Fewer Charities Grew Fundraising Receipts, Met Fundraising Goals in 2016

The Winter 2017 Nonprofit Fundraising Study report is out and it shows that 60 percent of responding charities raised more in 2016 than the year prior. While a solid majority of charities reported raising more in 2016, the 60 percent figure represents a statistically significant decline from the 65 percent of charities that reported year-over-year fundraising growth in 2015 and was the lowest percentage of organizations reporting fundraising growth since 2010.

Released on 1 May in conjunction with the AFP International Fundraising Conference, the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) Nonprofit Fundraising Study (NFS) Winter 2017 report also found that fewer charities met their fundraising goals for 2016.  Organizations reporting having met their fundraising goals dropped from 73 percent in 2014 and 2015 to 68 percent in 2016. This marks the first such decline since 2013. (Figure 6)

“Take all these results together, and we are seeing the first slow-down in the rate of growth in charitable giving since the Recession of 2008 and 2009,” said Jason Lee, president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, one of the sponsors of the NRC. “But it is important to underscore that giving remains fairly strong—with 60 percent of charities raising more money in 2016 and another 13 percent raising about the same, as compared to 2015. It is a decrease, but these numbers are consistent with results we have seen in the study since 2000, and many charities continue to do very well.”

Unusually Consistent Results Across Organizational Characteristics and Regions

In most prior reports from the Nonprofit Fundraising Study, organizations with larger operating budgets were also found to be more likely to raise more than they had in the prior year. For 2016, however, the NFS finds no statistically significant difference based on organizational budget size.

“We know from work by the NRC and by Giving USA Foundation, among others, that the amount invested in fundraising is usually highly correlated with the amount raised,” says Aggie Sweeney, CFRE, Campbell & Company (Seattle, WA) and chair of Giving USA Foundation. Giving USA Foundation is also an NRC partner. “The lack of a difference in this study is intriguing. There is also no difference by size in the share of responding organizations that report they were affected during the campaign season or after the election. On-going research is needed to help our field understand these and other changes in North American giving.”

Unlike prior years, there was no statistically significant difference between charities in Canada reporting growth in funds raised (57 percent), compared with the responses from United States charities (62 percent). Also unlike prior years, there was no statistically significant difference among the four U.S. Census regions. (Figure 29)

Issues Affecting 2016 Success and Concerns for 2017

In both Canada and the U.S., about 20 percent mentioned staffing for fundraising— and having knowledgeable board and organizational leadership —as a critical component of success in 2016. This compares with just 3 percent who offered the economy or U.S. elections in response to “What most affected your organization’s 2016 results?”

However, when asked about concerns for 2017, 36 percent of Canadian respondents emphasized the national or local economy. In the U.S., nearly a third (32 percent) mentioned some aspect of the likely changing role of the federal government in funding or supporting charities, and 11 percent mentioned the economy more generally. Still, about two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents are optimistic about a better 2017 and anticipate growth for their organization’s fundraising.

“This uncertainty among fundraising professionals regarding the economies in which they practice and the future of federal funding for charities puts a spotlight on the importance of building organizational fundraising plans and strategies rooted in established best practices for identifying, cultivating, and stewarding donor and funder relationships. Organizations must be known for their ethics and accountability in fund development in order to grow and continue to meet donor and beneficiary needs”, said Eva E. Aldrich, M.A., CAE, President & CEO of CFRE International, another NRC sponsor.

Download the Full Report Free of Charge

CFRE International is a proud partner in the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC) and is pleased to share the results of this important work with you. The findings described above are just a few among many in the Winter 2017 Report released this week. For answers about how organizations in your sub-sector fared or how successful charities were with various fundraising methods, download your free copy of the report from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative website.

CFRE International would also like to express our thanks to the hundreds of CFRE certified fundraising professionals who make this important annual study possible by sharing their organization’s fundraising results. In addition to CFRE International, other NRC member organisations include: Association for Fundraising Professionals, Association of Philanthropic Counsel, Giving USA Foundation, the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners, and Top Nonprofits.

Additional media coverage of the Winter 2017 Nonprofit Fundraising Study is available from: The Nonprofit Times, Top Nonprofits, Associations Now, and The Chronicle of Philanthropy (subscription required).