Look no further, because your future annual and major gift donors are right in front of you! Volunteers have proven over and over again to be invaluable resources to nonprofit organizations, providing their time, talent, ideas, and social ties to help advance an organization’s mission. Now is the time organizations should put in the same effort and attention toward engaging with their volunteer base as they do their donors.

Individuals who donate their time to nonprofit organizations tend to donate their money, as well. In fact, 39% of donors supported a nonprofit by volunteering before they made a financial contribution. Having meaningful volunteer opportunities can strengthen donor relationships with an organization and is crucial to an organization’s successful fundraising strategy.

77 million people, or 23% of the total US population, volunteer across the US each year.

$29.95 is the estimated value of a volunteer hour, which is a 4.9% increase from 2020 to 2021.

42% of high-net-worth individuals indicated that they hold leadership positions or sit on the board of directors at the organizations to which they give.

42% also claim to volunteer their time and/or services at the organizations to which they give.

Consider the following tips as you look to transition volunteers to donors.

1. establish a culture of philanthropy among volunteers.

Everyone in the organization, from the janitor to the chairman of the board, understands that philanthropy and fund development are critical to organizational health and that each individual has a role in the process. First and foremost, everyone is an ambassador.

Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE

While every organization has its own way of doing things, philanthropy must be rooted in the organization’s culture to resonate with key stakeholders. Take the time to share your organization’s values, vision, and mission with your volunteers. Most of your organization’s supporters are considered cultural “adopters.” They are passionate, reliable, and motivated by external and internal factors. These cultural adopters should receive ongoing stewardship for the key role they play in pushing your organization’s mission forward.

2. Utilize moves management practices with your volunteer base.

  • Cultivate & Brief: Acknowledge volunteers as contributors to your organization’s success and work to develop personalized relationships. Engage in open dialogue to learn about their passions and experiences with your organization. Take the time to understand their story and what motivates them to stay connected with your organization. Consider the types of communication and outreach you send to volunteers: Is it personalized? Are you conveying your appreciation and sharing their impact?
  • Solicit: Don’t assume that just because your volunteers have a strong understanding and value of the mission, they will make a gift without being asked. Consider volunteers as an additional segment in your annual appeal process. Invite them to make a gift and make it easy to give.
  • Steward: Stewardship is crucial to the longevity of any donor or volunteer relationship. Find ways to demonstrate the value of your relationship and consider what insider experiences or recognition your organization could offer to promote their great work.

3. Track volunteer engagement metrics in your CRM.

Just as you track donor activities and qualify donors on a regular cadence, consider tracking key volunteer engagement metrics and wealth screen your established volunteer base. These metrics can help your organization identify engagement trends, indicate where the relationship currently sits with each volunteer, and flag those who have the capacity to give. Example metrics can include the following: service hours, event attendance, social media interactions, personalized visits or one-on-one phone calls, or email open rates.

4. engage different generations of volunteers.

When considering how to engage volunteers across generations, demographics, or backgrounds, it is important to remember that every person is unique. As younger generations become more involved with various philanthropic causes, immersive volunteer opportunities that convey impact will be a driver for individuals looking to make a gift. One-third of millennials shared that they give more to a nonprofit they are actively volunteering with, compared to 21% of Gen X and 12% of Baby Boomers. Think outside the box on how you can meet each generation where they are and provide a volunteer experience that aligns with their values and motivations.

5. invest in tailoring the volunteer experience.

Consider offering a wide variety of volunteer opportunities that provide flexibility and focus on an individual’s strengths and interests. When engaging any donor or community member, be prepared with a list of volunteer experiences that could be in-person, virtual, seasonal, individual, or team/corporate based. Hands-on opportunities that allow a volunteer to see your mission in action are critical.

Explore how you can leverage your organization’s volunteer leadership opportunities, such as a board role or committee, to leverage an individual’s expertise and raise the sights of key stakeholders already engaged in your mission.

the takeaway: Enhance Your Volunteer Relationships.

Strong volunteer engagement is a key component of nonprofit success. Engage your volunteers as you would your donors. A volunteer who is also a donor is deeply invested in the impact they can make in an organization they care about. Focus on building individual volunteer relationships that leverage their diverse stories, skills, and experiences to support your fundraising efforts.

More Insights

Article

3 Key Considerations for Elevating Your Membership Program

August 2, 2022

The philanthropic landscape is ripe with opportunity for cultural membership programs. Use the guiding questions below to bolster your organization’s development strategy.

Article

Building a Culture of Philanthropy

November 24, 2020

“Culture” is ubiquitous, although that does not mean it is easy to define. Instead, “culture” presents a challenge when we try to change it without buy-in from essential stakeholders. Understanding that every organisation has a particular culture, whether or not stakeholders acknowledge it, is crucial in formulating a fundraising strategy.

Publication

Philanthropic Landscape Report, 11th Edition

September 1st, 2022

Featuring essential philanthropic research from all major sources in the industry, this exclusive report examines key themes in American philanthropy and the latest data on giving by US individuals, foundations, and corporations.

Over our decades-long history, CCS has witnessed the transformative impact that an engaged and enthusiastic volunteer body can have on the ultimate outcome of a major parish campaign. Since the onset of COVID-19, many clergy and lay leaders have expressed reluctance to embark on a major fundraising effort out of fear of a lack of volunteer participation. However, within the last three years, we have been astounded by the proactive engagement of so many parishioner volunteers who seek opportunities for involvement on a deeper level with their Christian community.

We have found that with a pastoral approach to volunteer recruitment, paired with training and coaching by the CCS team, parishioners go above and beyond to support a successful fundraising effort. In partnership with the Clergy, these volunteers throughout the country pave the way for extraordinary campaign results.

The Importance of Parishioner Volunteers

Parishioner volunteers have long been a critical pillar of fundraising success when embarking on a religious campaign. Many of these volunteers have a long-term history with the parish and therefore provide invaluable support and community knowledge that moves the campaign forward.  

OUR PASTORAL APPROACH TO RECRUITMENT

Launching a parish campaign takes about three months of preparation, during which local case needs are finalized, campaign materials are designed and created, and key messaging is set by the parish leadership. The most pressing item during this time is forming the right leadership team to help guide the campaign toward success. To build a parish campaign volunteer leadership team, CCS partners with the pastor/pastoral leader to identify a core group of parishioners who have a history of affinity and connection with the parish to become lay leaders of the campaign.

We have learned that the right parishioners will take on the leadership mantel if they are identified strategically and approached in a personal manner. It is in these thoughtful conversations that clergy make an authentic request for the parishioners to serve their parish through faithful campaign engagement.

ENGAGING THE VOLUNTEERS

When is the best time to engage volunteers?

We have found that it is most impactful to draw volunteers in early enough in the process so they can feel adequately informed about the needs of the parish and connected to the campaign’s “why.” Parishes often elect to include most leaders once the campaign case has been set, and a campaign plan is drafted. However, for independent parishes conducting a campaign, it is critical to involve your key parishioners in the feasibility study process, as well. Their input is invaluable during the early campaign ideation, and their volunteer contributions will be more impactful if they feel they have helped develop what they are being asked to deliver.

How do we keep our volunteers engaged?

Depending on the size of the campaign, a timeline may span from 4-8 months, with larger efforts lasting longer. We employ a phased approach, so volunteers may work in phases, but we will generally involve volunteers in active meetings for 16-18 weeks.

How do we support volunteer activity?

We hold weekly meetings when we work with the parish volunteers to maintain momentum, have check-ins, and reinforce enthusiasm within the parish. We work closely with the volunteers from the beginning of the process by training them on fundraising best practices and guiding their activity on a week-by-week basis. We work hard to cheerlead the volunteers and celebrate their successes to maintain their activity and engagement.

A CASE STUDY: THE VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCE IN OHIO

It started with a tenured CCS colleague who has seen every type of Diocesan campaign and volunteer recruitment strategy in their 16 years of experience. Next came two strong volunteer co-chairs, well-connected to their community, who called more than 25 families to personally ask for their support in this mighty endeavor—not for their benefit, but for their parish and their faith. From here, and with the coaching of the CCS team, an additional 10 passionate volunteer parishioners were recruited.

The volunteer team quickly cultivated an environment where positivity and trust in their pastor and fellow faithful parishioners led them to success. These volunteers came in with multiple questions, doubts, and fears. CCS worked pastorally in listening to their concerns and providing information that helped them feel empowered to communicate campaign needs. We took a solution-focused approach that allowed the volunteer partnership to be positive and productive based on mutual trust. Every week, the volunteers came with ideas, suggestions, and questions. By the end of the campaign, the volunteers felt proud and fearless and commented that they would even miss the weekly campaign meetings.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM WORKING WITH VOLUNTEERS IN A RELIGIOUS CAMPAIGN

  • Start and end each meeting in prayer.
  • Recognize that no two parishes are the same—each parish deserves a uniquely tailored plan, and each volunteer deserves a uniquely supportive engagement with their CCS team.
  • Be pleasantly persistent while maintaining a spirit of flexibility.
  • Keep the process fun; volunteers are giving their time!
  • Trust the fundraising process and rely on the strategically developed campaign plan.

At the end of the campaign, a well-coached volunteer team will take great pride in accomplishing a successful campaign. The time spent together building community and securing incredible gifts and pledges in support of their beloved parish will be a lasting memory that they will forever cherish.

Last year, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a 34% increase in antisemitic incidences across the US, totaling 2,717—the highest number on record since the ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979. In 2021, there were 525 logged incidents at Jewish institutions, such as synagogues, Jewish community centers, and Jewish schools, a 61% increase from the year before. Antisemitic incidents are an unfortunate reality in the communities that we serve, but CCS clients have powerful tools to respond: their mission, their voice, and their network of loyal supporters. Organizations that partner with and serve Jewish communities continue to do tremendous work despite the undue prejudice they continue to face.

With over $28B donated to social and racial equity in the past two years, donors support organizations that fight hate, stand for justice, and serve vulnerable communities. While communicating with donors in times of increased incidents of hate can be a challenge, our clients play an important role in ensuring their donors feel safe, seen, and heard. Through our client partnerships during tumultuous times, CCS Fundraising has gained the following insights.

One: Stay in touch.

Reassure donors that you are meeting the moment, and share how you are addressing current societal challenges. If your organization is taking action, inform your closest partners so they can provide support. For example, if your organization will convene thought leaders, historians, and experts in the days ahead about a pertinent topic, invite donors individually, and share more about what they will gain from attending. Beyond this, just stay in touch! Check in with donors and make sure they are safe and well.

Two: Be a resource.

Your institution has worked tirelessly to build trust, and this is a time when your stakeholders will look to you for guidance, so you must be prepared to lead. You can make data-informed decisions based on research findings from ADL’s research initiatives, leverage the collective brain trust of networks like The Jewish Federations of North America for reputable and trusted resources, or work to cultivate important ideas and innovative content using jMuse’s Activating Archives, Libraries, and Museums in the Fight Against Antisemitism guide.

Three: Personalize your messaging.

Be direct, and personalize your outreach. Donors may position you as a trusted expert and resource, so consider reaching them through different platforms. Young professionals may open a text message with information faster than an email, and your board members might respond well to a personalized mailed note or email. Know how to flex your messaging to reach your desired donor base.

Four: Don’t go it alone.

Engage in thoughtful, timely, and inclusive conversations with Jewish community leaders, and do your part to ensure everyone has a voice. Specifically, amplify the voices of Jews of Color in your community who can share their perspective and experiences. For example, Keshet, an organization for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life, centers intersectional approaches in their resources and events. In times of heightened sensitivity and fear, silence is heard. Continue to communicate with donors on a regular basis; when you share information and resources, don’t include an ask or any fundraising language.

The Jewish institutions with which we partner hold immense responsibility. This sampling of insights we’ve learned only skims the surface of how we have seen our partners address this challenging time. We encourage you to find what works for your organization as you connect with your most devoted stakeholders.

More Insights

Article

5 Tips to Turn Volunteers into Donors

January 11, 2023

Volunteers can become invaluable donors with the right approach. Read our article to learn how to leverage these relationships.

Video

Make the Case for (Greater!) Investment in Your Planned Giving Program

December 13, 2022

Learn how to increase investment in your organization’s planned giving program through this CCS Gift Planning Practice Group webinar.

CCS recently published an article about nine key steps that nonprofits can take in times of financial volatility to avoid compromising their campaign or delivering on their mission. I offer these insights to add context to our recommendations and to offer some perspective after years of working with nonprofits across sectors and states.

In my three and a half decades at CCS, we have witnessed the 1987 stock market crash, the 1991 recession, the September 11 attacks and coinciding dot.com crash, the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

While these are uncertain times, our experience in economic downturns is consistent: organizations that don’t let external events dictate their plans prove to be much more successful than organizations that pause, delay, “pump the brakes,” or outright cancel their plans.

We know what we can and cannot control. We cannot control the markets. In fact, we cannot control any external events. We can’t control the pandemic. We can’t control what’s happening in Ukraine. We can’t control election outcomes.

We can control how we make the case for a nonprofit and the nonprofit’s campaign. We can control who we ask, when we ask, how much we ask for, and how well and enthusiastically we ask.

moving ahead with fundraising is key

If we learned anything at all during the Great Recession and COVID-19 it’s this: pausing, delaying, slowing down, or stopping are lethal to campaigns, fundraising initiatives, and can be lethal to organizations. Do not slow down. Do not “pause.” We have clear evidence and data that moving ahead, even with modifications, is preferable to pausing or slowing down.

CCS is well-versed in determining the right modifications, whether it’s the goal, the case, or the timeline, with data-driven predictive modeling. Our advice for you is to gather as much information as possible before moving forward with adjustments.

Philanthropy is resilient. While the markets may be volatile, philanthropy is not. When the markets dropped almost 50% in the Great Recession, philanthropy declined 2-3%. In 2020, giving reached an all-time high of $471 billion while global uncertainty was looming.

Donors want to give; it is up to you to stay the course. Those nonprofits that do will reap the rewards for years to come.

Looking to make strategic adjustments to your campaign?

CCS is here to help.

More Insights

Article

Continuing a Nonprofit Fundraising Campaign in Uncertain Times

May 5, 2020

Managing a campaign is a challenge even in the best of times. In the current pandemic crisis, many organizations are looking to fundraising success during past crises in order to help them move forward.

Video

Fundraising in Uncertain Economic and Social Times

March 25, 2020

In this webinar in partnership with AFP Massachusetts, Senior Vice Presidents Sarah Krasin and Kate Villa explore lessons learned from previous economic cycles and how your organization can turn a time of uncertainty into a time of fundraising opportunity.

With the recent release of Giving USA’s data on philanthropy in the United States, we see encouraging signs for the future of generosity in our country. This is particularly the case within the health sector.

After a record-breaking year of giving in 2020, total giving in the US in 2021 remained strong at $484.85 billion, averaging to $1.33 billion donated per day. This relatively flat trend can be seen as a positive for philanthropy, considering the remarkable increase the year prior. Within the health sector, donations increased by 2.9% compared to the previous year. As a result, the sector represented 8% of overall giving at $40.58 billion.

TOTAL GIVING TO HEALTHCARE INSTITUTIONS HAS INCREASED OVER TIME

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/a5gxt/1/

Given these promising trends, fundraising professionals in the healthcare sector have the opportunity to leverage momentum in giving to healthcare as donors transition back to their pre-pandemic priorities.

Individuals Drive Giving Through Mega-Gifts

Giving from individuals remains the largest source of overall giving at $326.87 million. Collectively, individuals contribute over two-thirds of giving (67%). When including family foundations and bequests, individuals likely contribute close to 85% of giving.

A trend to watch in the future is the outsized impact of high-net-worth individuals and families contributing through mega-gifts. In fact, while the total giving essentially remained the same from 2020 to 2021 and the total amount donated by individuals increased by 0.2%, the number of donors decreased. Mega-gifts contributed nearly 5% of all giving by individuals, totaling a remarkable $14.9 billion. Of these gifts, numerous were directed to healthcare, medical research, nursing and other health-related areas.

Mega-gifts present a major opportunity for health organizations. Engaging high-net-worth individuals within your network can prove to be a strong strategy for some organizations. Fundraising professionals can use the CCS Big Bet framework: Consider ambitious changes that demand action and innovation, develop a measurable goal to address this change, and inspire high-net-worth donors to bet big on your vision.

Despite a Decline, Bequests Present an Opportunity

This year, bequest giving across sectors declined by 11.4% to $46 billion.

This decline does not, however, suggest that fewer bequests are being made; the rate at which individuals designate bequests remains relatively consistent from year to year. The decline in the total dollars given by bequest is instead a reflection of fluctuating estate values, and the fact that fewer very large bequests were realized compared to 2020. There is nothing to suggest that this fluctuation was anything but temporary.

FUTURE GIFT OPPORTUNITY

$59 Trillion60%
Trillions of dollars are expected to be transferred to younger generations by 2061.The majority of legacy donors first heard of legacy giving from a source other than nonprofits.

Within healthcare, bequests remain a vital part of fundraising, and the dollars raised through bequests are expected to continue rising. As a generation of doctors transfer into retirement and a generation of patients reach end-of-life care, bequests are expected to grow. With $59 trillion projected to transfer to younger generations over the next 40 years, bequests continue to represent a major fundraising opportunity for healthcare institutions.

Fundraising shops across the healthcare sector should ensure that bequest and planned gift options are represented in gift proposals. Moreover, when crafting a proposal, align your language to the donor’s generational values and priorities.

Corporate

Corporate philanthropy grew by 18.3% across sectors this year with $21.08 billion in gifts. The COVID-19 pandemic and a heightened awareness of the healthcare sector’s need for philanthropic support contributed to corporate giving growth. However, a GDP increase of 10.1% and a corporate pre-tax profit increase of 37.4% likely drove the growth. Corporate giving tends to fluctuate with the markets, so it remains less predictable and consistent than other sources of giving like individuals or foundations, who prioritize philanthropy differently.

Healthcare institutions would be wise to steward corporate donors that donated during COVID-19, even during this time of economic uncertainty. This stewardship and cultivation could result in future opportunities when the economy is back to thriving.

In 2021, the healthcare sector received more philanthropic support than any year in history. Over $40.58 billion were raised.

While most philanthropic giving trends remained relatively stable, the ever-evolving giving landscape means that healthcare organizations must be prepared to capitalize on opportunities across all areas, from mega-giving and bequests, to effective corporate philanthropy.

More Insights

Article

5 Tips to Turn Volunteers into Donors

January 11, 2023

Volunteers can become invaluable donors with the right approach. Read our article to learn how to leverage these relationships.

Video

Make the Case for (Greater!) Investment in Your Planned Giving Program

December 13, 2022

Learn how to increase investment in your organization’s planned giving program through this CCS Gift Planning Practice Group webinar.

SEE ALL IN: Health

Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. Luke 12:33

“The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand so that he will not need to be dependent upon others.” As stated by Rabbi Maimonides as the highest degree of tzedakah.

A house of worship can play a vital role in helping their congregations understand the value of a strong gift planning culture for the benefit of the individual and to sustain the congregations’ good work.

The Synagogue and the Church have been faithfully serving their congregants for thousands of years. Giving offerings, acts of mitzvah, tithing, and tzedakah are all terms used to describe sacrifice, justice, and serving others in need.

A healthy congregation is strong in faith, service, and giving. Acts of kindness and supporting your fellow man stem from a shared value of generosity that leads to a deeper understanding of our relationship to God and others. We encourage people of faith and their religious communities to discover how to maximize their giving opportunities.

A legacy gift is a fundamental act of faith, driven by a belief in the future of your shared faith. Whether teaching your children about the importance of giving or ensuring the future of your house of worship, that is l’dor v’dor, or the values that we pass from generation to generation.

What is gift planning culture?

Gift planning culture is a house of worship’s commitment to donor-centric fundraising with an expanded focus on noncash assets. Simply put – no matter the size of your institution’s administration office, you can increase the funds for operations and services by adding planned gifts to your fundraising toolkit.

There are numerous ways to begin the journey to building a gift-planning culture.

Begin with Bequests

Americans donated $485 billion to charities in 2021. $136 billion went to religious organizations, which was the top of ten giving categories defined by Giving USA, which tracks such data. Bequests are easy to draft and execute. They are the most straightforward vehicle in the planned giving toolbox and will increase your revenue.

It’s important to know that the average age of your congregant making their will is 44, and by 53, they have begun to add a charitable beneficiary. 

Bequests are not exclusive tools to engage with your older congregants. Engagement can begin now.

Form a Planned Giving Committee

Pull from your lay leaders to determine how your house of worship will promote, manage, and steward gifts of noncash assets. By comprising this committee of leaders who are likely to give, you are ensuring donor-centric thinking and buy-in from your best planned giving prospects, themselves! Volunteer leaders give credibility to your objectives and actively engage their peers. 

Assessment: A good understanding of your community’s dynamics

An assessment is crucial in the planning success. By conducting a data analysis, you can uncover how many congregants consistently give and how much they give at any given time of the year, along with other important data points such as volunteer involvement, marital status, and a wealth screening to gain insight into potential long-term giving.

Partnering with a firm, such as CCS, can make this process beneficial in ensuring you have the correct information and understand how to move forward with the information you learn.

Establish an Endowment Fund

Depending on the size of the house of worship, it may be prudent to establish an endowment fund if you haven’t already done so. An endowment can benefit greatly from legacy gifts, such as bequests, where the funds are realized over time and can grow as a sustainable source of operational and/or programmatic income.  

Endowments also create flexibility in future allocations in emergencies, such as future pandemics and natural disasters.

Promote

Once you have a committee and have established an endowment fund that focuses on where the money will go, it’s essential to promote the new program. Announcements from the pulpit or bimah, bulletin or order of worship, and social media can galvanize support. Designate a month of gift planning activities, including educational series and seminars.

Key considerations

To ensure your gift planning culture is sustainable and long-lasting, consider these specific areas that will help you and the congregation succeed. Here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Does my institution have the capacity to conduct an assessment of our records?
  • How much time do I have to work on this?
  • Is my congregation preparing to embark on a strategic plan? Could an assessment help with that strategic plan?

Creating a gift planning culture will ultimately help your house of worship raise more funds and bring the healing power of faith to more members of your community.  Though this work is not easy, do not be discouraged; the path forward will lead to assisting others far beyond imagination.

“Great is tzedakah, for since the day that the world was created until this day the world stands upon tzedakah” – Midrash Tanna d’Vei Eliyahu Zutta 1

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1

At the time of writing of this article, the economy is in a position that seemingly defies classification. Unemployment is low, inflation is up, and the government is taking drastic steps to avoid a recession by raising interest rates and passing the Inflation Reduction Act. While wages have increased, credit card debt is also on the rise. Although hopes that the economy would immediately return to pre-pandemic stability have been hindered, the current economic climate is drastically different from the 2008 crisis, and some indicators are looking more positive.  “Unprecedented” seems to be the only universally accepted description of the current market, but where does that leave nonprofit organizations and their fundraising efforts?

While things may seem unpredictable, it is important to remember that economic uncertainty is inevitable. By diversifying funding sources, building meaningful connections with stakeholders, and motivating staff to take on new challenges, nonprofits have the capacity to navigate through difficult times and emerge stronger than ever. Times like these can provide organizations the perfect opportunity to bolster their development practices and strategies.

Nonprofits can take these nine key steps to ensure success during this time of economic uncertainty.

  • Directly Address Uncertainty: Do not be afraid to reach out to your donors and inform them of the broad challenges that you are facing. You can avoid uncertainty by being honest and clearly illustrating the steps you are taking to navigate them. This applies to staff as well as donors. If your staff is uncertain about how you plan on moving forward, they will not be able to convey confidence to the stakeholders they engage with.  Importantly, if you have a special role to play in relieving thecurrent economic situation, make sure your staff and stakeholders understand it perfectly.
  • Emphasize Impact: Do not make mere “survival” the rationale for gift solicitations. Clearly articulate the impact of gifts both now and in the long term and communicate how necessary they are for your organization to fulfill its mission. Your strongest supporters will continue to be most interested in hearing why their gifts matter and the difference their personal philanthropy can make to your organization’s mission and purpose.
  • Be Flexible with Gift Options: Stakeholders may not be able to donate with an immediate cash gift, but still want to support your organization. Offer the possibility of deferring their gifts or extending the timeline of their planned contributions. Consider structuring pledges in a way that lets the annual gift amount increase over time, rather than remaining static over several years. If a donor is hesitant about their ability to fulfill their commitment, work with them to find a more sustainable giving plan.
  • Pursue Support from Foundations and Donor Advised Funds: Foundations and Donor Advised Funds are made up of dollars that have already been earmarked for philanthropy and are waiting for an inspirational opportunity to be granted to a nonprofit. These sources, particularly those who practice asset averaging, may be in a better position to offer support than individual givers. In 2021, giving by foundations grew by 3.4%, and giving to foundations increased by 9.3%.  Although their funds can also be subject to economic and market volatility, these issues are not the same as individuals who need to pay bills and save for retirement or corporations that need to pay staff and monitor margin pressures. Incorporating these funding sources into your pipeline will provide temporary relief and long-term sustainability.
  • Don’t Cancel Fundraising Plans: Making practical changes to your campaign yields higher ROI than cancelling plans entirely. If necessary, extending the length of your campaign, reconfiguring special initiatives for shifting budgets, and expressing empathy in your messaging are reliable ways to maintain your goals.
  • Evaluate Specific Economic Segments: Avoid basing your actions on broad economic evaluations and focus on understanding the unique relationship between a donor’s charitable assets and current market trends. The performance of the VIX Index – a real-time market calculation that represents expectations for volatility over the next 30 days – is likely to relate to willingness to contribute from donor advised funds. Supply chain issues are likely to correspond to in-kind donation capacity. Inflation tends to have more of an impact on annual donors versus high-net-worth individuals. Focus your solicitation strategy on the most appropriate segments of your donor pipeline.
  • Differentiate Expectations: Donors are likely still eager to help how they can, but their capacity may have shifted. Remain optimistic about high-level prospective donors while recognizing that some mid-level donations may plateau or decline.
  • Avoid Blanket Assumptions: Do as much as you can to gain actionable information from donors rather than arrive at your own conclusions. Not everyone will be impacted in the same way by financial volatility, and one donor’s situation may be vastly different than another’s. Give your supporters the opportunity to tell you, directly and in their own words, about their own unique circumstances and goals.
  • Leverage Historical Trends: While the current economic climate is unique, periods of market instability are not uncommon. Examine how your organization, or similar ones, responded to the 2008 financial crisis or the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Look for examples of success but remember that mistakes can be just as informative.

If the past three years have given us any lasting lessons for philanthropy, it is to expect the unexpected. While the important steps defined here were developed with times of financial instability in mind, they can be used in any circumstances when an organization must respond to unforeseen challenges.

Don’t wait for surprises to dictate your course of action. Donors, staff, and stakeholders will always appreciate proactivity as opposed to reactivity. Don’t let your supporters make philanthropic decisions based on speculation or market trends alone. As early and as frequently as possible, approach them with data, empathy, and clarity.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the balance sheets of healthcare institutions across the board, and many are still feeling the effects today. This evolving philanthropic landscape features donors with a desire for greater accountability, healthcare organizations that need ever-growing levels of support, and an increased competition for donor attention. A hospital foundation’s strategic and effective use of fundraising metrics has never been more critical to maintaining and achieving success.

The famous quote attributed to the educator and author Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” is both a fundraiser’s best dream and worst nightmare.

It is common knowledge that to effectively manage donor relationships and see the greatest success in your fundraising program, you must build strong ties between your prospects and your organization’s mission. Relationships will always be the foundation of a fruitful fundraising program. But, you can’t build a relationship on metrics.

Healthcare institutions are facing a growing need to increase fundraising in support of more expensive programming and life-saving medical interventions, as well as increases in demand for capacity and other associated services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While relationships have and will continue to be the foundation on which a successful fundraising program is built, the most effective way to increase a fundraising team’s capacity is through the development, implementation, and analysis of fundraising metrics. Relationships will never go away, but metrics must be measured and analyzed to see continued growth.

What are Fundraising Metrics and Why Should We Use them?

Metrics are individual data points about your program that serve as tools to measure fundraising activity. Often a catch-all term, the measurement of metrics requires deep thought, strategy, testing, and right-sizing to effectively support each fundraising program.

Although the initial implementation of tracking and analyzing metrics requires an investment in time and human resources, and although the benefits of doing so may not be seen immediately, the process is implemented by the most successful fundraising shops to enable success.

And why should you measure metrics? Back to Mr. Drucker’s quote. The measurement of fundraising metrics has management benefits for individual fundraisers (leading to benefits for prospects and donors), the development team, and for leadership.

Measuring individual gift officer fundraising metrics will not only help a gift officer focus their work and empower them to reach their own goals through relationships built with prospects, but it also serves to manage prospect strategies through a better understanding of those prospects and donors. When a gift officer tracks the right activity it gives them the data and capacity to develop better donor partnerships, seek the right investment opportunities for those donors, and challenge them to stretch in their support of the organization’s mission.

Team fundraising metrics encourage collaboration between team members as they share responsibility for more clearly defined goals, help build accountability and ownership amongst the team, and empower the group to celebrate in the collective success of the team.

Organizational leadership benefits from the measurement of metrics as the data provides fodder to inform budgeting and asset allocation. It also helps in future planning and action through testing and measurement of past activity. Additionally, and arguably most importantly for leadership, the measurement of metrics can become a basis for individual performance evaluation, as the data can clearly show where gift officers get stuck in their work. Analysis can help management provide guidance, training, and motivation to shift gift officer behavior before it is too late.

Case Study: Arkansas Children’s Foundation

With two hospitals, regional clinics, mobile health facilities and a state-wide network of programming and research, Arkansas Children’s has expanded its reach from Little Rock to all four corners of Arkansas. Due to this expansion and with a transition in leadership for the Arkansas Children’s Foundation, the hospital saw a need to transform operations and focus on continued growth in fundraising success.

With talented leadership and staff, strong donor relationships, a committed board, and a track record of success, the Arkansas Children’s Foundation saw that in order to continue growth, a formalization of its system of tracking and analyzing metrics was essential.

When Arkansas Children’s began the process of developing its metrics, gift officers and leadership tracked many key performance indicators that have since been fine-tuned or reconsidered.[1]  Once a metrics-tracking habit was built among staff and with a set of data to analyze, they looked at the effects of metrics on fundraising, the efficacy of the tracking systems and the efficiency of the process and applications. They also did the work needed to refine definitions. The philosophy of leadership at the time was to first focus on activity, then zero in on the right activity. With this deep work, they narrowed in on five key individual metrics and three key team metrics related to fundraising activity which are tracked today.[2]

When Arkansas Children’s Foundation embarked upon a revamp of its metrics tracking, all involved understood that this work would be a key driver for increased philanthropic revenue. And they were right. Taking six-year averages into account, the Foundation saw a 53% increase in revenue during one period, and another 51% increase during the next period, bringing them to the success they see today.

Metrics are ingrained into the culture of the organization to the point where staff at all levels are versed in departmental goals and participate in metrics conversations. The board expects continued success and stays up to date on the Foundation’s progress through the story told by metrics. Arkansas Children’s is poised to maintain its growth and is committed to metrics tracking as a tool to help them achieve continued success.

Getting Started

So, how do you kick off your own metrics measurement process? Whether you are a leader of the organization or working closely with them, ask yourselves some key questions before moving ahead:

  • Is what we’re measuring designed to produce outcomes? Are you considering measuring the right things? For example, do the activities we choose to track lead to funds raised?
  • Do we have a way to track consistently? Do gift officers have the tools they need, in terms of training and software, to consistently track the chosen metrics? Is your donor database able to track metrics easily?
  • Do we have a way to extract data? You’ve put the data in, but can you get it out in a format that will be useful to the team?
  • What will we do with the information? You’ve extracted the data, but how will it be analyzed and used?
  • How do we stay up to date? How and how often should we review our use and tracking of metrics? How and how often should we update our reports?
  • Are we prepared to live with this system for 3+ years? Ascertaining the true success or opportunity in your metrics program will take time and commitment from the team. Do you have the resources and professional stamina to continue the program for several years in order to visualize the full impact of tracking metrics?
  • Do we have the ability to interpret data? Do you have the talent on your team to effectively use the metrics you’ve diligently tracked and pulled?
  • To whom do we report progress and how? Who will use this data? How will it be presented? Depending on the audience, the data may need to be interpreted differently or more/less deeply explained.

A Step-By-Step Approach

Now, you’re ready to put your metrics to work. What steps should you take? By using a hypothetical example, here is what the process could look like.

  1. Select metric(s) to evaluate. Which metrics will provide insight into your organizational goals? For example, let’s measure a gift officer’s number of cultivation visits.
  2. Identify performance targets. What does success look like? In our example, let’s test whether the measurement of cultivation visits leads to an increase in dollars raised.
  3. Develop a “testing theory.” What do you expect the results will be when tracked? Our theory for this example will be that increased cultivation visits lead to an increase in dollars raised.
  4. Collect performance data. Do the measurement! For our example, we will have gift officers track the number of cultivation visits as well as revenue by entering their actions and gifts secured into the database.
  5. Analyze the information. This is done to determine whether the metrics you’re measuring are effective. In our example, we analyze the data points around the number of cultivation visits and revenue, but we don’t see the correlation we were expecting. While cultivation visits have increased, revenue has not.
  6. Develop and implement solutions, if needed. If the measured metrics don’t lead to the intended outcome, shift the metrics. In our example, since we learned that an increased number of cultivation visits does not necessarily equate to an increase in revenue, let’s shift our metrics. Instead, we decide to measure solicitation meetings alongside revenue.
  7. Continue tracking. Keep tracking metrics that provide the most helpful data to increase fundraising success. As skilled fundraisers, we know that solicitations are more effective in producing increased income than cultivation visits. Keep measuring what works for continued success!

Avoiding Common Obstacles

Consistently analyzing your data and testing the efficacy of the measurement process is essential. If you measure the wrong metrics or place too much focus on measurement, you run the risk of encountering the following threats:

  • Inadvertently encouraging inefficiencies and non-strategic actions: If you measure the wrong metrics, you may be asking your gift officers to do the wrong work. For example, if you measure the number of prospect visits a gift officer makes but not solicitations or dollars raised, you run the risk of that gift officer never asking for a gift. Test and measure the right mix of metrics for your team to get the right work done.
  • Creating a disconnect between activity and strategic goals: If metrics tracking becomes the primary focus and the outcome of those metrics is lost, a gift officer runs the risk of doing the work to get the metrics booked, but not achieving the most strategic outcome. For example, if your organization’s focus is fully on tracking metrics and not the development of strategy, a gift officer could potentially ask for a preemptive gift. A well-planned strategy may have resulted in a greater investment from the prospect, and greater support of the organization’s mission. Ensure that the metrics are measured alongside the development of the best strategy for each prospect.
  • Focusing on the data and letting the relationships slip: Along the same line, with too strong a focus on metrics, a gift officer risks letting relationships with donors slip. For example, a gift officer may choose not to respond to a donor request because that type of interaction isn’t measured. Ensure that donor relationships are valued as much as the tracking and measurement of metrics.
  • Measuring too much: If the organization tries to measure too many metrics, they run the risk of overwhelming gift officers in the tracking process, taking time away from the cultivation and solicitation of prospects, and reducing the efficiency of the fundraising program. Too many metrics can bog a gift officer and a team down, while the right metrics can make a tremendous impact.

If you can measure it, you can manage it. And if the right metrics are measured, the threats are minimized or eliminated, and success is likely to follow. With the ever-increasing need for preventative care and healthcare interventions, the process of measuring and analyzing metrics will help create a culture of process and accountability that is essential for a hospital foundation’s continued success.

Thanks to the following Arkansas Children’s staff who were interviewed for this article:

  • Enid Olvey, Vice President, Philanthropy, Arkansas Children’s Foundation
  • Jill McIlroy, Executive Director, Philanthropy, Arkansas Children’s Foundation
  • Sam Coker, Director, Strategy & Campaigns, Arkansas Children’s Foundation
  • Sarah Holt, Lead Research Analyst, Arkansas Children’s Foundation

[1] Arkansas Children’s gift officer metrics have not changed since the implementation of the program; they take pride in the mantra of tracking consistent data consistently at the gift officer level.

[2] Individual metrics measured include prospects added to the pipeline, contacts, face-to-face visits, solicitations submitted, and revenue. Team metrics measured include $1 million+ solicitations submitted, total revenue from $1 million+ gifts, and cost per dollar raised as a Foundation.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, click here.

In addition to prayer and festive meals, the Jewish high holidays are a peak season of tzedakah – charity – where appeals are made, honors are auctioned off, and volunteer time is committed. At CCS, we believe in the power of the high holidays to position nonprofits for future success. Over the past month, members of the Jewish community worldwide dedicated themselves to introspection, assessing priorities, and connecting with one another. At this point, they are likely motivated, focused on community, and accessible for conversation.

Here are three steps to help you leverage the post-holiday feelings and set the table for a successful year ahead.

One: Go on a listening tour.

On Rosh Hashana, we make a blessing before blowing the symbolic shofar. It’s interesting to note that the blessing is not made on blowing the shofar but rather listening to the shofar. The shofar reminds us that listening is a critical element in personal growth and relationship building.

Schedule time to speak to your prospects – new and old – without an agenda to pitch an idea, sell something, or present information. Make an effort to actively listen and learn: What are their interests? What are their hopes for the new year? What motivates them to action?

A listening exercise will provide you with both micro- and macro-intelligence. On the micro-level, you will understand your prospects and how to activate their passions. On the macro-scale, you will be able to piece together trends from your conversations. What messages and types of programs resonate with donors? What opportunities lie before you and the organization in this new year?

Two: Provide value.

A new year often conjures up aspirational feelings and a desire to be better. As a nonprofit leader, you have the ability to support community members in this effort and provide them with meaningful opportunities. Once you have listened and determined individuals’ passions, it’s time to start connecting the dots. Ask yourself: how can I partner with donors to help them feel connected to the organization and actualize their aspirations? Identify or develop opportunities for involvement within the organization that are tailored to donors’ specific interests.

It’s key to note that the standard opportunities you have for engaging with your donors may not align with what you heard on your listening tour. Don’t be afraid to develop new ideas to provide the value that your prospects have indicated they are looking for.

Additionally, embrace virtual opportunities. With many people still shying away from traditional avenues of involvement due to the pandemic, leverage virtual technology to widen your audience and reach people during moments that were previously not feasible (for example, during work hours).

Three: Be persistent.

The repetitive nature of the high holiday prayers, in particular Selichot – The Prayers of Repentance – teaches us the need to try, try, and try again. It often takes more than one attempt to improve and excel, particularly when it comes to forming relationships.

Are there community members in your orbit that you have gently cultivated in the past, but nothing came of it? Or are there passive current volunteers or donors with the potential for greater engagement? Perhaps when you last connected the timing was not right. Now is the time to engage, especially as donors are thinking about their new year resolutions.

Successful fundraising certainly requires more than one touchpoint, so remain persistent. You can use the cadence of the Jewish holidays (Hanukkah is right around the corner!) as an opportunity to consistently follow up.

By following this playbook, next year, the high holiday season will ring in a culmination of a year-long concerted effort to better understand, connect, and provide value to your community!

A graphic of the cover image of the 2022 Philanthropic Landscape.

CCS Fundraising is thrilled to share the eleventh edition Snapshot of Today’s Philanthropic Landscape. This report compiles and contextualizes research from across the field of philanthropy to help US-based nonprofits wade through the available data and create informed fundraising strategies.

“In this year’s report, we assess key areas that nonprofit leaders and fundraisers will want to monitor as part of planning and strategy,” said Aashika Patel, CCS Senior Vice President and Report Co-Chair. “Particularly, we offer greater insight on gift planning, high net worth giving, and emerging digital fundraising trends that are becoming more prominent in the philanthropic ecosystem.”

Even without accounting for the spike in giving in 2020, Americans are increasingly generous when we assess multi-year trends. Overall, charitable giving increased by 7.1% from 2019 to 2021. In June 2022, Giving USA released their estimates that US charitable giving remained relatively flat from 2020 to 2021, settling at $484.85 billion.

Tom Kissane, CCS Vice Chairman and Report Co-Chair, remarked on important considerations for fundraising professionals. “As fundraising practitioners, we remain inspired and grateful for the unprecedented generosity of Americans, our foundation partners, and corporate supporters. Despite an extremely challenging period, nonprofits sustained their extraordinary missions and, in many ways, advanced compelling aspirations. We applaud our clients, partners, development colleagues, and nonprofit leaders for the tremendous resilience and determination to strengthen their organizations to fulfill the promise of their respective missions.”

The report discusses essential findings from across the field of philanthropic research, including: