What We Can Learn From Our Global Fundraising Neighbors
Continuing our coverage of the Association of Fundraising Professionals 47th International Conference held in Baltimore last month, Andrew Mosawi, vice president of international business development for Blackbaud, shares insights from his presentation, "The State of European Fundraising and What the U.S. Can Learn From It."
It is always a useful and productive experience to spend time in a new environment. That is the reason we fundraisers like to go to conferences. AFP, CASE, IFC, NTEN are great events that give us opportunities to get together, collaborate, learn and ultimately return home with ideas and best practices that will help our organizations achieve their goals.
What if we could extend this knowledge sharing beyond our own borders? What if we could learn how fundraisers in Bolivia deal with the lack of postal or banking systems? How did a Dutch organization generate more than 500,000 monthly donors? How are Italian organizations using digital media to drive results? How could we, wherever we are located, learn from our fundraising cousins on the other side of the planet?
Working for a global software company that only serves nonprofits, I am lucky enough to spend a great deal of time traveling and talking to nonprofits around the world. What has become obvious to me during my travels and my experience living internationally is the similar passion, drive and optimism that nonprofits around the world share with each other. There may be differences in fundraising styles and techniques from country to country, but the philosophy and passion remain the same. We also, as a global fundraising community, share many of the same challenges and concerns.
The State of the Nonprofit Industry (SONI) is the leading market research survey of several thousand fundraising organizations across multiple countries in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America. The survey focuses on issues critical to today’s nonprofits, including operational issues, technology, accountability and fundraising. This research has enabled us to assess the differences between fundraising in different parts of the world and track the trends over the years.
One example of a current challenge that is universal (or at least global) is the increased trends of donors wanting greater visibility of where their money is going. In fact, 60 percent of organizations in Germany responded that they had seen an increase in this area.
I noted earlier about the optimistic nature of nonprofits globally. This was also an area we polled in the SONI, asking organizations how they expected total income to change from 2009 to 2010. Almost all participants across Europe stated that they expected fundraising revenue to increase, with France being the most optimistic about 2010. Investments were also up, with 61 percent of U.K. organizations seeing an increase in 2010.
One of the most obvious differences between Europe and the U.S., for example, is the different focus between recurring giving and major giving. Almost all survey participants in Europe stressed the importance of sustainer or monthly giving programs, while the results for North America remained flat. In fact, the U.S. has never truly adopted recurring-giving programs on mass, which, as a British person living in the U.S., I find interesting and a significant opportunity. A recent report by Target Analytics, a Blackbaud company, measured the results of monthly giving programs for more than 15 large U.S.-based organizations and found some telling trends:
- monthly donors tend to be younger than those that give single gifts;
- recurring donors have much higher retention rates; and
- monthly donations are less likely to be affected by economic downturns.
Not only are these recurring-gift programs an excellent source of mostly unrestricted, recurring revenue, but they also provide a huge pool of committed and loyal supporters who might make for excellent major- or planned-gift prospects.
The way European organizations acquire these monthly donors is also an interesting difference between our two continents. Face-to-face fundraising is still a huge method in Europe, where a fundraiser or canvasser stands on the street soliciting monthly donations from passers-by. The U.K.-based Third Sector publication estimates that approximately 700,000 donors signed up by this method in 2009. Clearly this form of acquisition is not common in the U.S., and many organizations would, I’m sure, claim that it would not work in the U.S.
Consider this though: Face-to-face is becoming more common in Canada (I was recently approached by two separate large and well-known international nonprofits in Toronto within 10 minutes), and Greenpeace already is successfully acquiring new donors in many U.S. cities.
While the U.S. is by far the largest philanthropic market in the world, there are other markets that are growing significantly (i.e., Latin America). These markets have not had the luxury of fundraising best practices or standards, and they often lack an established culture of giving. Many times they do not have a professional fundraising body and lack the capacity that we in developing countries take for granted.
What we do see in these markets are organizations that are extremely creative. They innovate. They take risks. With little to lose and almost no resources, they look for new and unique ways to reach their constituents and find great, and often unexpected, success. Perhaps that is something we can learn from them.