fundraising

5 Fundraising Stats That Will Change the Way You Think About Donor Engagement

Brian GaworVice President of ResearchNovember 3, 2022

I’m lucky to have a massive warehouse of donor response that I rely on daily to give advice to fundraisers. I recently sat down and compiled some of the most interesting fundraising stats, and they’ve made me think differently about fundraising. Here’s a taste and what I think they mean for our future donor engagement strategy.

Giving days are a major gift and online giving partnership

Looking at over $100M in giving day stats on the RNL ScaleFunder platform, we saw the following:

  • The average online gift for giving days was $148 in FY22.
  • 72% of donor count came from online giving.
  • 76% of all dollars came from offline gifts like challenges, matches, DAFs, and gift officer pre-arranged gifts.

First off, this shows that giving days go beyond transactional giving, with an average online gift that rivals many organizations’ direct mail averages. And, to maximize the impact of your giving day, you’ll want to have a dual strategy. First, set up a donor-friendly portal that builds excitement as the day approaches and makes it easy and fun to give on your big day. Then, work with your leadership team and gift officers to recruit the challenges, matches, and big gifts that boost your total and bring the full donor community along to participate.

University of Alaska omnichannel fundraising campaign
The University of Alaska boosted giving day engagement with outreach across channels.

Crowdfunding is a vital part of your giving impact marketing, and it’s time to make it easy to give

Charitable crowdfunding has taken our work by storm, and it’s not just GoFundMe. We looked at 6,800 projects on our platform in the past year and found an average gift of $165. Most campaigns range between $10,000 and $20,000, and they easily allow for volunteer ambassadors and key stakeholders to participate socially in the effort.

Along with this, many institutions have adopted crowdfunding-like pages for their main giving portals, allowing for the feel of a community effort and ease of giving. Speaking of ease, organizations that adopt digital wallets (the ability for donors to give via Paypal, Venmo, Apple Pay, or other payment options already installed on the device) see 34% of gifts come in through this wallet option, which allows giving in less than a minute.

Watch the webinar: Greta Daniels joins me to break down what these key stats mean for our donor engagement strategy.

Multiple channels massively boost donor response

I’m currently engaged in a project to look at what we call “cross-channel impact,” or how marketing to donors in several coordinated ways impacts response. This includes the synergy between phone, texting, and video messages, which we’ve been combining for years. Some initial stats are astounding:

  • 10-15x giving rate for those who respond to a text, or fully watch a video message.
  • 58% overall giving rate at one institution for donors who were contacted via phone, text, and video within the year.
  • 3x giving rate for donors who received just a call attempt (that’s right, we didn’t even talk). This is boosted by the use of visual caller ID, where your organization’s name and logo appear on the device.

It’s tough to get the attention of donors, but it’s clear that combining outreach across channels, particularly by boosting traditional calling and direct mail with texting and video greetings, has a massive impact. The unit cost of these technologies per donor is very low.

Johns Hopkins Medicine Omnichannel Fundraising Campaign
Johns Hopkins Medicine boosts fundraising results with unique communications to specific hospital and alumni audiences.

It takes years to book a principal gift, but help for gift officers is at hand

Recent data from CASE tells us that it takes on average 19.6 months to book a principal gift. That’s a crucial investment of time in readying our biggest givers to invest. We also know that 85% of fundraising shops have open positions and gift officer churn is a big driver. Most of our gift officers have been in their positions for just a short time. So how do you get on the track to big gifts when your team could change just as you’re getting started with a donor?

One answer is to change up the identification strategy, which takes up a lot of time. One thing we’ve tried is to ask questions when in a conversation with a donor about annual giving (usually phone, and with part-time ambassadors). For groups modeled by age and wealth to be potential planned giving prospects, asking polite, simple questions about legacy giving has yielded a whopping 30% response rate for interest in meeting with a gift officer.

I hear similar rates from advancement leaders who have conducted donor surveys or held planned giving information events. The time is ripe to provide gift officers with a little help in identifying those ready to take the next step. This is crucial, because it frees up gift officers to focus on donors who have raised their hands and makes it easier—and quicker—to give.

AI-driven personalization doubles open and click rates in fundraising communications

A few years back, we embarked on a personalization adventure where artificial intelligence listens to what your constituents open, click on, and read, and then matches variable portions of communications (like newsletters) with your available content. Instead of guessing what donors really care about, it’s now possible to use the same tech that Amazon and Netflix use to serve up personalized suggestions.

When communications are personalized, open and activity rates rise. Communications that are personalized by the actual, demonstrated interests of donors see on average double the open and click-through rates. And since it’s AI doing the work, providing a unique email for everyone in your database is now actually possible.

Numbers start the conversation, and they lead you on the path to a better donor experience

Thanks for this opportunity to geek out and share some of the key statistics and trends I spend my time on every day. If you’d like my colleagues and I to look for a stat not mentioned here or show you how your strategy and benchmarks compare to peers, contact us for a complimentary consultation. We’re always game to look at the numbers.

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About the Author

Brian Gawor

Brian Gawor’s focus is research and strategy to help propel both alumni engagement and fundraising results of RNL clients. Brian has 20 years of higher education experience in student affairs, enrollment management, alumni engagement and...

Read more about Brian's experience and expertise

Reach Brian by e-mail at Brian.Gawor@RuffaloNL.com.


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