Smaller Nonprofits: What the Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report Means for You

flowersSmall is powerful, according to the Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report for 2012. The report found that, while charitable giving went up in 2012, the overall 1.7% rise wasn’t evenly distributed among different-sized nonprofits.

Organizations that raise less than $1 million per year saw their contributions jump by an impressive 7.3% in 2012. Compare that with the 2.7% rise in giving to mid-sized groups (those with annual revenues of $1 million to $10 million) and the tepid 0.3% rise in giving to the largest nonprofits (with revenues of $10 million and more).

What accounts for this differential? According to a report in Barron’s Penta Daily, Steve MacLaughlin, director of Blackbaud’s Idea Lab, says that ever since the recession began, the tendency among donors has been to give locally — for example, to a park, arts council, or hospital.  Donors are better able to see both the need for funding and the potential impact of their gift when the group is basically in their own back yard. Another factor may be that smaller nonprofits receive a relatively high percentage of their funding via the Internet, and online giving is growing.

That’s good news for small groups, but how do you capitalize on this? Or, while we’re at it, how can mid-size or larger groups overcome the perception that they’re too big to need help?

Clearly, every group’s communications and marketing materials should be reviewed with an eye to establishing local presence. Donor lists should be segmented to make use of opportunities to gear communications to particular geographical areas or local interests. If your actual offices are physically located near certain donors, that’s worth highlighting. (Sure, they can look at the address line on the letter, but that doesn’t really drive the point home.)

No matter where your main offices are, if your group is serving clients or working on a cause that’s physically near certain donors, make sure they know that, too. Even larger groups can point to their local branch offices or membership groups and opportunities, and explain the important local needs that they serve.

The study also has implications for finding new donors. Has your group fully considered who its neighbors and nearest potential friends are? What about its literal neighbors? Something as simple as holding an open house, to which you invite people from nearby offices and residences, can yield a new list of names for your database, possibly leading to new donors or volunteers.

Just don’t get so wrapped up in grassroots efforts that you forget to attend to the other important part of the equation — making your website an attractive draw, where potential donors find it easy to give, as described in the article, “Your Nonprofit’s Website as a Fundraising Tool.”