News and analysis
March 30, 2015

Most Charities Exceeded Fundraising Goals Last Year, Study Finds

Sixty-three percent of charities exceeded their fundraising goals last year, an annual survey has found. The percentage of organizations exceeding their fundraising goals in 2014 was the highest since 2007, when donations surpassed the goals of 65 percent of charities.

The following year, the historic stock-market crash helped push that figure down to 46 percent.

The annual study was commissioned by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, a group of seven organizations that conduct research on nonprofits, advise charities on fundraising, or provide fundraising credentials. It was based on survey responses in January and February from nearly 13,500 charitable organizations in Canada and the United States. The annual survey seeks responses from a different set of nonprofit organizations each year, though many participate year after year.

In addition to stating whether contributions met their fundraising goals, respondents indicated whether donations to their organizations rose, fell, or were flat in 2014.

Arts organizations had the highest percentage of respondents, 70 percent, who reported increased contributions that year. Health and religious organizations had the lowest, with 56 percent and 58 percent, respectively.

The survey also assessed how many respondents engaged in 15 types of fundraising and whether contributions to each type of appeal increased, decreased, or stayed the same in 2014 compared to the previous year.

The most frequently cited fundraising methods in 2014 were efforts to secure large gifts, foundation grants, corporate support, donations from board members, and contributions in response to direct mail.

Among those seeking large gifts, 65 percent reported increased contributions last year. The other most frequently cited fundraising methods resulted in increased donations for about half of organizations using those methods.

The least frequently used fundraising methods were seeking donations from United Way and other federated campaigns and from congregations as well as telemarketing, text messaging, and social-media appeals. Among organizations using those methods, social-media and text appeals resulted in the highest percentage of increased contributions, for 79 percent and 68 percent of the organizations, respectively.

"Donors are becoming more comfortable using social media, and nonprofits are getting more comfortable asking that way," says Melissa Brown, the researcher who wrote the survey report. "Charities looking to use social media need to think of it in the context of their overall fundraising program. It is an excellent donor-recruitment tool, but the jury is still out on how effective it is in retaining donors."

This year’s survey for the first time asked more than 800 organizations that reported using online or social-media appeals in 2014 to be more specific about how they used those methods. The most frequently cited choices were holding daylong campaigns days like Giving Tuesday (79 percent), online sales (36 percent), and peer-to-peer fundraising by people participating in walkathons and other events or activities (33 percent).

Less frequently used methods online or using social media were crowdfunding (17 percent) and online auctions (9 percent).

Send an e-mail to Holly Hall.