Seven out of 10 nonprofits expect donations to increase this year, and 13 percent expect their gains to be substantial—growing by at least 15 percent, according to a survey of 538 charities to be released this week.
Charities say they are optimistic because 2013 was stronger than any other year since the recession started.
Sixty-two percent of charities said they raised more money last year than in 2012, the largest share since 2007, when 65 percent increased donations. In 2009 and 2010, in the depths of the recession, only 43 percent of groups reported an increase.
Much of last year’s bounty came from gains in big gifts from wealthy donors and from special fundraising events and online appeals.
What’s more, three-quarters of charities said they did better last year in part because they had strong systems in place to woo donors and keep them informed about how their money was being used.
Andrew Watt, president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a sponsor of the study, said the improving economy and increased confidence among donors about their own financial situation helped.
“People felt in 2012 and 2013 that the economy had improved to a reasonable degree, and therefore the time has come to make a significant choice in giving again,” he said.
The study was conducted by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, a group of nonprofits and fundraisers that conducts polls on the state of giving twice a year. While the previous round of the survey included responses from about 1,600 charities, this one was based on considerably fewer groups, largely because it was distributed in February, when researchers said many nonprofits were closed due to bad weather.
Despite the smaller sample, the researchers said they were confident about the results because they drew on a broad cross-section of groups, of different sizes and causes.
Nonprofits that raised the most said they sought a mix of donors who gave small, medium, and large gifts and diversified how they pursued those donations, soliciting money through direct mail, social media, email, and grant proposals.
The charities’ optimism for the coming year is tempered by worries about whether they will have enough fundraisers on staff and whether they will attract enough new donors. Fifteen percent said a lack of staff time or support would pose a major challenge for 2014; 12 percent said recruiting new donors was a big concern.
A small number of fundraisers also expressed pessimism about the state of the economic recovery and how it might affect donations: Eleven percent of groups said they fear the economy will get in the way of raising more this year than in 2013.
But Mr. Watt said nonprofits should put to rest such concerns, saying he was confident that “we’re going to see a gentle increase in giving.”
He said growth will depend on nonprofits being just as aggressive in fundraising tactics as the economy improves as they were in responding to the challenges caused by the recession. “You don’t want to get left behind,” he warns fundraisers.
The Nonprofit Research Collaborative includes the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Campbell Rinker, CFRE International, Giving USA Foundation, the National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute, and the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning.
“The Nonprofit Fundraising Study” is available free at npresearch.org.
How Fundraising Techniques Paid Off in 2013
Some solicitation approaches proved more successful than others last year. Here’s a look at what worked and what didn’t.
Note: Based on a survey of more than 500 organizations. Not all groups provided data on each technique.
SOURCE: Nonprofit Research Collaborative