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Welcome to our Fundraising Management Blog! Be sure to visit us often for the latest information on fundraising news, trends, and best practices.

Friday Update: Fundraising infographics

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week we have some links to fundraising infographics and reports with great visual representation of fundraising trends and tactics.

From around the web:

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AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Project Reports
Fundraising Effectiveness Project

The groundbreaking annual Fundraising Effectiveness Survey, piloted in November 2006, offers great statistics you can use to benchmark your program. Check out the 2016 report for the latest trends.

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How Nonprofit Communicators Spend Their Time (Infographic) #NPCOMM2017
Nonprofit Marketing Guide

Do you wonder if other nonprofit communicators are spending as much time on certain tasks as you? Check out the results from the 2017 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report and see for yourself.

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Measuring Gift Impact
Annual Giving Network

Today’s donors seem to care less about hearing stories that describe why other donors give or seeing their own name listed on a roster. Instead, they want to know what, in measurable terms, their past support has helped to achieve.

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The most important words of your email?
FundraisingCoach.com

Is your inbox filled with holiday sales, year end reminders, and charity appeals? It can be challenging to make your own nonprofit’s emails standout!

Spotlight: Major and planned giving productivity

You can’t book big gifts if your team isn’t productive. We’ve heard from hundreds of major and planned giving professionals over the past year about key hurdles to reaching the best and most ready donors.

Fundraising infographics: what major and planned giving officers told us

RNL consultants recently sounded off on our plan to help institutions double their results, and you can check out these features on major giving team productivity:

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$41 Billion in higher education giving recorded by VSE survey for 2016

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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I’m a big fan of the Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey. For 50 years, it’s been the survey of record for higher education giving, both from individuals and grant makers. We just received the 2016 results from the Council for Aid to Education.

Here are a few highlights from this year’s VSE results and what I think they mean for us as fundraisers:

  • Donors once again set a record for higher education support at $41 billion. But since this is only a bit higher than the $40.3 billion raised in 2015, the increase is almost completely erased when you consider inflation.
  • One of the big factors here is a soft 2016 stock market, and the fact that we’re coming off successive years of big increases as well as some big art and property gifts that blew up the totals. The election and delays by donors as they watched what would happen could have also contributed. With the stock surges we’ve seen early this year, we could see some big movement in 2017 results. Two big contributors—tax policy and our fundraising strategies, will matter.
  • Less than 1% of institutions continue to raise more than 27% of the funds. This “Matthew Effect” is a continuing trend in higher education giving. That doesn’t mean that the other 99% of schools aren’t raising money, we just see mega-giving really concentrated in this elite group.
  • Individual giving, at first glance, seems down. But there has been a massive increase in the impact of family foundations and donor-advised funds that we’ve all been hearing about. These really are gifts driven by individuals. When we look at institutions that itemized these sources, we find that personal giving would actually be up substantially for yet another year. Be sure that you are correctly accounting these gifts and tying stewardship to the individuals who drove them.

Higher education giving by source, 2016

  • Alumni participation is down once again. This is definitely impacted by larger donor rolls and our ability to stay in touch with alumni, but donor counts are also down at many institutions.
  • Giving to current operations has really pulled away from capital support over the past 20 years. This is good news for fundraisers looking to address current needs.

Higher education giving as a percentage of total support

  • The survey data show a real diversification of donor sources at top institutions. Parents and non-alumni friends of institutions are an increasing part of higher education giving.

It’s important to recognize that the VSE survey primarily tracks actual receipts by institutions, not overall commitments. We’re in the middle of a giant wealth transfer right now, and many institutions are also booking significant legacy commitments which are not covered in this survey and will be shown decades from now as those gifts come to bear.

With the VSE’s annual publication (and even better, a VSE Data Miner account), you can benchmark your institution and see how you compare to peers. I’ve also found that the standardized data collected by the VSE can be a great way to look at your own institution’s trends. Giving staff rosters and database systems change, but the VSE’s reporting definitions remain steady—so if someone at your institution is consistently reporting your results, the data they store on your institution can be very helpful to track trends.

Read the full VSE press release at the Council for Aid to Education.

Join us for a webinar on higher education giving

We’ll be going in depth with Ann Kaplan, director of the VSE survey and data miner, in our webinar on March 1 at 2:00 ET. Join us as we explore the results and what they mean for your fundraising strategy. Ann will also take your questions. We’ll see you there.

Webinar on higher education giving

 

Podcast: Major and planned giving productivity

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Podcast on major and planned giving productivityYou just can’t book big gifts if your fundraising team isn’t productive. This is a top concern for fundraisers who are being asked to book bigger and bigger giving totals each year. Ruffalo Noel Levitz talked to hundreds of major and planned giving fundraisers in 2016 and heard some common roadblocks that are holding teams back: finding the right donors to talk to, supporting gift officers with good information and training, and preparing donors and fundraisers for great visits. Add in gift officer turnover, and many organizations are struggling to reach their fundraising potential.

So we embarked on the creation of a solution that’s great for both donors and fundraisers. This podcast features 7 RNL leaders providing a look “under the hood” to show how the solution came together.  They discuss what increasing productivity can mean for your aspirational fundraising goals.

Included are:

  • How predictive analysis of your donor base can take you beyond wealth rating.
  • How warming up donors before a conversation makes a difference.
  • Getting help with a first conversation to qualify donors and schedule a gift officer meeting.
  • Why productivity matters for your overall goals.

Ready to ramp up major and planned giving productivity?

Making Major Giving and Planned Giving More Productive

Click to get the paper

Start with our white paper, Making Major and Planned Giving More Productive, which illustrates how increases in efficiency and productivity can have a dramatic impact on your big gift results.

Find our more about RNL major and planned giving solutions, including case studies and testimonials at advance.ruffalonl.com.

And read more about our take on major and planned giving productivity at blogfm.ruffalonl.com.

Friday Update: To the fundraising future

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week we have some features about our fundraising future, from harnessing marketing automation, to predicting what’s next for annual giving.

From around the web:

  
Marketing Automation: It’s Not Going Away
NonProfit PRO

Last week, this piece on marketing automation ran in the Huffington Post pushing nonprofits to invest in marketing automation. I am here to beat the drum again, as it may be one of our most important conversations…

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Email Marketing: Busting Myths, Offering Insights
NonProfit PRO

Are you confused between “opinions” and “facts” when it comes to email marketing? Here’s a list of 104 answers for you…

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4 Schools That Create BuzzFeed-Inspired Content for Alumni and Students
EverTrue

BuzzFeed has flipped the journalism world on its head. From humorous top-10 lists to high-level news reporting, the tech company excels on both ends of the spectrum—and has done a great job of drawing in a younger audience because of it. Here are  4 schools that have harnessed this tactic.

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7 Predictions for 2017
Annual Giving Network

Dan Allenby offers predictions for annual giving professions in the coming year.

Spotlight: VSE survey records $41 billion in higher education support

VSE results 2017: what they mean for our fundraising future

  • Giving of $41 billion sets another record (before inflation), and the majority of giving was to current operations over endowments.
  • Gifts recorded by individuals seem to have declined following several big years of increases. However, when you consider significant growth in family foundations, closely held organizations and donor-advised fund gifts, gifts primarily directed by individuals could be growing.
  • Alumni participation continues to decline, and the top 1% of institutions continue to raise a very large portion of the total funds.

Read the VSE Press Release here and stay tuned for our analysis of this year’s results. Mark your calendar for 2:00 p.m. on March 1 when Ann Kaplan, VSE director, will join us for a live webinar to discuss the results and what they mean for fundraisers.

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Donor warming: major and planned giving for the modern advancement team

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Josh Robertson

Vice President of Product Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Josh has over 17 years of experience in the industry, oversees fundraising strategy, analytics and product development and has worked with over 100+ institutions.
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The second in a four-part series on how institutions and nonprofit organizations can re-imagine how to identify, warm, and qualify major giving and planned giving prospects, along with how to analyze the success from those efforts. Read part 1 here.

Part 2:  Keeping your major gift prospects warm

You have donors with propensity to give and you have donors with predicted wealth. As we discussed in the first blog in this series, when those two attributes combine you have what many consider to be the perfect major giving prospect.  For those entering or in a campaign, you likely have identified a large new cadre of major gift prospects that you hope and expect are primed for making a transformational gift.

So now it’s time to assign a major gift officer and begin qualifying this large pool of new major giving prospects through personal outreach…or is it?  There are two roadblocks that we have to overcome before we embark upon the engagement and qualification calls that are part of donor warming:

  1. Donor education about major giving: Most major giving prospects will have a long history of giving and may be inclined to continue giving. That said, past communication from your organization may not be conveying your transformational gift opportunities. Educating these loyal donors is key before any qualification call.
  2. Major gift officer portfolio size: While having a large group of identified prospects can seem like a great problem to have, the reality is a large group of new prospects with no history of making major gifts can very easily fall under your gift officer radar. These new opportunities aren’t likely going to rise to the top of a major gift officer list of donors to engage, especially when they are trying to close gifts from proven major donors. Commonly, these prospects are also removed from at least some of the annual giving appeals, which means a group of proven donors can begin to languish, ignored, without the same level of outreach that they have come to expect from your organization. Big gift officer portfolios, instead of opportunity, can spell disaster.

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Friday Update: donors big, small, and happy

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week we have some features on big and small donors, and how to have more happy donors.

From around the web:

happy donors
7 Strategies to Create Happier, More Generous Donors
NonProfit PRO

Nonprofits need to tell a compelling story the donor wants to enter into. Make what you say relevant to people’s experiences… Read more »

major donors happy donors
The 30 Million Dollar Donor
Veritus Group

Several weeks ago we received some not-so-surprising news from a client in the western U.S. I say “not so surprising” because we see the very same thing with other clients all the time. But it was surprising to this client. Here’s what happened… Read more »

happy donors are loyal donors
Why Your Smaller-Dollar Donors Should Matter
allaboutcharity

The Agitator ran an article about changes in giving that ought to concern us all. While overall giving was up last year, more of the money came from wealthy donors. Smaller dollar gifts declined. Do read the article, and the study, Gilded Giving, it references. In the article, Roger Craver points out some disturbing ways this trend can hurt the sector – and the world. One of the most dangerous is that having fewer, larger donors leads to skewed priorities… Read more »

easy giving options create more happy donors
What About Including a Text Box on Your Donate Form, Like SolarAid?
ifundraiser blog

Once you adopt a mindset of “how can we get people to spread our story?” obvious ideas seem to drop out. So how about simply asking your donors to rate and review you and sharing this on your website? So simple, yet I can’t find a single charity that does this. Whilst there are third party review sites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator in the U.S., that’s not the same thing. Maybe this is because it needs a bit of effort to add reviews to your website?… Read more »

Spotlight: Get your conference on!

The 2017 conference season is in full swing. We’re excited to be presenting sessions with successful institutions at these upcoming CASE Conferences:

We’ll see you on the road!

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Friday Update: donor acquisition, gift impact, and fundraising with beer

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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The Friday Fundraising Update collects fundraising industry insights and success stories and delivers them to you each Friday from Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

This week we have some features on recruiting student fundraisers, donor acquisition, twists on gift impact, and a novel fundraising mission at a non-profit brew pub.

From around the web:

  In-Depth: The Top 3 Reasons Why Recruitment Should Be the #1 Priority of a Phonathon Manager
Real Deal Fundraising Jessica Cloud outlines why having a great team of student fundraisers needs to be a top priority for your program.
 When you open the door, the future looks brighter When Opportunity Knocks, Open the Door: Donor Acquisition 2017
Clairification As tempting as it may be to stay in your comfort zone, wearing blinders that enable you to forge straight ahead without noticing what’s going on around you, this is a dangerous practice. Because sometimes the landscape changes dramatically.
  Measuring Gift Impact
Annual Giving Network Today’s donors seem to care less about hearing stories that describe why other donors give or seeing their own name listed on a roster. Instead, they want to know what, in measurable terms, their past support has helped to achieve. When making a decision to give again, some of the questions donors consider are “how have their past gifts been used?” and “what would a another gift help achieve?”
 oregon-public-house-portland-beer-on-tap-promo.jpg A Nonprofit Pub That’s Good For What Ales you
CBS News Portland, Oregon, has become known as the hipster center of the U.S.A., thanks to all the bike riders and backyard chicken coops, food trucks, and artisanal coffee. But as correspondent Luke Burbank discovered, there’s something new brewing in Portland: call it “ale-truism”:

Spotlight: NDSU raises $313,000 in one day

Check out this great giving day at North Dakota State University, powered by the RNL ScaleFunder Giving Day platform. The campaign used challenges, ambassador outreach and total campus involvement to create a compelling and exciting day for donors.

Giving days are a great strategy for donor acquisition. See how NDSU used theirs.

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Podcast: Building Online Transaction Trust with Mike Kim at iATS Payments

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Building online transcaction trust podcast with Mike Kim

Mike Kim, iATS Payments

Online giving is growing rapidly. We’ve all seen our online donation activity rise, and this is a big transition for many fundraising programs, as online giving grows at up to three times the rate of over all giving. Mike Kim at IATS payments knows a lot about this. As one of the largest payment processing providers for nonprofits, the company has seen a lot of growth in online giving and is following the trends closely. I got Mike on the line to talk about payment integration, building online transaction trust and security with donors, how to optimize the online giving experience, and what’s next for online giving.

Included in the podcast are:

  • How you’re doing more than collecting gifts with your online giving.
  • Keys to building relationships and trust with your online portal.
  • Taking donors from interest to transaction completion.
  • The difference between merchant accounts and payment aggregators
  • New trends in online transactions

Find out more about iATS at iATSpayments.com

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Podcast: 21st Century Storytelling with Caryn Stein

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Caryn Stein on the power of fundraising storytelling

Caryn Stein

Telling a compelling story–highly personalized, evoking emotion, encouraging action right now–is a big part of fundraising success in the 21st century.

Caryn Stein, vice president here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz knows this–she’s spent her career doing just that to help hundreds of charities. I got Caryn on the line to talk about the power of digital engagement, fundraising storytelling, and what she thinks is next for the future of fundraising.

She calls it storytelling “surround sound” and explains how engaging donors in a personalized, powerful way through technology can really amplify your results.

Covered in the podcast are:

  • How telling a compelling story is important to your fundraising
  • How using technology is a way to make this more personal
  • The future of social and digital engagement with donors
  • Taking donors on a personal journey
  • How fundraising storytelling leads to donor action

If you want to find out how RNL uses these tactics to take your program to the next level, drop us a line.

Subscribe to the Fundraising Voices Podcast

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Phonathon Average Pledge Matters for Gift Retention and ROI

Sean Shaikun

Sean Shaikun

Director of Market Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Sean has 20 years experience in fundraising and works with hundreds of programs each year. He drives strategy related to current industry trends, benchmarking and new fundraising products at RNL.
Sean Shaikun

When it comes to fundraising on the phone, phonathon average pledge is an important metric.  We use it in program planning and forecasting, we use it to determine suggested ask levels or gift arrays, and we know it can really affect dollars raised and ROI.  In some cases, universities have even focused on lowering the phonathon average pledge in order to increase response rate and increase donors: all to drive the important institutional metric of alumni participation.

But if you really want to increase participation, you also need to retain donors in the second year and beyond. As we consider suggested donations levels, an interesting question comes up:  What do average pledge numbers actually tell fundraisers about donor retention? This could be important especially for those first-time donors we have worked so hard to acquire. As it turns out, average pledge sheds a lot of light on the retention question.

The study: Over 59,000 first-time gifts

To really dive into the numbers, I collected non-donor data from a variety of university phonathons. Data came from 72 RNL higher education phonathon programs, with 95,899 first time pledges in fiscal year 2015. I included a mix of small, medium, and large public and private institutions from all over the US.  I then narrowed the group to only those records where we attempted to contact the individuals again in FY 2016. This left me with 59,782 making a pledge in 2015 that were solicited by phone again in fiscal year 2016.  I used this data to see how average pledge in 2015 might impact the retention of those prospects in the 2016 fiscal year.

Phonathon average pledge matters for retention

To help visualize the data in this study I decided to break the pledges into ranges. The distribution of gifts was predictable. The first-time pledges from fiscal year 2015 came in all sizes, with a majority of the gifts clustered into the $50-$99.99 range.  As we would expect, the smallest number of pledges came in at the extreme low and high values. Here is a quick look at the distribution of both the 2015 acquisition pledges and the 2016 renewal pledges, showing a similar spread in the groups:

phonathon average pledge distribution

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Podcast – Digital Natives as Donors

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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HerzbergerEngaging our supporters in the digital world is really important for today’s fundraisers. We’re all reaching out via social media, email, on our web pages and giving pages to attract donor interest and passion. This supplements our more traditional appeals, and everything can get a boost in donor attention if it’s done right. But pretty soon, our donor rolls really will be dominated by a new group of supporters–younger people who have had mobile phones, tablets, and apps their entire lives. These have been dubbed the “digital natives,” a group of young donors we’re all looking to engage. Matt Herzberger, Executive Consultant for Web Strategy and Interactive Marketing Services here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, helps a lot of institutions do this. Matt talked about digital natives in a recent presentation, so I got him on the line to get a perspective on what courting this rising group of well-connected supporters means for fundraising strategy.

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#GivingTuesday Live Blog – 2016

RNL Fundraising

RNL Fundraising

The Ruffalo Noel Levitz fundraising management team has decades of experience working with organizations to engage donors and improve results.
RNL Fundraising

Latest posts by RNL Fundraising (see all)

liveblogOur Giving Tuesday 2016 Live Blog is now complete. For the fifth annual #GivingTuesday, our team of fundraising experts and giving enthusiasts shared:

  • The best strategies for engaging donors on #GivingTuesday—and any giving day.
  • The coolest, most interesting ideas and developments we saw during the day
  • Our own giving passions as we made our #GivingTuesday gifts.

To find our more about strategies mentioned in these posts, drop us line to speak with a RNL consultant about our suite of customized giving solutions which can help take your giving program to the next level.

>> See the live blog posts here.

liveblog3If you see something you like, and want to find our more, drop us a line at ContactUs@RuffaloNL.com.

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