Hand and green plant growing from the coins. Money financial concept.
March 23, 2016

Postcard from the Individual Donor Benchmark Report

To build a successful fundraising program, nonprofits need to set goals, track outcomes, and learn from past performance. Collecting and analyzing your data in a vacuum only gives part of the picture—nonprofits also need to be able to measure the impact of fundraising and compare it to others, as well as to the larger sector.

It is incredibly important to understand how your data measures up – where you are doing well, and where there’s room for improvement. That’s why we created the Individual Donor Benchmark Project, a deep dive into the data of small but mighty organizations.

There is no other benchmarking resource for smaller organizations with individual donor fundraising programs. The Individual Donor Benchmark Report is a resource for nonprofits to see how you stack up. Where is your fundraising doing well? What parts of your fundraising program might need a little more attention? What experiments could you try?

For fundraisers, it’s easy to forget to look beyond “Did we make our budget?” when measuring the impact of fundraising. But, if you’re ready to take your development to the next level – the first step to success is to dig into your results!

To continue to grow your fundraising, you need to understand the health of your fundraising program. Metrics like average gift, percentage of online funding, and retention rate can give you a more complete picture of your revenue generation.

But it’s also important to measure your non-monetary results and activities. Keeping an eye on things like the number of meetings with donors, the growth of your email list, and the number of Board members involved in fundraising will help you better understand current success. Measuring those activities will also help you track how you are growing a sustainable program – one with strong connections to donors, increasing numbers of potential donors, and an engaged Board.

Here’s a snapshot of what we have found by working with small and medium-sized nonprofits to measure their own organization’s outcomes for greater success:

What We Found in the Data

We found that the average organization with budgets less than $2 million saw significant growth between 2013 and 2014, including a 47 percent jump in overall revenue and an 67 percent increase in individual donor revenue. But even with this growth, we identified some huge opportunities for small organizations to increase individual donor fundraising success.

For instance, we asked organizations how many donors gave more than $1,000 in a year— and the average organization only had 29, or about 7 percent of their donor base. That 7 percent gives half of the overall individual donor revenue on average. We also found that most organizations only meet with 17 donors a year. There’s a great opportunity to cultivate larger donors to sustain and increase their funding, and a great opportunity to upgrade existing donors to a higher level of giving.

Additionally, recurring donations—those donors automatically give monthly or at regular intervals—continue to be a source of large gifts for smaller nonprofits. The average gift from these donors is $520, which is about 20 percent more than the overall average of $435. However, only 11 percent of donors are making recurring gifts, so there’s great potential to grow this powerful type of individual giving.

We also found several “universal truths” from the 2014 report, including:

  • The single most important thing you can do to strengthen your individual donor fundraising is to create a plan.
  • The average small but mighty nonprofit raises 36 percent of their revenue from individual donors.
  • About 16 percent of individual donor revenue is generated online.
  • The average individual donor gift is around $400.

Having a fundraising plan is the single best predictor of fundraising success. If you have a plan, other investments in your fundraising program—more staff, higher paid staff, and more donor meetings—lead to bigger impact. If you don’t have a fundraising plan, they don’t matter. If you don’t, the data shows no relationship between investing more in individual donor fundraising and seeing greater results. For example, if you have a fundraising plan, every $1 more you pay your primary individual donor fundraiser, you are able to raise another $4.25.

Get Started With Measurement

Through the Individual Donor Benchmark Project, we’ve created tools to help more small and medium organizations analyze and measure their data for increased success. By looking at a wide range of data to measure your impact, you can find ways to enhance your fundraising strategies. We recommend you start with:

  • What is your average gift?
  • What is your retention rate – the percentage of people who returned as donors this year?
  • What is the percentage of income from small donors? Large donor?
  • How much do you raise online?
  • What is your income growth year over year?

Understand Your Impact

Nonprofits utilizing the data from the Individual Donor Benchmark Project gain valuable resources to understand their donor potential and enhance fundraising strategies. Understanding how your data measures and compares to like-sized organizations is incredibly valuable to any group looking to grow a fundraising program.

Once you’re ready to measure your impact for greater fundraising success, analyzing your data will help you identify where your organization might focus fundraising energy and increase outcomes. Read the latest Individual Donor Benchmark Report [link to http://www.thirdspacestudio.com/idb2014/] to look for places that your organization’s results are below the average and get empowered to enhance your efforts. You may find, for example, that your organization has a small recurring donor program that could blossom with a little more attention.

What You Get When You Give

For four years running, the Individual Donor Benchmark Project has collected donor data from nonprofits nationwide with budgets under $2 million to fill a void of donor data. The results of the IDB Project have helped nonprofits enhance their fundraising efforts and find great success. You can download the 2014 Individual Donor Benchmark Report here.

Now is the time to join this growing grassroots movement and start on the path to measuring the impact of your fundraising. You can click here to share your donor data through Individual Donor Benchmark Survey, open through Friday, April 8.

Heather Yandow
Heather Yandow brings more than a decade of experience as an outreach coordinator, coalition leader, project manager, and fundraiser to Third Space Studio and our clients. Heather’s nonprofit experience includes being a staff member, volunteer, and Board member. Her most recent staff position was as the director of development and communications for the NC Conservation Network. Heather has served on the Board of Directors of the beehive collective (a giving circle in Raleigh), Democracy NC, and ncyt: NC’s Network of Young Nonprofit Professionals. Heather earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics from UNC, and holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University.