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A Stark Outlook for Fund Raising in 2012

Two new surveys suggest that fund-raising challenges for charities will persist through year’s end and beyond. But a third shows a burst of optimism among people who raise money for nonprofit causes.

Among the key findings:

* Nearly 60 percent of nonprofits achieved no increase in donations or saw giving drop in the first nine months of 2011, compared with the first three quarters of 2010. That news came in a survey of 875 charity officials by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, a joint project by the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy and five other organizations.

* Sixty-five percent of donors don’t plan to increase their giving in 2012, while 17 percent plan to contribute less, according to a study of 1,131 people who provided at least $20 to charity in the past year.  That is a sign things are growing worse for charities: A similar study, conducted for the Fenton public-relations company last year, found that only 11 percent planned to reduce their giving.

* Nearly two-thirds of fund raisers expect giving to grow in 2012, according to a study of 1,100 people who are involved in solicitations at charities. The study, conducted in October by Blackbaud, the fund-raising software company, found that only 9 percent of fund raisers predicted a decrease.

Fund raisers are responding to the challenges in varying ways. Forty-five percent plan to spend the same amount seeking gifts in 2012 as they did this year, but others are cutting costs, the Nonprofit Research Collaborative found. One third of charities said they will reduce or eliminate the amount of money they spend on fund-raising consultants, while 15 percent said they would spend less on fund-raising events.

Yet some charities will increase spending on specific types of fund raising. Forty-four percent plan to increase the amount they spend to reach affluent donors.

The most likely area in which respondents planned to spend more was major gifts, with 44 percent planning increased spending to generate large donations.

Tell us which survey you think provides the most accurate picture of the state of fund raising, and how your organization is preparing for 2012.

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