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.

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Article

Continuing a Nonprofit Fundraising Campaign in Uncertain Times

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.

May 5, 2020
Video

Fundraising in Uncertain Economic and Social Times

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.

March 25, 2020
A graphic of the front cover of the 2023 Pulse Survey displayed on a tablet.

As the premier global leader in nonprofit strategic consulting, CCS is committed to understanding how nonprofits are navigating the ever-evolving philanthropic landscape and how organizations can best position themselves for fundraising success.

It is our goal to provide nonprofit organizations with the most robust annual philanthropic data.

The 2023 CCS Philanthropy Pulse survey report will include insights on:

  • Expectations for 2023 fundraising strategies and results
  • Skills, services, and technology used by fundraising teams

CCS Philanthropy Pulse 2022 Report Cover

The 2022 CCS Philanthropy Pulse survey report provides a window into the fundraising practices of almost 900 organizations based on data collected in late 2021. Check out both our main report and sector-specific spotlights for Arts & Culture, Health, Higher Education, Human Services, Independent Schools, and Religion below.

In an ever-evolving philanthropic landscape, CCS is committed to understanding how nonprofits approach development today and how organizations can find fundraising success in the current environment.

It is CCS’s hope that this report provides nonprofit leaders and fundraisers with helpful data to navigate the year ahead.

SECTOR SPOTLIGHT REPORTS

EXPLORE MORE CCS RESEARCH REPORTS

Publication

Philanthropic Landscape Report, 11th Edition

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.

September 1st, 2022
Publication

Philanthropic Climate Survey Report, 4th Edition

CCS’s fourth-edition Philanthropic Climate Survey report provides a snapshot of how more than 1,000 respondents from across the nonprofit community are persevering amid challenges, evolving their fundraising tactics, and planning for 2021 and beyond.

January 14, 2021

How can we help you?

Our unique, customized approach can provide your organization with of-the-moment, sustainable solutions.

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

Fundraising Perspective After Nearly 40 Years of Economic Fluctuation

Here’s my perspective on fundraising during recessions and times of economic uncertainty after 40 years in the field.

November 23, 2022
Publication

CCS Philanthropy Pulse

CCS’s annual Philanthropy Pulse reports provide nonprofits with helpful data to navigate the ever-evolving philanthropic space. The survey that will inform our 2023 report closed on November 17, 2022.

October 27, 2022
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:

Great record keeping in your customer relationship management (CRM) software streamlines the donor journey, enables metrics, bolsters accountability, and drives momentum in moves management. However, teams who aren’t used to intensive data entry can feel intimidated and quickly get behind.

Any new habit takes some getting used to, which is why we are offering eight suggestions for frontline fundraisers on how to keep from getting behind and stay on top of action entries.

Note: we recommend that fundraisers enter all “meaningful contacts” into the CRM. This includes communications or interactions that would be important or helpful for others to know in order to best cultivate the donor towards a gift request and steward them throughout the donor journey.

1. Review your calendar at the beginning of each week and enter upcoming actions, such as meetings or calls, into your database.

Having a list of open/incomplete actions in the CRM creates your to-do-list for you. It also makes things easier in the future; for example, you will simply have to confirm the details, add any notes, and hit complete.

2. Open the constituent or opportunity record prior to any call and leave it open until you’ve added the action.

That way, if you need to immediately jump on another call, you will have a reminder on your screen to enter the action details before you close the tab. It also promotes treating the CRM as a system of record where you can take notes directly into the associated records as often as possible.

3. Leverage technology to take advantage of shortcuts such as:

  • Integrate your CRM into your email so that outcoming emails to constituents are automatically added to the CRM and incoming emails can be added with the click of a button.
  • Some CRMs, such as the RENXT App, allow you to dictate your notes. If using this feature, just make sure to review them later to ensure everything transcribed correctly.
  • Other CRM’s, such as Salesforce, allow you to send chat messages to your colleagues from a constituent, opportunity, or action. Tag applicable colleagues on an action record after adding meeting notes as an FYI or on an opportunity to indicate a status change such as “pledged” or “received.” This both saves time (as you will not have to send an extra email) and keeps you aligned with CRM best practices as any follow-up discussion will automatically be in the CRM.
  • If available, utilize your systems or development operations teams to create templates for bulk uploads of actions.

4. Group similar tasks together to reduce friction.

If you have a few opportunities or constituents on similar tracks, enter or plan actions for them all at once. Reducing the need to open your CRM and enter one-off interactions will save you time.

5. When you enter a completed action, plan one or two steps ahead.

It will be much easier to think of your next touchpoint and create a reminder for yourself to take action later while your mind is already on the cultivation and servicing of the relationship.

6. Find your own regular use for accurate actions.

If you are only entering actions to meet expectations or serve someone else’s job function, you will not be as likely to keep up with it. Some suggestions are to use future actions and deadlines to remind yourself to get things done, or to check in with all open actions at the start of each day. Looking at actions over the last two weeks can help you spot who is missing out on your attention.

7. Launch a summary report or dashboard that is available to you and shared with your manager.

If actions feel as though they disappear into the ether, it is not compelling to keep up with them. With updated action entry and a dashboard, you can experience the motivation that comes from seeing your actions add up in real time.

8. If you are still running behind on entering actions, block off one or two hours at the end of the week to do so.

Having this recurring time in your calendar will help you make sure all actions and notes from the week are in the database. If you have a few minutes left over in your time block, use them to get ahead on future activity entry, and make the next week a little easier.


We see over and over again that investing time into good record-keeping is worth the growing pains. Dynamic data insights, and seamless transfer from one fundraiser to the next, are just a few of the benefits. Take the time to try these tips and you will find action entry becomes part of your regular routine and your best way to deliver great relationship management.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. We plan and implement fundraising initiatives to help nonprofit organizations make a bigger impact, including Systems projects to help organizations use their CRMs to drive strategic fundraising activity. To learn more about our Systems work, contact Allison Willner, Vice President of Data Strategy, at systems@ccsfundraising.com.

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SEE ALL IN: Systems

Leadership transitions, especially at the independent school Head level, have been unprecedented in recent years. In March 2022, NAIS conducted a Snapshot Survey on Head Turnover where they found that over two-thirds of schools have had one or two new heads in the last ten years. With new leadership comes the opportunity to chart a new strategic course, and when done right, the process gives new leaders unparalleled opportunity to convene and engage the school community to develop a shared vision.

As the end of summer approaches (far too fast), independent school teams are putting the finishing touches on their fundraising plans for the coming year. Whether they have a new Head of School or are working with a long-term leader, in addition to designing the FY23 strategy for annual giving, major and planned gifts, and alumni and parent engagement over the summer, many will also begin developing a long-range plan and preparing for a significant campaign. Establishing clear strategic priorities with broad community support is imperative to translating a nascent vision into campaign success.

Recently, CCS partnered with The Cambridge School of Weston (CSW), an independent coeducational day and boarding high school in Weston, MA, to conduct a school-wide strategic priority development process that united the community around a compelling vision for the school’s future. CSW’s Head of School, Lise Charlier, stepped into her role in 2019 and skillfully led the school through the Covid-19 pandemic. As students returned to campus and restrictions loosened, Charlier and CSW’s Board of Trustees began thinking about the school’s next steps. In a multi-pronged approach, CCS worked with CSW to create comprehensive buy-in for the school’s strategic priorities and build the framework for a compelling campaign case for support.

Vision & Case Development Task Force

To help Charlier and school leadership further develop a cohesive vision and case for support for CSW, CCS convened a Vision & Case Development Task Force of 12 trustees, current parents, past parents, and alumni three times over the course of two months. First, this group participated in generative breakout group discussions about CSW’s future:

  • “What is important for CSW to achieve in five years?”
  • “Why is this important?”
  • “How will this strengthen the student experience?”

From these discussions, four key long-term priorities and themes rose to the top: access, sustainability, community, and innovation. The group then zoomed in on each priority and answered the following questions:

  • “Why is this theme critical?”
  • “What philanthropic initiatives would be required to achieve this vision?”
  • “What collateral does CSW need to tell the story of this priority?”

The Task Force was instrumental in building an initial framework for long-term planning and outlining the steps needed to achieve success.

Board of Trustees Visioning Session

Following the completion of the Task Force’s work, we presented the key takeaways and themes from the group’s discussions to the Board of Trustees to frame a discussion around developing CSW’s strategic priorities for the next five years. In small groups, trustees discussed CSW’s strengths and opportunities for growth and improvement. They also each shared their vision for CSW five years from now, what is needed to achieve this vision, and the impact this vision would have on the student experience. The full group reconvened to share takeaways and noted that many themes aligned with the Task Force’s findings.

Faculty and Staff Visioning Session

We convened CSW’s full faculty and staff to share about the work to date, provide an overview of campaign planning and execution, and outline the steps needed for campaign success. We explained the importance of input from CSW’s faculty and staff when developing strategic priorities and a strong campaign plan. In breakout groups, teachers and administrators discussed the same questions the trustees addressed in their visioning session. When each group shared about their vision for CSW’s future, there was broad consensus with the Trustees and Task Force.

The strategic conversations between CCS and CSW are exactly what schools need to achieve their long-term goals. While it’s difficult to set aside time to garner community buy-in and support, it’s essential to the success of both a strategic vision and a campaign. Schools must engage in the difficult, but essential work of building support ahead of major initiatives to maximize engagement amongst key stakeholders.

Ann Snyder, Senior Director of Communities Engagement, Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)

Following these sessions, we assembled and reviewed all discussion notes and confirmed the clear alignment on CSW’s vision and priorities among the Task Force, trustees, and faculty and staff. This led to the creation of three strategic priorities and funding opportunities for a significant comprehensive campaign:

  • Support and grow CSW’s community through increased financial aid, faculty development, and innovative partnerships
  • Enhance CSW’s campus to fuel student and faculty work through increased environmental sustainability, greater physical accessibility, and enhanced buildings and community spaces
  • Secure CSW’s future and impact through growing the endowment to ensure financial sustainability and flexibility

CCS and CSW are now partnering on a Campaign Planning Study to gather feedback from 50+ community members about these priorities and the proposed campaign plans. So far, there has been widespread support for these priorities. We will continue these conversations over the coming weeks and present our recommendations for next steps to the Board of Trustees in September.

Lessons Learned

  • Community buy-in is essential. Asking for input from different constituencies was essential to build trust and comprehensive understanding of the vision for CSW’s future. Each group’s feedback also helped build out the nuanced details for each strategic priority.
  • Strategic priority development takes time. This multi-stepped approach required careful planning and dedicated time to be successful. Planning ahead and building in extra time for priority development is essential for a strong campaign design.
  • Early faculty and staff involvement builds strong partnerships. In our Campaign Planning Study conversations with faculty and staff, they have all expressed strong support for the proposed tenets of the campaign and have enthusiastically volunteered to help in donor cultivation and solicitation. Involving faculty and staff early in the campaign planning process creates buy-in and a willingness to help achieve campaign success.

We look forward to continuing our partnership with CSW to design a strong, phased, comprehensive campaign to help achieve the school’s vision and long-term goals.

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Case Studies

Georgetown Day School

Mid-Atlantic and Southeast U.S.

Georgetown Day School (GDS) has embarked on a comprehensive campaign to unify its campus, bolster its financial aid program, and enhance programs through the Annual Fund. GDS has partnered with CCS to conduct a development assessment, planning study, and campaign. The campaign is on target to exceed the $50 million goal.

Thomas Jefferson School

Central U.S.

CCS partnered with Thomas Jefferson School to launch the school’s first major fundraising campaign. As the COVID-19 pandemic struck, CCS advised Thomas Jefferson on how to address immediate needs, evolve its campaign strategy, and maintain fundraising.