Sharpening Your Fundraising Through Comparison
The Chronicle of Philanthropy 400, listing the top 400 nonprofits in the United States, was released earlier this month. Along with the listing, there are companion articles that talk about fundraising trends across the nation. While much of the content is only free to subscribers, nonsubscribers can download the data for a small fee.
Target Analytics issues a benchmarking report every quarter, compiling results from approximately 80 larger organizations. The executive summary is available online.
If you're a small to midsized nonprofit, you might not pay attention to these reports. After all, they focus on groups raising millions — even billions — of dollars.
How can that be relevant to you?
Actually, these reports (and many more that can be accessed at no cost on the Web) can help any nonprofit shape its strategy and sharpen its fundraising efforts. It's a matter of sorting through data and finding the nuggets that can benefit your professional learning.
You might be small, but you can learn from 'the big guys'
Target Analytics divides the 80 nonprofits it studies into eight verticals (health, animal welfare, for example). If you fall into one of these verticals, you'll see trends of what nonprofits doing similar work are experiencing. While you won't be given specifics by agency, you can measure your own performance against your vertical and use this to help you select the one or two things you want to focus on for the next quarter or year. For example, according to Target Analytics, for environmental groups "reactivation rates rose significantly for the sector in the first half of 2011." If you're an environmental group, are your reactivation rates on the rise? If not, what kinds of strategies can you put in place to make this a priority for improvement?
Who's on top?
The annual listing of the top 400 from the Chronicle of Philanthropy is full of information for those who take the time to explore. The companion articles give specifics in various verticals and often include interviews with nonprofit fundraisers about their strategies. In the listing itself, you can identify nonprofits with similar missions and explore their websites to get ideas that might be applicable to your organization. Larger organizations have several advantages, no doubt, but you might be smaller and more nimble, able to adapt and change more readily. Studying the largest organizations can help you find better ways to differentiate and provide insights to improve your marketing.
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.