This page describes the Nonprofit Research Project's goals, research design, and preliminary findings. This information was first presented in March 2015 at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin. View the presentation.

See the final report: Popular Fundraising Practices: How Well Do They Work for Advocacy Organizations

Research Goals

  • help staff choose the most effective fundraising strategies -- aimed at increasing giving among current donors -- for their organization

  • take into account the organization’s size, staff experience, and board involvement. In other words, which “best practice” will be the best practice for my organization?

  • focus on cost-effective and easy to execute strategies, so . . . no galas!

Research Design

  • 778 organizations were selected at random to receive a 20-question survey on their fundraising practices

  • the study was limited to organizations engaged in advocacy, public policy, civic engagement, and public interest law 

  • the online survey was sent via email to the development director or, in the absence of a development director, the executive director

  • the survey was conducted from Jan. 20 to Feb. 17, 2015

  • personal phone calls were made to encourage participation

  • survey responses were matched with IRS administrative records (FY2013) to create the datafile

About the sample

  • 174 responses

  • 162 completed surveys

  • 44 states represented, the most from DC and California

  • 14 different categories represented, from arts and culture to health, education, and international affairs. Environment, civil rights, and crime/legal related categories had the highest numbers.

Individual Giving and Revenue

  • Most organizations (77 percent) have fewer than 1,000 donors

  • Most (60 percent) have fewer than 5,000 names on their email file

  • Average revenue is $1,995,251 (median is $1,266,532)

  • Only 17 percent count on individual donors to make up 50 percent or more of their revenue

Staff and volunteers

  • Two-thirds of the organizations have staff dedicated to development

  • 38 percent have executive directors with less than five years tenure; while one-third have tenure of 10 years or more

  • Two-thirds of the organizations indicated that at least a few of their board members engaged in fundraising activities, either meeting with donors, sharing names, or thanking donors personally. However, out of this group, only about one-third said that more than a quarter of their board members participated in these activities.

Fundraising Practices

  • More than half (54 percent) have sustainer programs, but of that group, only 12 percent place a heavy emphasis on this program