Mid-Year Fundraising Status: Results from the RNL Survey

Brian GaworVice President of ResearchFebruary 2, 2023

Updated on March 10, 2023, with additional data.

We’ve wrapped up our first 2023 Advancement Leaders Speak Survey. Prompted by RNL’s fundraising advisory board and discussions we’ve had with RNL partners, we launched the survey early this year to answer some key questions we’re being asked:

  • Are you up or down on donors, dollars, compared to last January, as you begin to complete the fiscal year?
  • What has impacted those results, from key strategy shifts, changes to events, the economy, and competition from other causes?
  • What are your key FY23 priorities, and do your priorities match with your leadership?
  • What holds the most promise and most challenge for fundraising in the coming year?

You can view the full survey results here in our slides from the recent webinar where we shared the results.

Here are some highlights:

Donor growth is a priority for frontline fundraisers, but leadership lags on some of the key tactics

Many of the respondents to the survey indicated direct responsibility for core fundraising metrics such as donor count, total dollars, and budget-relieving support. Fundraisers are concerned about these key metrics, but when we look at specific factors that might influence this, fundraisers seem to be indicating that leadership is less attuned to what might help.

From your perspective, which of the following are a high priority for you as a fundraiser, and which are a high priority for your organization’s top leadership? (check all that apply)

Goal/StrategyHigh Priority for MeHigh Priority for Leadership
Increasing the number of donors giving on an annual basis95%63%
Growing total annual giving dollars91%68%
Growing budget relieving or unrestricted dollars72%77%
Growing alumni participation89%76%
Improving our communications across channels like mail, email and digital95%34%
Improving the donor experience93%50%
Making it easier to give97%28%
Recruiting/retaining key talent on our team66%74%
Providing gift officers with better tools to increase their effectiveness/ productivity53%65%

The most remarkable trend to me here is the responses on ease of giving and the donor experience. In a challenging economy, these are two things that deserve significant attention. Fundraisers agree, but they don’t necessarily feel supported by leadership.

Donors and dollars are under pressure for FY23 fundraising results

How is this year looking? That’s the question everyone is asking. What I can report from initial survey respondents is that both donor counts and dollars are not looking fabulous at many institutions.

How do you stand, for the current fiscal year, in regard to key metrics?

CategoryUp compared to this time last yearAbout even compared to this time last yearDown compared to this time last year
Total fundraising (all gifts and commitments)36%22%42%
Total annual giving dollars25%29%46%
Total unrestricted, budget-relieving dollars26%35%38%
Total donor count19%20%61%
Total alumni donor count (if applicable)17%25%58%
Alumni participation (if applicable)16%35%38%

We also asked fundraisers what they think is contributing to results this year. Fundraisers say these things are having the most impact:

  • Donor uncertainty, and the economy, in general
  • Inflaction/increased costs for donors
  • The stock market
  • Staff transitions/turnover
  • Rising interest rates
  • Leadership transitions at our organization

You can read the full results of the survey, including quotes from fundraisers, here.

Technology, getting staff on board, and coordinating outreach are what fundraisers think will matter

We also asked: “What do you believe holds the most promise?” and fundraisers had a great list.

  • Personalization
  • AI, digital fundraising
  • New hiring and on-boarding for staff
  • Increasing reach
  • 1:1 contact
  • Giving Day
  • Reducing friction
  • Recurring Giving
  • Giving-related swag

There’s a strong shift to impact stories. Like fundraisers said: “Promoting student stories, donor impact and funds that impact the majority of students on campus like the student emergency fund and food pantry.”

There’s still time to impact FY23 fundraising results

Check out the full survey results, and send your questions our way. I can tell you that a common string is that better coordination on advancement teams, better use of data, and looking at underutilized channels are top priorities for fundraisers based on the survey.

There’s still time to impact your FY23 results, with creativity and careful strategy. This can be accomplished even when budgets are tight, and it’s time to fundraise smarter, with a focus on the donor experience. This is key to sustainable, impact-driven fundraising, a topic you’ll be hearing about from the RNL team repeatedly in the coming months.

And, if you’d like to talk with people who have been in your shoes about fundraising results right now, contact us and we’ll set up a time to talk. We’ve tapped into the pulse of hundreds of organizations, and we’re ready to share strategy that will work to close out your year strong.

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

Read More In: Fundraising
Read More Blogs By: Brian Gawor