As you plan your organization’s next appeal or upcoming campaign, it certainly helps to know what has worked—and what has not worked—for organizations similar to yours.

UPDATE: Did you miss the live webinar with Melissa Brown, where she revealed the findings of the latest study?  No worries: listen to it ON-DEMAND here. (The webinar is free, but does require registration)

Donors partner with your charity to implement the donor’s visions of a better world. Beyond the aspirational language and demonstration of impact, good fundraising takes metrics and good management practices so that your organization can focus on what works, and not waste effort (or money) on approaches that do not help you meet your goals.

To do that, check out findings from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative. We study fundraising and match what organizations are doing with which groups are reaching their goals and raising more money. Thanks to our studies, we have answers to some of the third sector’s FAQS. Some of these might be helpful as you plan your charity’s fundraising for the coming year.

  • About one-third of nonprofits set a required contribution amount from board members, and the median required amount is $1,000 (Winter 2012 report), although it is higher for organizations with larger budgets (above $3 million);
  • Charities that have at least one full-time staff member raising funds are more likely to meet their fundraising goals (Winter 2012 report), across all organizational types and sizes; and
  • Gift clubs (recognition by giving level) are NOT linked with meeting goal for organizations with less than $1 million budgets, but are for larger groups (infographic).

If you are planning your annual fund now, you probably know to look for multi-channel communications that link letters via the mail with social media messages with a website giving option. But what should you aim for as a renewal rate? What about upgrades, where donors give more than they did last year?

The NRC report about annual funds shows that organizations with at least a 50% donor-renewal rate in their annual fund are more likely to meet their goal, and those with at least 5% of donors giving more than they did last year are, too. Those two facts give you very specific goals to aim for as you set up your communications and appeal schedules.

An NRC analysis of donor engagement found that organizations that send handwritten thank you notes were more likely to meet goal than groups that did not. Further, investment in mailed newsletters was more strongly associated with reaching goal than email newsletters were (p. 27). Findings such as these can be tested further at your organization, to see if you can lift results enough to cover the increased costs and more.

The Nonprofit Research Collaborative is thrilled to connect with Third Sector Today and Top Nonprofits to bring you these findings and more. We invite you to check our work at

PS: Did you miss the live webinar with Melissa Brown, where she revealed the findings of the latest study? Listen to it ON-DEMAND here. (The webinar is free, but does require registration)


Infographic: Nonprofit Research Collaborative

Infographic: Nonprofit Research Collaborative


About the Author: Melissa S. Brown is facilitator for Nonprofit Research Collaborative and is principal at Melissa S. Brown & Associates LLC  in Carmel, Ind.