at 2:27 PM


  • Geri Stengel said:

    Thursday, 21 October 2010 at 8:04 AM

    A valuable list of resources.   The demographic studies are particularly interesting in that they counter much of the conventional wisdom. I always like things that challenge one's preconceptions.

    In answer to your question, I'd add <a href="http://ventureneer.com/sites/default/files/nonprofits-and-social-media-it-aint-optional_0.pdf">Nonprofits and Social Media: It Ain\'t Optional</a>, a free report based on a survey of nonprofits done in August 2010 by Ventureneer and Caliber.  One important discovery: the message determines the medium. Not all social media are effective for fundraising; others are very effective. Some surprising data emerged as well, such as most nonprofits don't use social media effectively but those that do find it leverages their fundraising efforts. The survey report pulls these findings together into a best practices guide for nonprofits using social media.

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