2012 State of the Nonprofit Industry | npENGAGE

Key Findings from 2012 State of the Nonprofit Industry Report

By on Oct 24, 2012


world of people

My most productive reading time is often on planes, trains or in hotel rooms as I visit Blackbaud’s clients. Recently myself and a colleague spent time with the staff and leadership of a Florida nonprofit, talking about prospect research, their CRM implementation and their passion for their mission.

On the trip back to Target Analytics in Boston, I read and re-read the State of the Nonprofit Industry, a report compiled by a number of nonprofit associations and Blackbaud with responses from 1,500 nonprofits across nine countries. The report uses attitudinal responses from nonprofit managers on topics of nonprofit fundraising and management trends across both most popular and most effective engagement tactics and strategies – from direct mail to social to mobile.

Initial Observations

Here are some of the observations from the report that resonated with me.

  • Nonprofit organizations with a strong reputation, mission and passion their work in their community find it easier to recruit new staff. Staffs were recruited by personal approaches, word of mouth, social networking and personal contacts. Do good fundraising techniques equal strong recruiting?
  • The most popular sources for recruiting and retaining donors were personal contact, volunteers and special event attendees. Direct mail, while not being popular, was ranked as very effective especially in France, USA and New Zealand.
  • The most effective and popular method for recruiting new donors was through prospecting to special events attendees and that was across all countries.
    • Special events will continue to be one of the top two methods for nonprofits over the next 12 months.
    • Using referrals from existing donors was also an important method in discovering new donors, but this was being supplanted by social media/email and web site engagement.

My opinion is that great events are essentially communal gatherings of people who care for other people.  Moreover my friend and colleague Michael Johnston, founder of HJC, often states that our neighbors/community/members/supporters have moved or are moving online. Traditional engagement is being augmented with interactive engagement. When 1 in 8 people globally is engaged on Facebook, the world is online.

Additional Findings

Other findings are both obvious and head tilting.

  • Constant and on-going communication was the most effective method of retaining donors. Nonprofits that contacted their supporters 6+ times per year were slightly more optimistic about raising more money.
  • There is a positive relationship between prompt acknowledgement of a gift and higher retention rates. The faster you thank a donor the more likely that a nonprofit’s retention rates are likely to be superior. Nonprofits in UK, New Zealand, USA, Australia and the Netherlands all had both the highest retention rates and on average thanked their donors in less than ten days.
  • Scheduled meetings with prospective major donors will increase in importance and are most used in USA, Netherlands, and Canada.
  • Social media, scheduled meetings with donors and peer-to-peer fundraising are some of the fastest growing methods in all countries.  What are lacking here are business intelligence tools to measure impact of these methods.
  • Organizations that used several methods to engage supporters reported higher levels of optimism to increase individual giving.

I read this three times. The respondents report that those organizations that leveraged multi-channel marketing reported higher levels of optimism about raising more money. Along with organizations that had constant and on-going communication were more optimistic. This report seems to show that globally nonprofits believe their success with multiple engagement/methods over a period of time results is greater results.

Let’s watch this idea over the next year of the confluence of organizational optimism, willingness to be innovative around multi-channel communication and increased effectiveness in raising funds.

Next week I’ll dive into some of the online-specific findings as well as my hope for the 2013 report. In the meantime, I encourage you to download the 2012 State of the Nonprofit Industry report and start digesting the information first hand.


Dennis McCarthy, Director of Enterprise Sales at Target Analytics a Blackbaud company, has been serving nonprofits for more than 30 years in the design and implementation of integrated marketing solutions; and building and managing technology solutions for some of America’s largest and most complex nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining the Blackbaud team, Dennis managed Convio’s strategic services practice, comprised of consultants in business analytics, design and information architecture, Deployment Services and Agency Services. Prior to Convio, he worked at Epsilon as a general manager and deployed a successful custom CRM solution for a national health care organization with over 50 affiliates. He is married and has a great son who is a senior in college.

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