Are Leveled-Out Giving Trends Good News?

The 2012 Fundraising Effectiveness Report from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute shows that while charities saw reduced donation totals in 2010 – with $105 lost due to departed donors and reduced gifts for every $100 gained in new or increased gifts — 2011 saw a return to flat levels of giving. So, the bleeding has stopped — but has the healing begun?

In one sense, no: Organizations are still losing more donors than they’re gaining (107 per 100 last year).  So nonprofits somehow aren’t heeding the old fundraising lesson, which the report reminds us of, that “Taking positive steps to reduce gift and donor losses is the least expensive strategy for increasing net fundraising gains.”

Then again — as if you didn’t have enough to worry about — the numbers do seem to show a surprising amount of energy around new donors. Is it because organizations have been doing more to reach out to new donors, or because a new pool of donors is responding to obvious societal need while others fall? Hard to say, but it looks like groups should continue whatever it is they’re doing right!

Regardless of trends, the key concept that the report tries to convey should be easier for every group to wrap its hands around: Nonprofits should look beyond the final donation numbers to see where they’ve gained ground and where they’ve lost. If your group has been looking only at the bottom line total donation amounts, and hasn’t examined how much of its budget is due to new and increased donations versus lapsed donors or reduced donations, now’s the time to do so. You may spot an instructive trend.