Fundraising Results and Alternate Facts: What Research and Data Reveal

Fundraising Results and Alternate Facts: What Research and Data Reveal

Fundraising Results and Alternate Facts - what research and data reveal
Fundraising Results and Alternate Facts - what research and data reveal

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Year after year, presenters on the fundraising conference circuit claim that the form of fundraising in which they have a commercial interest is producing dramatic results. If these claims were true, you would expect these results come through in the national studies of philanthropy. Dr Daniel McDiarmid, Principal Consultant at AskRIGHT, looks at what the recent and upcoming research reveal about fundraising results.

Australia will soon see the Giving Australia 2016 report, and there are several US reports recently released or due in coming months. As the various reports and indices come through, try to find the conference claims reflected in the published results.

The Blackbaud Charity Report is just released for 2016. It is useful for overall trends (although it will be even more useful when merged with other data in the Giving USA 2016 report to be released soon) and particularly helpful for online giving.

Here are best-pickings about fundraising from Blackbaud report:

Overall giving is up (only) 1% but giving to mid-sized organisations increased at a higher rate (1.7%). Watch for comparisons with the Giving Australia information where I expect to see our largest charities growing at a faster rate than others.

Online giving grew faster than giving overall, again with mid-sized organisations having a higher rate of increase than smaller or the largest organisations. Online giving has risen to 7.2% of all fundraising revenue in the USA as measured by this index. We also learn that one in six online donations is made on a mobile device, so the imperative to design for the smaller screen is clear.

The information on rates of change by sector is particularly helpful, as they provide a benchmark for fundraisers to check their organisation’s performance. Some standout changes for 2016 in the USA were:

Healthcare results down 4.5%; although medical research grew 2.2%.

In Australia, where we tend to count them together, we will see that health is eating everyone’s little lunch while looking to move on big lunch – learn more during our webinar.

Donations for the environment and animal welfare down 1.2%.

In Australia, we will see the environment down and animals up – learn more during our webinar.

Arts & Culture up 3.7% (applause please) – only outpaced by philanthropy for school education which rose 7.5% (standing ovation).

For online donations, medical research went backwards 3.8%, international affairs went backwards a small amount probably due to the absence of natural disasters close to the USA in 2016. All other sectors saw increases in online giving, led by arts and culture (15.4%) and most other sectors bunched around 9-12% increases.

The report has a couple of international numbers that make interesting comparisons:

overall giving went down 1.8% in Canada even though online giving rose 10 %; while overall giving went up 2.8% in the United Kingdom where online giving went up only 2.2%.

And my favourite number:

Here’s something you won’t ever hear from a young conference presenter. The average age of a donor (in the USA) is 62. With average life expectancy now in the 80s, you shouldn’t give up on people who have 20 more giving years left.


Proponents of Giving Tuesday in Australia and New Zealand will be pleased to know that Giving Tuesday donations in the USA rose 20% in 2016.


Upcoming reports from Giving USA will give us a broader raft of statistics, and this year will provide a special focus on giving for aged care and end-of-life care. This will be of great interest to fundraisers in hospitals and hospices.

The Giving Institute is promoting a range of issues for discussion in the USA including studies of LGBTQ philanthropy (noticeably missing from Giving Australia) and philanthropy to migrant organisations.

It looks like a good year for data, and for those who take the time to understand the lessons they convey.


Dr Daniel McDiarmid will tour Australia in May to present a series of seminars about Australia’s New Giving Trends. Click here to learn more and join the group.


Australia new giving trends seminar

Dr Daniel McDiarmid

Dr Daniel McDiarmid

Principal Consultant at AskRIGHT
Daniel is a highly experienced and innovative fundraising professional with more than 30 years of success raising funds for higher education, research, religious and other organisations in Australia and New Zealand.

To find out how Daniel can help your organisation, contact
Dr Daniel McDiarmid

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