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020515 atlas of giving

Atlas of Giving’s Fundraising Forecast for 2015 highlights some of the trends facing nonprofit leaders. Although the Indiana University Lily School of Philanthropy predicted a 4.8 percent increase in giving in 2015, we’ve found from experience that Atlas of Giving has proven to be a more accurate forecasting model for philanthropic giving. Here is an article that depicts some of the differences between the two resources if you want to learn more about our reasoning to follow the Atlas of Giving report.

We asked Rebecca Gregory Segovia, Pursuant’s Executive Vice President, Client Strategy, what the fundraising forecast means for your nonprofit and how organizations should respond in light of the predictions.

What are some of the most important things organizations can focus on to prevent the decrease in giving?

The best thing your nonprofit can do is to be proactive not reactive. Too many nonprofits try to respond to data rather than interpreting the data to chart their future direction. Make sure your case for support connects with your donors and presents them compelling reasons to give. Nonprofits must be intentional when guiding donors through the donor lifecycle.

Define how you can actively upgrade your donors rather than taking a passive approach and allowing their engagement to erode over time. In other words, have a systematic strategy in place to grow donors from first-time donors toward fully invested supporters. Look for ways to activate and coach the existing donor base toward deeper levels of commitment. Make sure your gift officer portfolios are optimized. Make sure you see and capitalize on the catalytic opportunities you have to engage your donors at deeper levels.

How can organizations “accelerate the relationship” with donors?

Organizations need to think through how they can obtain and immediately leverage the data they collect. If too much time is spent reviewing the data, the conclusions drawn might be inaccurate. The world is volatile and the behavior people exhibited two months ago might be obsolete today.

We can accelerate the relationship by identifying connecting points with donors and fully utilizing those connections to deepen the relationship between the donor and the nonprofit’s mission.

What role do you see data playing in how organizations attack 2015?

One of the things mentioned in the report is the “growing utilization of more sophisticated fundraising technology.” For example, we’ve been working hard to help organizations leverage prospector screening algorithms in order to be more effective and efficient in identifying their top donor prospects. This is something that we couldn’t easily do a few years ago. Today, however, such complex analyses are standard procedures. We don’t have to only trust our instinct or base our decisions on trends in a different part of the nation or the world. You can localize your data and have robust reporting that enables you to engage your donors quickly and effectively.

What are some other ideas nonprofits can consider to overcome some of these challenges and predictions?

We believe in creative acquisition and we work to help organizations leverage online and digital channels to create “viral acquisition campaigns.” Organizations can become smarter about the way they are doing mail and events (creating a more omni-channel experience for their donors). A lot of this approach grows out of the work done by some of today’s retail giants. Amazon knows what you’ve shopped for and they have a system in place to “remind” you of that search while you are on other websites.

Nonprofits need to become smarter in the way we approach fundraising challenges. We need to understand what our donors value and then we must connect our missions to their values. Whereas that used to be a guessing game, today it is based on real data that was collected a few hours ago.

What advice would you give organizations that didn’t see the average increase of 9.3% in giving in 2014?

I would ask them a simple question, Why didn’t you see a 9.3% increase in giving in 2014? Many nonprofit leaders wouldn’t know the answer to that question. That’s when I would follow up with these questions:

  • Was there a breakdown in your strategy? Do you have an acquisition issue? Did you maximize opportunities for the names you acquired? Do you have a targeted strategy for cultivating every level?
  • Do you know how your donors are moving in each segment? Did you have ten major donors upgrade to overcome the 20 mid-level donors who were downgraded?
  • Where is your organization investing? Are you investing in infrastructure, acquisition, or upgrading? What is your priority?
  • Do people know and care about your case for support? This includes your leadership team, your staff, and your donors. They all need to know why your organization’s mission is important and how effectively you are achieving your goals.
  • How is your organization doing compared to your peers? Assess where you are and where you want to be. There are some organizations that are knocking it out of the park. What are they doing that you aren’t doing?

There are always exceptions to the rule. Some nonprofits will exceed the average; others will fall short. As leaders, we get to choose which group we are in. We can do what we’ve always done and join the group at the bottom. Or, we can become a learning organization and join the group at the top. It is the learning organizations that will raise the standard and inspire other nonprofits to exceed their historical high points. If what you are doing is really important, then understanding those who support it will also be important.