Pareto Fundraising North America

Excuses don’t help fundraising

By Jonathon Grapsas, This article was first published in Canadian Fundraising and Philanthropy in February 2011.

Excuses don’t help fundraising It’s been a horrible start to the year for Australia, in particular the state of Queensland. We’ve been hit with some of the worst floods in our history and one of the more brutal cyclones; all while other parts of the country suffer through bushfires and heat waves.

With the impact of the floods likely to be in the billions of dollars, the federal government has introduced a 12 month flood levy, which increases personal income tax by 0.75% for a year. The levy is designed to help rebuild Queensland’s infrastructure ruined by the floods.

In the aftermath of the announcement, a friend asked me what I thought, and whether I expected charitable support to be impacted by the levy? Did I believe that by the government ‘forcing’ people to support would be to the detriment of Aussie charities?

I really don’t think so. For two reasons:

People tend to give above and beyond what they normally would in emergency situations

Last year we had a Canadian client due to lodge an appeal the day after the Haiti earthquake. My client rang me in a panic wondering whether in fact we should post the appeal, or delay it.

My response was a categorical ‘yes, post it’. The Haiti situation was horrendous, beyond belief. But the kids we were appealing on behalf of needed help. Their situation hadn’t changed one bit. It couldn’t wait.

So the pack went out, net income increased 25% from the previous year’s appeal. It was a strong appeal. No doubt some of those donors also reached into their pockets to support organizations working in Haiti. But they didn’t forget the kids that also needed help locally in Canada.

I believe the same will ring true after the floods. But a word of warning, the next time this happens (and it will happen, disasters are occurring more frequently) don’t offer an excuse as to why donors shouldn’t or don’t need to respond. Good appeals for support are about clarity and need, not easy ‘get outs’. So avoid wording that mentions conditional support, like “I know you’re probably helping in the aftermath of X, but we also need your help”. That provides an excuse to switch off.

We saw a similar situation as part of the economic meltdown a couple of years back. All of the direct response testing I saw showed what we intuitively thought – mentioning the recession suppressed response.

People give when they see that something needs support, not when they’re presented a raft of excuses why they shouldn’t.

This was about infrastructure, not people

The flood levy is about rebuilding a state’s resources. Roads, buildings, technology. Decimated by a natural disaster.

Whilst that indirectly helps individuals, the levy isn’t about handouts to those affected.

Hence why I believe it won’t affect charitable support, assuming of course it’s backed up with damn good fundraising.

My advice to those fundraising post emergencies is to continue doing what you were planning on doing. Good results follow good practice.

And that’s what I told my mate.

Tell a Friend Tell a Friend

Fundraising Resolutions: version 20.11

By Jonathon Grapsas This article was first published in Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy in January 2011

Many spend New Year’s Eve discussing plans to shed a few kilos or spend more time with their family. I’m not a big one for forlorn new year’s promises, but thought it would be a bit of fun (and a good checklist to look back on) to pen some fundraising resolutions for 2011.

Here goes. My eight point plan to become a better fundraiser this year.

1 Increase my thirst for knowledge. Read more (blogs, articles, papers), absorb as much as I can from the thought leaders in our sector, be a bigger sponge for learning.

2 Stop putting things off. As a wise school teacher once told me, ‘procrastination is the thief of time’. Smart man he was. I need to just get on with things.

3 Listen more. To those who I agree with, to those who think differently. Pause more often and simply hear what others have to say.

4 Be tenacious about testing. Challenge conventional thinking, test more than ever. That includes debunking more ‘commonly held’ fundraising myths. We talk about testing daily, myself included. Yet the conversion rate of tests we talk about to tests we deliver is low. Far too low.

5 Take my blinkers off and look outside. Not just outside the walls of the agency, but outside the sector. Most of the new stuff I learnt in 2010 was from the commercial sector. Not because they’re smarter, but because I looked more than I normally would outside our own world.

6 Empower others to do even better. My job is about changing the mindset and actions of others as well as my own. Spend more time on changing behaviour than I did in 2010.

7 Continue to search for ‘pacesetters’ in our sector. People and organisations doing great stuff. That includes mystery shopping charities around the globe. To learn for myself, and to share with others. Helping make others better fundraisers means I’m doing a better job too.

8 Get the balance right between learning from what worked and learning from what didn’t. Not too much back slapping (remember, the road to failure is paved with success), but not too much castigating your own work either.

When I think I’ve done what I said I would do, read the list again from start to finish. Then in December check back in and let you know how I did.

Have you written your 2011 fundraising resolutions?

Where do online donors go once you’ve got them?

By Jonathan Grapsas This article was first published in Canadian Fundraiser Magazine

As part of our recent benchmarking at Pareto Fundraising, we were asked to look at the subsequent behavior of new onetime cash recruits. In other words, of donors that are recruited online, where do they go once ‘on board’? What about DM donors? Do they follow the same stream or veer off into other vehicles.

Here’s what we found

Direct Mail recruited cash donors tended to keep doing what they did originally. 90% subsequently kept giving through the mail. No surprises there.

The same mostly rang true for telephone recruits, 85% continuing to give via the phone and almost 15% through the mail.

For online recruits, slightly more varying (and perhaps surprising) results. Around 75% continued giving through the method of recruitment, around 15% then gave through the mail, and the remainder through a combination of other channels.

What’s the upshot of this?

Whilst some of this may appear on face value a little startling, all is not what is seems at first. In other words, the reason a large chunk of ‘online’ recruited donors moved across to donate offline is not necessarily indicating too much about their giving behavior.

It’s telling us more about their giving requests and cultivation. The fact is many of us have much more sophisticated and coherent offline fundraising streams. Therefore if the numbers are small (ish) we tend to include donors in the bucket that allows the most flexibility, largest volumes, has the most frequent communications.

And often that’s the mail.

I’m not suggesting it isn’t noteworthy – it dispels somewhat the myth that online recruits won’t give offline, but contextually I think it says more about programs than behavior.

So what should you do

Test. If you have, or are planning to recruit a significant stream of donors from one particular channel (let’s take online for a moment), then you need to be looking at how best that group responds when treated in different ways.

As suggested above, it appears that the behavior of various groups is dictated by our treatment. In other words what and where we send them.

At the moment we’re undertaking a head to head split test looking at whether a group of ‘online’ recruited donors responds better to an online solicitation (in this case a survey) than to an offline (mail) solicitation (again, a survey).

What we’re looking for is being able to find the optimum way to treat this group. Initially we want to determine for a survey ask (that includes a cash request), what generates the best overall net return. Down the track we’ll measure the optimum suite of communications for this constituency, which could actually be a mixture of offline and online pieces.

Regardless of method of recruitment, always look for the best way to move onetime cash donors across to monthly giving. Monthly giving for our clients grew 9% in 2009, at the height of the recession.

Always look deeper. The data shared above could easily be misunderstood. It certainly wasn’t suggesting that online donors are necessarily ripe to move offline.

Remember that the decisions we make are more impactful than environmental factors outside our control.

A look at how disaster organizations responded to donors in the wake of the Haiti earthquake

Released 11 June 2010

Global fundraising agencies Pareto Fundraising and Pell & Bales have released the key findings from their most recent charity ‘mystery shopping’ exercise. The study, conducted from the end of January through to the end of April 2010, looked at the performance of several organizations fundraising for Haiti, and specifically how they responded following donations made online.

What we did

On the back of the tragedy that struck Haiti in January, 2010 Pareto Fundraising and Pell & Bales decided to look at how charities were responding to donors who made donations in the wake of the disaster.

Here’s how we did it

  • Made an online gift around two weeks after the Haiti disaster. The gift made was for the equivalent of $25 USD, to 52 organizations in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and Spain.
  • Sat back and watched what happened after the donation was made. We monitored the organizations subsequent efforts for the next two months (up till the end of April).
  • Analyzed the results, based on five key criteria:
    1. Initial contact experience. What was the experience like as a donor making the donation?
      1. Response time. Did we hear back from the charity the same day the gift was made online?
        1. Value of the ‘thank you’. Was it personal? Did we hear the words ‘thank you’? Was a story shared?
          1. How proactive the organization was. Was information shared about how our gift would make a difference? Was regular/monthly giving promoted initially?
            1. The follow up. Was there ongoing feedback and updates? Were we asked for subsequent donations, and if so were we asked to consider a regular/monthly gift?

What we found

Overall, the initial response to our gifts was very good. Most organizations responded to our donation immediately and were genuinely thankful for the donation made.

Whilst the ongoing frequency of communications was regular, and the feedback detailed, the element missing was the link to individual stories, and how our donation was having a direct impact. Most of the feedback was operationally focused.

We were asked for another financial contribution several times by some organizations in the subsequent two months, although the huge area of opportunity moving forward definitely lies within regular/monthly giving. Very few asked us to consider changing the way we support and commence an ongoing, monthly gift.

Below are some of the key insights. It is worth noting that the results were analyzed up until the end of April, and therefore some organizations may have subsequently engaged in the follow up activity referred to below from May onwards.

  • 83% of charities responded to our donation the same day (with an email confirmation). In the US, Canada and Australia the response came on the same day in 100% of occasions. In the UK 85% of the time, whereas only 30% of Spanish charities responded the same day of the gift. However it is worth noting that 4 of the 10 charities in Spain did not actually process our donation, at all.
  • If all charities that processed our donation (92%), all but three said the words ‘thank you’ within the email received after making the gift. However 10 organizations did not personalize the thank you email (I.e. it did not reference our name personally in the salutation or the body of the email).
  • Only 29% of charities initially promoted regular/monthly giving. The highest of the countries was the US where 55% of charities mystery shopped asked for an ongoing commitment.
  • In the follow up activity, after our first gift, 21% of organizations used vehicles other than email to communicate with us. Of the 52 charities we surveyed, only 2 (both in the UK) used a combination of email, mail and telephone to keep in touch and communicate with us. 31% of charities across the countries did not reach out to us at all after the initial thank you process.

What we’d recommend

Below we’ve provided some recommendations for organizations responding to disasters, related to both the initial period after a disaster, and in the weeks and months following.

Initial contact

  • Charities need to ensure that initial donations receive a speedy response either by auto response or within a short space of time (response in hours, not days).
  • Initial responses should be personalized and should contain the words ’thank you’.
  • When landing on a charities website, the disaster should be prominently displayed, with its own separate landing page. All email communications should provide a link straight to that landing page (or micro site).
  • If the organization is strategically focusing on regular/monthly gifts, the initial response should promote this and keep it singularly focused.

Subsequent contact

  • Subsequent communications need to be relevant and timely, providing useful and important updates and information demonstrating the impact the donor’s money is having on the ground. That means telling real, human stories.
  • Real feedback from the field should be provided on a regular basis, in a coherent manner. We should foster opportunities for deeper engagement and understanding of the issues at hand.
  • Stand out from the crowd. Some of the best examples from this exercise on how to feedback involved inviting donors to teleconferences and webinars to share stories from the field.

Conversion to Regular/Monthly Giving

  • Charities should develop and execute a follow up communication plan as part of an integrated strategy to convert onetime cash supporters onto regular/monthly giving.
  • All communications should focus on capturing details to make conversion to monthly giving easier e.g. Name, address, phone number and email. Offer opt outs rather than opt in to follow up contact.
  • Constant reinforcement in all communications of the importance and need for regular/monthly giving (linked to the need for long term, sustainable support to the people affected).
  • Develop integrated channel plan for conversion to monthly giving including email promotion/reinforcement, telephone conversion and mail mop up activity.
  • Aim to make direct approach to conversion onto regular/monthly giving within 2 months of first cash gift. Speed is key. We know that 2 months is better than 4 months, and so on.
  • Evaluate the impact of developing a specific regular/monthly giving product for the emergency situation (I.e. sign up for 365 days) along with a well thought out plan for future relationship management and donor care.
  • Once signed up to a regular/monthly gift, focus on the honeymoon period: the first 30 days after sign up. This is critical to arresting attrition.

Long term strategy

  • Develop a plan for communicating with non-responders to your regular/monthly giving conversion efforts. Consider how to feed these individuals into the ongoing cash program and look at ways to engage with non financial support. Test using as a prospect file for future conversion activity.
  • Ensure your organization is well equipped to for the next emergency response. For example, mail and email templates in place, thanking and conversion process agreed.

For more information on how to implement an effective emergency response plan please contact Jonathon Grapsas of Pareto Fundraising at jonathon.grapsas@paretofundraising.com, or Karl Holweger of Pell and Bales at karlholweger@aol.com

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Leading Canadian charities come together in the spirit of sharing and best practice

Released 4 May 2010

Pareto Fundraising has released the results of their 2010 benchmarking study looking at trends in the Canadian charitable sector.

The latest analysis looks at data through to the end of December 2009 from the participating 14 Canadian charities including: Amnesty International Canada, BC Cancer Foundation, Canadian Diabetes Association, Canadian Red Cross (Western Canada), CARE Canada, The Children’s Wish Foundation Canada, cbm Canada, Canadian Feed The Children, David Suzuki Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières Canada, The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ontario Nature, the SickKids Foundation and WWF-Canada.

In the wake of the global financial crisis, the results were mixed as to how charities in Canada have fared. Whilst income overall fell in 2009, there were certainly some positive signs for the sector, again reinforcing that those organizations that have taken a long term view to growth have come through the financial downturn relatively unscathed and in a strong position heading into and beyond 2010.

Specifically, the latest analysis, which looked at historical data from 4.7m donors and more than $2.2b worth of gifts, found that:

  • Income from individuals fell in 2009, down 10% to $158m. The key driver of that was a drop in onetime cash gifts donated, which decreased $17m last year (this is due to a decline in the number of cash gifts – the average cash gift actually rose).
  • As reported in the previous round of analysis, monthly giving continues to provide a tremendous stream of ongoing income for charities. At the height of the recession, monthly giving grew 9% in 2009, now providing $48m annually for the 14 organizations involved in the cooperative. Based on the current growth trajectory, monthly giving looks set to overtake cash giving in the next year as the major source of individual funding for Canadian charities.
  • Income from planned gifts increased last year (8%) despite the average value of realized bequests falling from $35k to $32k (though it still remained well above the 2007 level of $27K). This represents a huge area of growth for Canadian organizations. Despite the fact that the number of bequests left each year is on the rise, these levels are still lagging behind other developed fundraising nations.
  • The level of income and number of new cash donors from direct mail fell in 2009 by 15% and 22% respectively. This decrease in income was despite the increase in average gift levels via direct mail overall (a bigger increase than in the previous year). This decline in income was offset partly by the shift in focus for many organizations to recruiting monthly donors. The fall in new donors being recruited is both a reflection of less prospecting activity being undertaken overall, as well as a fall in the number of new recruits coming on board.
  • Online giving continues to grow, an increase in income of 17% from 2008. However giving online remains a relatively small chunk of the pie, accounting for just 2% of all individual income versus more traditional means like direct mail which represents closer to 20%.
  • According to Rebecca Davies, Director of Fundraising at Médecins Sans Frontières, participation in the benchmarking study over the past two years has helped Médecins Sans Frontières make responsible choices about which areas to invest in, particularly during turbulent times.

    Davies says “The involvement in the benchmarking group has not only helped reassure us that the decisions we’ve made to invest heavily in monthly giving and bequests have strategically been the rights ones for us but the participation in discussions with other leading Canadian organizations has been invaluable. We really appreciate the candour and sharing of best practices in the group sessions, and getting some context to the data provided.”

    Ends

    For information on how you can be involved in Pareto Fundraisings Benchmarking Study please contact Jonathon Grapsas at 647-347-0157 or by email at jonathon.grapsas@paretofundraising.com.

Finding the emotional triggers to increase net income

By Jonathan Grapsas This article was first published in Canadian Fundraiser Magazine and is the final part of a four part series

Let’s face it, the best relationships you have usually are those with the people you know most about, right? Knowing that your friend really likes a certain football team or particular style of music opens up conversations and dialogue much easier than not knowing this.

There are two main types of personal data, the first is transactional.

Transactional data is the information pertaining to how individuals have actually behaved in the past. How much they have given, how often, what they have responded to. And as mentioned previously, the biggest driver of how someone will behave in the future is what they have done in the past.

So, how do I use this information?

Let’s take a direct mail appeal as an example. How recently and how frequently someone has donated dictates how likely they are to respond. The value of a donor’s previous gift indicates how much they will give in the future.

Really simple but important stuff. Knowing this allows you to then determine not only who you should target for a specific ask, but how much you should ask them for.

If executed correctly, the targeting and ask is the biggest driver for a direct response activity. Yes, telling brilliant and compelling stories is crucial, but ask the wrong people for the right thing or the right people for the wrong thing and your campaign falls over. This is a science, not an art.

The second type of personal data is finding out the real nuggets of information about why people support you. The reason they first supported you, what they think about your work, even if they have had a personal affliction with your cause.

To illustrate the power of getting really personal, contrast these two pieces of copy. Then think about which one you’d prefer to send to your donors and which one you’d prefer to receive for that matter.

“… As someone who has been touched personally by cancer, Jonathon, I’m sure you will agree that we desperately need to find a cure in our lifetime. In fact I know you are particularly interested in the work we are doing looking into the causes of lung cancer which is why I am reaching out to you today with an appeal for $50. I know this is more than you given in the past, but a gift of this size will help provide an hour of world class research which could help find a cure into one of Canada’s biggest killers…”

Versus

“… We really need to look further into the causes of lung cancer to help us find a cure, so please would you consider a gift at this time…”

I know which one I’d prefer.

The first talks to me as an individual, as someone who has been touched by cancer. I’ve been listened to and the information, whilst personal and sensitive, has been played back to me to show they (the organization I support) care. I’ve also been asked to support at a specific level, which has then been tangibly shown to have the potential to make a real difference.

The second makes me feel, well, it doesn’t make me feel anything, other than part of a big group of people who have received this piece.

I want to feel like an individual.

And I can tell you, talking to donors as individuals, be it through using transactional history to ask for an appropriate gift or by replaying back information you have captured on donor’s works.

The transactional history helps boost response, gift levels and income in the short term.

The ‘softer’ data, the ‘emotional triggers’ like why people support you, help in the long run. They help improve retention. Better retention means more active donors to talk to, cultivate and ask. And that means more net income.

Ultimately that means being able to help more of your beneficiaries.

About the writer

Jonathon Grapsas is the Regional Director for Pareto Fundraising in North America. This is the fourth in a series of articles where Jonathon will look in detail at how you can use different sources of data to help grow your fundraising program and raise shed loads more money for your cause

If you would like more information on this please contact Jonathon at jonathon.grapsas@paretofundraising.com or on +1 416 915 4114.

Pareto Fundraising announces four fundraisers who are on their way to AFP’s Toronto Congress

Media Release 16 November 2009

At Pareto Fundraising we are passionate about ensuring that fundraisers have access to great training, enabling them to be the best fundraisers possible. This year we are delighted to be sending four brilliant fundraisers to AFP Toronto’s Fundraising Congress, individuals who would otherwise not have been able to attend this year’s event.

We received a large number of applications, and are delighted to award the four full passes (which cover the registration fee for the full three days of Congress) to:

Pam Bastedo, Meal Exchange Aileen Doyle, JHR (Journalists for Human Rights) Elaine Scrivener, Mark Preece Family House Mary Warner, Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative

Each of these individuals shared with us what they were most excited about learning at Congress and how they would be able to use the knowledge and experience gained to further their organizations fundraising and make the world a better place.

Thank you to all who those who took the time to submit an application. And congratulations again to Pam, Aileen, Elaine and Mary.

We’re really looking forward to a great Congress. See you there.

Ends

Canadian Charities come together to look at latest trends in sector

Released 5 November 2009

Pareto Fundraising has released the results of their 2009 mid-year benchmarking study looking at trends in the Canadian charitable sector.

The latest analysis looks at data through to the end of June 2009 from the participating 10 Canadian charities including: BC Cancer Foundation, Canadian Red Cross (Western Canada), CARE Canada, The Children’s Wish Foundation Canada, cbm Canada, Canadian Feed The Children, Médecins Sans Frontières Canada, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, SickKids Foundation and WWF Canada.

Despite the global financial decline, the organizations included in the project are holding up well, and one of the key messages delivered overall was that those who have invested heavily in monthly giving in the past are the ones most likely to enter 2010 in the best shape.

Specifically, the latest analysis found that:

  • Overall income from the group was down in 2008 (just $1m), however individual income was up significantly on 2008
  • Monthly giving remains resilient, in fact continues to grow on all measures including total income generated. In 2008 the ten members generated over $35m from monthly donors
  • Cash recruitment overall has slowed the 1st half of 2009 after a strong 2008
  • Major gifts (gifts over $1k) have rebounded, in fact grown the first half of 2009 after a poor 2nd half of 2008
  • According to Moses Gabriel, Direct Response Manager at the BC Cancer Foundation, the insights uncovered from the latest round of analysis give his team greater confidence during difficult times, particularly about the acquisition landscape.

    Gabriel says “One of the key findings in the latest benchmarking analysis is that new donor acquisition in 2009 has slowed down somewhat in comparison to 2007 and 2008. Whether this is caused by the recent economic downturn, or other factors, it is tough to say for sure; however, it does highlight the ever growing need to build stronger relationships with donors. Our goal now is to find ways to recruit donors that are more likely to make a second or third gift or switch to monthly giving, by testing new acquisition materials and techniques.

    In previous years, the decision to change our approach would be based on a mix of internal data and really some ‘gut feeling’ based on past experiences of our staff. Today, however, we are able to pursue these strategies with a greater level of confidence knowing that it isn’t just our experience, but something that affects a large portion of the charitable sector.”

    The next round of 2009 reporting will take place in early 2010.

    Ends

    For information on how you can be involved in Pareto Fundraisings Benchmarking Study please contact Jonathon Grapsas at 647-347-0157 or by email at jonathon.grapsas@paretofundraising.com.

Need a little help reaching your targets?

With only two months until the end of 2009, do you want some help with your final push toward meeting your fundraising target?

Pareto Fundraising can give you that extra support to make sure you get to where you want by the end of December. We’d love to help you, right now, with any or all of the following:

  • Develop more income from your end of year appeal with advice on targeting, copy and creative; online and offline.
  • Develop a quick Christmas appeal follow up strategy to bring in more cash from donors who traditionally support you at this time of year but haven’t done so yet.
  • Maximize income through your website through our spot check and recommendations on functionality, messaging and integration.
  • Identify those people on file who have the potential to give you a really big gift before year end.
  • Work with you on a communications plan for 2010 that speaks to donors as valued individuals and gives you the best fundraising opportunities via well placed monthly giving and cash asks.

What will this cost you? $1,500 and up, depending on how much support you want. But we promise that if you follow our advice and don’t raise more money, you don’t pay us.

So to start working with the Pareto Fundraising gang on your 2009 final push, get in touch now by emailing Jonathon Grapsas now at jonathon.grapsas@paretofundraising.com or calling him at +1 647 347 0157.

How looking around at others can raise you shed loads more money for your cause

By Jonathan Grapsas This article was first published in Canadian Fundraiser Magazine and is part two of a four part series

I introduced last time the notion of arming yourself with three types of data (environmental, analytical and personal data) to make informed decisions to grow your fundraising programme.

The first I’m going to touch on in detail is the use of environmental data, in other words scanning what’s happening in the marketplace and how you can learn from others to raise more money.

There is a lot of environmental data out there to access.

You can look at annual reports from other charities to see how individual organizations are performing or look at information produced from bodies like Imagine Canada to see where money is coming from across the sector.

All free and publically available data, which is incredibly useful to get a sense of what is and isn’t working for different charities across the country.

Then there is benchmarking.

I’m sure that for many, the notion of benchmarking conjures up thoughts of meaningless, dull data and reams of paper full of graphs and charts.

And whilst there is some element of truth to this, I see benchmarking as one of the most powerful fundraising tools in our armory and anything but dull.

The way I look at it benchmarking is about looking at what others are doing and using this information to raise more money for the causes you work for.

Benchmarking studies come in various shapes and sizes. I’m going to focus on what I believe to be the most useful of those, data benchmarking (as opposed to benchmarking surveys that ask you a series of questions rather than look at your real data). In other words, charities looking at the actual data of theirs and other organizations with the intention of learning more about others in order to further their cause.

There are six key reasons why benchmarking is a must for any successful or ambitious fundraising organization.

1. It helps you identify industry trends

When charities share information and look at performance, both on a big picture scale and in minute detail, it arms fundraisers with information about what’s happening in the marketplace.

What’s working, what’s not. What’s driving growth.

This allows you to then make informed decisions about your own efforts, including reaffirming decisions you have made about areas to invest in. Or conversely giving you evidence that an area you have chosen not to bother with was indeed the right call to make.

2. Gives you a sense of your performance vs. the industry

How do you really know whether your fundraising is up to scratch or not? What on earth does 30% retention of cash donors actually mean? Are you sure that having only 0.2% of your file telling you they have left a bequest is low?

Questions we ask ourselves daily.

Benchmarking helps answers these and many other fundraising questions. It gives you a real sense of how you are doing.

The best way to do this is by looking at your data versus the data of other organizations. Of course there is always context. But where the names of the charities are shared and programs, size and budget are put in perspective, this gives fundraisers a true sense of how they are tracking.

3. You share knowledge

As Sara Campbell Mates from WWF Canada says‘… It opens up a dialogue between us as one organization and our colleagues at other organizations about how we can work together to do better and make the sector stronger. The experience in benchmarking has been priceless from that perspective.’

Sara is spot on.

Benchmarking forces fundraisers to talk to each other. Because let’s face it, when we go to conferences and attend workshops, we’re a polite bunch and we also tend to keep to ourselves.

But when you’re looking at Charity A whose retention rate on new monthly giving recruits in miles ahead of yours, you simply HAVE to talk to them. Find out how they’re doing it, what they’re doing differently, what they’ve tested.

This is debatably the most potent feature of any benchmarking project. Really clever people coming together to share not only data, but brilliant ideas. Can only result in great things happening.

4. Provides a better understanding of fundraising

If you’re not using street recruitment to recruit new donors, then how are you going to learn more about the channel? Of course you could talk to an agency; you may even talk to a colleague who did it once, back in 1998.

But what better way of digging deeper and getting the real lowdown on areas you’re not familiar with than to see firsthand organizations who are doing it? And doing it now.

Benchmarking programs, particularly those that are all encompassing and study each area of fundraising allow you to learn, and do so looking at real, live data and not textbooks.

5. Saves you money and helps you get MORE of it

The biggest barrier to measuring yourself is the cost of doing it. The second biggest barrier is a fear or reluctance to share.

Benchmarking is about value, not cost. If you commit to comparing yourselves with others, then you will not only recoup the upfront outlay, but the information it arms you with will allow you to make more informed and strategic decisions. And that can only mean one thing: more dollars raised.

6. Reduces complacency

Often overlooked as a reason to measure one’s self, yet incredibly important. Benchmarking makes us more accountable. And by accountable, I don’t mean justifying “how much of the donors dollar goes to the cause”.

I mean it makes you accountable. It reduces any possible complacency. It pushes you to become a better fundraiser. You sure won’t allow yourself to have the worst monthly giving attrition next year, nor will you allow Charity X (who frankly you find quite smug) to knock you off your bequest perch. Not a chance in hell.

About the writer

Jonathon Grapsas is the Regional Director for Pareto Fundraising in North America. This is the second in a series of articles where Jonathon will look in detail at how you can use different sources of data to help grow your fundraising program and raise shed loads more money for your cause.