I was lucky enough to get a preview of the Money for Good 2015 report and it’s full of surprising (and not so surprising) data, insights and recommendations for organizations, funders and vendors. Unlike other benchmark reports, this one actually gives concrete recommendations that everyone can apply to move the giving needle.

Never heard of the $FG report? Here’s a little background:

Since 2009, Camber Collective—the result of Hope Consulting and SwitchPoint LLC’s merger—has led the Money for Good research series to seek “the voice of the donor” for charitable giving.  $FG’s 2010 report provided the first comprehensive view of Americans’ demand for charitable giving and impact investing since 1994’s The Seven Faces of Philanthropy.  2011’s $FG II looked at how individuals, foundations, and advisors research nonprofits, and what information packaging or channel might result in more giving to high-performing nonprofits.  $FG 2015 takes this research a step further, exploring how behavioral segmentation, a reframe of the giving conversation, and use of select giving channels can increase and shift charitable giving.

There’s a lot I could discuss from the 159 page report, but I’m going to concentrate on the recommendations and insights that resonated with me the most.

Donors somewhat agree (30%) that their giving makes a difference, while only 18% strongly believe it does.

Out of all the statistics in this report, this one struck me the most. And, honestly, it made me a little depressed. Whether it’s a $25 gift or a $25,000 gift, our donors have to know that they matter. I’m rather discouraged by this statistic because for the past two years there has been a steady drum beat around donor stewardship and retention—webinars, reports, blogs, interviews, conferences. But now I’m wondering if anything has really made a difference–have we just been talking, not changing?

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Maybe there is a fundraising silver bullet.

After 18 years in the industry (holy cow has it been 18 years?!), I still find that organizations are on the hunt for the fundraising silver bullet. I get asked all the time “What’s the one thing I can do to transform my fundraising program?” I’ve always believed that it’s a combination of actions, but now I think there is a silver bullet—better nonprofit communications. End of story.  If you’re looking for the silver bullet, that’s it.

I know that’s a pretty bold statement, so let me explain.

You can change your technology, hire new staff, invest in professional development, and train the board, but if your stories fall flat, are boring, aren’t focused on impact, and talk more about you than your audience, then no amount of investment, training or technology will fix things.

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With that in mind, I wholeheartedly agree with the report’s recommendation to “make giving dynamic, joyful and simple”. If you can do this, it will fundamentally change your program. Prospects and donors will WANT to be involved—to give, give again, volunteer, share and advocate for your cause.

Segment messages based on behavior (not just demographics)

Over the past couple of years open rates and action rates have floundered, leading to an audience that is disengaged and uninformed. At the same time, there’s been a shift to focus on the quality of email lists versus the quantity (or growth).

Why is behavioral segmentation and deeper engagement so important?

Because we live in a world where people want to express their ideas, share opinions and participate in the conversation. By enabling your audience to do this with you, they will be engaged—they will feel rewarded, satisfied and their loyalty to your brand will only grow.

By focusing not only on demographics and culture but also on behaviors, organizations can build a better donor personans—a picture of the things their constituents want to do, are interested in and care about. Once an organization has that 360 degree view, it’s easy to target and segment messages, appeals and social media to create content that truly resonates with constituents.

The biggest challenge that I think many NPOs will face in implementing the recommendations is to get out of their own way. To move beyond “this is how we’ve always done things” or “our CEO is old school and won’t let us try something new.” If it hasn’t already, that approach to doing business will stifle or stop your growth.

Download and read the report.

Believe me, I’ve read a lot of reports, and this is one of the better ones I’ve seen in a long time. What I like the most are the actionable items and advice provided to the entire sector.


Danielle Johnson-Vermenton, CFRE, is a Principal Consultant at Blackbaud and is often called to present at events like Digital Leap, AFP Planet Philanthropy and BBCON.  Prior to Blackbaud, Danielle worked in the nonprofit industry in roles such as director of individual giving at Boys & Girls Clubs, leadership giving manager at the Red Cross and director of development at HUGS for Kids. Danielle’s passion is inspiring nonprofits to have a plan for today with a grand vision for tomorrow. You can follow Danielle @DJVermenton and find her blogging on npENGAGE.

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