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Charitable Giving

Charitable Giving On the Rise for Second Consecutive Year

The numbers are in… 2015 was another record-setting year for charitable giving. According to the recently released Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report of Philanthropy for the Year 2015*charitable giving topped $373.25 billion in 2015, making it the highest single year of giving to date. The annual report is a publication of Giving USA Foundation in partnership with Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.According to the much-anticipated annual report, total giving grew 4 percent in 2015 (when adjusted for inflation) representing an increase of $14.21 billion over 2014. It’s the sixth consecutive year of charitable giving growth. That’s great news for nonprofits.“If you look at total giving by two-year time spans, the combined growth for 2014 and 2015 hit double digits, reaching 10.1 percent when calculated using inflation-adjusted dollars,” said Giving USA Foundation Chair W. Keith Curtis, president of nonprofit consulting firm The Curtis Group, Virginia Beach, Virginia. “But these findings embody more than numbers—they also are a symbol of the American spirit. It’s heartening that people really do want to make a difference, and they’re supporting the causes that matter to them. Americans are embracing philanthropy at a higher level than ever before.”

Charitable Giving: By The Numbers

Here’s a look at some of the other findings from the report:

  • Charitable contributions from all four sources – individual giving, foundation giving, charitable bequests and corporate giving – increased in 2015, with those from individuals once again leading the way in terms of total dollar amount, at $264.58 billion.
  • Not only did individuals give the most; by upping their 2015 gifts 3.8 percent when measured in current dollars (and 3.7 percent when inflation-adjusted), they were responsible for two-thirds of the year’s overall increase in total giving.
  • Of the nine charitable sub-sectors—religion, education, human services, foundations, health, public-society benefit, arts/culture/humanities, international affairs and environment/animals—all but one (foundations) had growth in charitable donations over 2014.
  • Giving to religion still ranks first in terms of total donations received (32%), more than double the next highest sector (education). At $119.30 billion, 2015 religious giving increased 2.7 percent in current dollars.
  • Giving to International Affairs saw the highest percent increase over 2014 (17.5 percent in current dollars). As the report points this significant increase may be due to the growth in the number of active international charitable organizations; use of more strategic fundraising methods; and increased focus on international issues among foundations.

The report details a variety of other interesting findings that are worth the read. You can download the full report or a free highlights report here. *Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015, a publication of Giving USA Foundation, 2016, researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Available online at the Giving USA store.

Donor Giving

Generosity Varies by Time of Day – When Do Your Donors Give?

When you’re appealing to the generosity of your donors, every second counts… and when that second happens matters, too. Your donors are busy, and their time is just as valuable as their money.So what’s a nonprofit to do? Make it easy for your donors to give when it’s most convenient for them by offering online giving!GiveCentral’s recent survey of over 800 American donors told us that people are far more likely to donate in the evenings (36 percent) or on weekends (26 percent) than during the “normal” business nine-to-five. That’s a lot of generosity you might be missing if you’re not ready for off-hours giving.

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Small nonprofits get a five-star rating for their mission.

Small Nonprofits: How Do You Stack Up?

So your nonprofit isn’t as big as the United Way or Goodwill, but you’re still doing good work. But all the Big Research that you could compare your organization to is based on the big-budgeted, big-named orgs… how can small nonprofits measure up? What’s the best way to reach out to your donors in a way they’ll be receptive to? How do they prefer to give?Today we’re taking a look at another aspect of the Individual Donor Benchmark Report (IDBR), which takes a deep dive into the data of small nonprofits (anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000). And one of the biggest things they’ve discovered is that online giving presents a HUGE opportunity for you.The “Individual Donors” studied in this report generate about 36% of a nonprofit’s budget, giving an average of $435 apiece. (About half of that was “major” gifts over $1,000.) While gift size certainly varies by the size, focus, and organizational strategy of a particular nonprofit, that’s still money you want to ensure makes it into your budget.

Online Giving is Massive for Small Nonprofit

Small NonProfit

Now the big news: among nonprofits surveyed, the average growth in online fundraising between 2013 and 2014 was 403%. That’s incredible!Nonprofits with under $5,000 in online revenue are at the head of the class, with 1,083% growth in online giving from 2013 to 2014. While organizations with new online giving programs are the most likely to experience such explosive growth, even the 25% growth experienced by larger organizations is nothing to scoff at. That’s an amazing benefit to offering an online giving option to your donors!

bar graph showing the growth in the average online donation between 2013 and 2014 for four categories of small nonprofits
When your donors prefer to give online, you make sure it’s an option!

The average nonprofit is currently raising about 17% of its revenue online, and that number is growing every day. With the rate of growth mentioned above, it’s in your best interests to devote some resources to the exploration and development of an online giving program such as GiveCentral.

Recurring Donors Give More

Once you’ve got an online giving program in place, offering recurring giving options is a no-brainer. Letting your donors set up weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annually-recurring gifts makes it incredibly easy for them to keep giving in the ways they prefer to give.  Letting them plan ahead lets you plan ahead, knowing that at least some of your revenue is essentially guaranteed. (more…)

storytelling nonprofits

Connect with Your Donors: Tell Your Parish Story

Churches are lucky among nonprofits; time to connect with your community is built into religious life. For Catholics, that means Sunday Mass. And as you know, evoking an emotional connection with your parishioners is the foundation to getting them more involved in the community with their time, talent or treasure.While this is easy when they are sitting in the pew at Mass, how do you carry this connection on throughout their week? They have work concerns, children to care for, obligations with friends and family, and, of course, they have other nonprofits asking them, “donate to our cause.“The fact is, your parishioners’ attention is being pulled at by several other nonprofits, possibly many times each day. Compare this to the fact that they may only hear from you at Mass on Sunday. They might take home the bulletin, but that could just sit under a stack of bills. So how can you make sure your parish stands out?

Why Connect?

According to Giving USA, charitable giving grew 7.1% in 2014, and religious donations still hold the largest piece of that pie. However, that slice has been shrinking in comparison to other types of giving, a trend that has been going on for 30 years. This is due in large part to the influx of nonprofits reaching out to your parishioners, evoking a competing emotional connection for their organizations’ cause.So how can a church keep up? Well the good news is, a parish has an innate emotional connection to its parishioners – spirituality. Your parishioners get a very tangible refresher from hearing your pastor speak, so all you need to do is remind them of that refreshing feeling they get from your masses during the week. This will strengthen your relationship with your parishioners!

Related Articles: 

Storytelling and Transparency Encourage Giving
Tips to Perfect the Art of Storytelling
What’s Your Narrative? Stories worth telling.

What’s Your Story?

Your parish already has a mission, and in it lies your story. Tell your parishioners a little bit about your church, and connect them to the history of your parish.

  • Why did your pastor decide to become a pastor?
  • Is there a message from the homily that could be repeated in a mid-week email?
  • How did you come to work at the parish? What about your colleagues?
  • What happened at your last big parish event, behind the scenes in preparation for the fun?
  • When was your church built? Is there a story of its founding you can share?
  • Can you share a weekly or monthly “Spotlight on a Parishioner” as an email or newsletter article?

Small stories like these are just the thing to help build up the sense of community that’s so crucial to your mission. Connected parishioners are engaged parishioners, and the more they feel like they’re a part of the church the more likely they are to volunteer, donate and participate. To help you share your story, I want to share a favorite, easy resource of mine with you.

Share Your Stories

My story-telling knowledge is inspired by a woman named Vanessa Chase. Her website, The Storytelling Nonprofit, is chock-full of resources, ideas, inspiration and motivation that you can learn from and adapt to fit your parish. I cannot recommend her website enough!Vanessa encourages non-profits to think of their donors as intimate relationships – and what keeps you supporting your friends, families, and loved ones more than the emotional connection you share with one another? It’s that emotional connection with your loved ones that is built so much by the stories you build together and tell one another, so Vanessa teaches us how to begin that conversation with parishioners and donors.Your parishioners come to you for a very intimate reason, and communicating your story with them not only validates their spirituality but also strengthens their desire to support your mission. Connect over stories and watch your community grow!

tax deductible donations

Tax Time: Top 10 Reasons Donors Give

The mad dash to file personal income tax returns is on! With the April tax deadline looming, we thought it would be interesting to share insights on what drives donors to give. Hint: tax deduction doesn’t even make the top 10!Knowing the motivating factors behind charitable giving is critically important for successful fundraising. According to the recently released GiveCentral Insights on Nonprofit Giving report, altruistic motivations are the primary drivers for charitable giving. Overwhelmingly, Americans donate out of the goodness of their hearts, not because they have to or should for tax purposes. Faith and the desire to help others trump tax breaks.

Understanding why donors give is one piece of the fundraising puzzle. Armed with insights on donor behaviors, your challenge is to create strategies that tap into donor motivations. Communications should be a cornerstone of your strategic plan. From a compelling content marketing strategy to inspired storytelling, demonstrating how donor contributions make a real and meaningful difference to your mission can have a direct impact on your funding. Knowing how important a comprehensive communications plan is to your success, we will continue to share ideas and tangible tips on how to maximize your communications, so be sure to check back frequently. In the meantime, I’m signing off so I can go finish my taxes!  

Donor Preferences

Understanding Donor Preferences Means More Money

Individuals account for nearly three-quarters of the nation’s charitable contributions. While the reasons why they give vary, once thing is certain: The request to give resonated with them emotionally and motivated them to take action. Our recent Insights on Nonprofit Giving report revealed major motivators and donor preferences for charitable giving, including:

Motivating Factors

  • Want To…Not Have To Or Should. On the whole, Americans donate because they want to support causes that will help others or society. Fewer than a quarter of donors (22 percent) do so because of an obligation or sense of duty. Giving because it’s how they were raised was also cited as a reason to behave charitably (29 percent).
  • Helping Hands. To help people in need was the most often cited reason to give (58 percent), followed by feeling fortunate and wanting to give back (39 percent) and for religious reasons (29 percent). Contrary to popular belief, only 15 percent of respondents said they give for the tax deduction.
  • Emotional Connection. Nearly 20 percent of survey respondents said they were emotionally moved to donate by someone’s story, making donor communications a key component of every marketing plan.

Giving Preferences

  • Online Giving On The Rise. While donating in-person in cash is still a “comfort zone” across all age groups, electronic giving options are popular, with one in three Americans indicating such. Significantly, those with higher incomes show greater preference for electronic methods. In fact, 18 percent of those earning under $20K showed preference for electronic giving methods, whereas 44 percent of those earning more than $100K showed preference.
  • Credit And Debit Trumps Transfer. While 23 percent of those 18-34 years old said they prefer using credit or debit cards on computers, tablets and mobile devices, only 8 percent prefer using money transfer services on those devices for giving. The same preference for credit and debit payment options versus money transfer services holds true across all age brackets.
  • Regional Giving Differences. People living in the West donated the most, contributing to charity twice as much as people living in the Northeast ($1,224 and $599 on average respectively). Those in the South contributed on average $660, leaving those in the Midwest in last place with a $587 average total.

What’s The Takeaway?

So what does this all mean? Understanding the why behind donor contributions helps you nurture and strengthen those relationships, setting the stage for future donations and a long term relationship. It’s important to have both a strategic fundraising plan and sophisticated, multi-function tools in place to capitalize on your donors’ desire to support your cause.


Get The Survey ReportDownload a copy of GiveCentral’s Insights on Nonprofit Giving report, which features easy-to-implement recommendations borne from survey findings.

US Presidential Polls 2016

Red Gift, Blue Gift: How Giving Crosses Party Lines

It’s Super Tuesday. As thousands of voters head to the primary polls, I thought it would be interesting – and fun – to look at charitable giving patterns along political party lines. Our recent Insights on Nonprofit Giving report revealed some interesting partisan similarities and differences.

Where Party Lines Agree

According to the national survey, regardless of whether people identify as red or blue, they donate for the same reason – wanting to help people in need.What’s more, generally speaking, Democrats, Republicans and Independents prefer the same methods of giving – with top preferences being cash in-person and checks in the mail. For example,

  • In-person with cash:
    • Republicans, 33 percent
    • Democrats, 29 percent
    • Independents, 32 percent
  • By mail with a check:
    • Republicans, 28 percent
    • Democrats, 31 percent
    • Independents, 32 percent
  • By credit or debit card using a computer:
    • Republicans, 19 percent
    • Democrats, 23 percent
    • Independents, 19 percent

Where Party Lines Diverge

We are, however, divided when it comes to how much we give.Average contributions over the last 12 months by Democrats and Independents are roughly the same: $598 and $596, respectively. Republicans, on the other hand, average nearly double that amount at $1,146.

When looking at the median amounts, there is somewhat less deviation, though Republicans still lead the pack at $300, with Democrats and Independents in a dead heat at a median amount of $200.Other relevant statistics include:

  • Republicans may favor tax breaks: Republicans were almost twice as likely as Democrats to indicate they’d made a charitable contribution for a tax break: 19 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Though these statistics are generally within the survey’s margin of error, it may still be something to consider.
  • Feeling fortunate motivates Democrats more: Only 36 percent of Republicans gave because they “felt fortunate and wanted to give something back,” while that’s what inspired 42 percent of Democrats to give. In both cases, this was the second most popular reason to make charitable donations.

Democrats and Republicans rally together

The most popular reason for giving – “I wanted to help people in need” – was chosen by 56 percent of both Republicans and Democrats.

Across the board, the reasons cited for giving were altruistic. 58 percent said “I wanted to help people in need.” A significant 39 percent told us, “I felt fortunate and wanted to give something back.” And tied for third place were religious reasons and “It’s just part of how I was raised,” at 29 percent each. Only 15 percent of those polled indicated they donated because they “wanted a tax deduction.”While the survey results won’t tell us the candidates that will come out on top, it does provide some interesting insights. Perhaps we’re in less of a race than we might have thought.GiveCentral’s Insights on Nonprofit Giving report is full of other insights, tips and recommendations. Be sure to get your free report!Get The Survey Report

nonprofit communications

Time Will Tell

Put yourself in your donor’s shoes. The frenzy of the morning rush. Workdays packed with meetings and deadlines. Add to that the round-the-clock demands of family and you can understand that finding time to make a contribution to your nonprofit doesn’t top your donors’ “To Do” list.Being aware of obstacles that may keep your donors from supporting your cause will help you identify solutions to the fundraising pitfalls they present. After all, it’s not that they don’t want to support you; it’s just finding the time to do so! A recent GiveCentral study found that 73 percent of people prefer to give in the evening, late at night, or on the weekends. In other words: when your nonprofit’s office is closed.The only thing surprising about this? That so many nonprofits aren’t optimized to take donations online! If electronic giving isn’t part of your offerings, you are negatively impacting your fundraising potential and likely frustrating your supporters. That’s because one in three Americans prefer to donate online, according to the Insights on Nonprofit Giving report. GiveCentral makes it easy for your supporters to give when they have the time to follow through on their desire to donate and lets them set up a repeating gift on the schedule that’s best for them.

Story Time

What other learnings can one extrapolate from donor time preferences? Think about the time your email communications are scheduled. Make sure they hit inboxes in the late afternoon or early evening so they are near the top of the long list of emails. This easy-to-make change can help keep your outreach from possibly being buried by hundreds of email marketing requests that can divert donors’ attention away from you! Take a scan of your personal inbox and you’ll see what I mean. Emails from your favorite stores or causes often arrive in the wee hours of the morning. Shift distribution times and you can stand out by avoiding the morning email traffic jam!The Insights on Nonprofit Giving report is full of other insights, tips and recommendations. Be sure to get your free report!Get The Survey Report

GiveCentral's latest survey report: 2016 Insights on Nonprofit Giving

New Study Reveals Insights on Donor Giving Habits

Get The Survey ReportKnowing your audience is critically important. Understanding their habits, interests, what motivates them and their charitable preferences are important pillars of your fundraising strategy. Knowing how, when, where and why donors give are key building blocks and questions you need to be able answer to successfully raise money for your organization.That’s why GiveCentral launched a benchmark national study to uncover and track Americans’ charitable giving habits. GiveCentral’s 2016 Insights on Nonprofit Giving report reveals key insights and motivators behind the more than $358 billion American’s give to charity annually.* Here are some highlights from the benchmark study:

Digital Dollars

One out of three Americans indicated a preference for online giving. What’s more, of those respondents, 34 percent said they are likely to donate MORE when using electronic payment methods.

Tech Age of Giving

Forty-three percent of Americans have used a computer, smartphone or tablet to make a donation.

More Dollars Digitally

When asked the dollar amount of their most recent contribution, those who prefer to donate online gave an average of $115 versus an average donation of $82 for those who prefer cash or check. Similarly, those donors who prefer online giving gave an average of $781 annually compared to a $559 average for those who prefer cash or check.

Motivating Factors

Approximately 30 percent of Americans donate for religious reasons. Other motivating factors include: To help people in need (58 percent), feel fortunate and want to give back (39 percent).

Time Out

Evenings (36 percent) and weekends (26 percent) are the most likely time in which donations are made. For 18 percent of survey respondents, early morning is the ideal time.

Moving Story

Storytelling is an art, and an a must-have part of fundraising. That’s because nearly 20 percent of survey respondents said they were emotionally moved to donate by someone’s story. Get your copy of the full report here:Get The Survey ReportGiveCentral’s 2016 Insights on Nonprofit Giving report reveals other interesting and actionable findings along with recommendations how you can put them into action to benefit your fundraising efforts.


*Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014

fundraising plan

Why Your Fundraising Plan is Critical in 2016

As the development director at a “small but mighty” nonprofit, Heather Yandow was interested in data to back up her fundraising plan.But while she was looking at reports and surveys to compare her organization to, she realized that the data from many reports like GivingUSA just surveyed the big guys… where the smallest organization they surveyed had a budget of $5 million.Now, if your budget is only 10% of that and you’ve got just one part-timer working on multiple fundraising projects at once, how can you compare your success?Realizing that research and information directed toward smaller nonprofits just didn’t exist, her studio later initiated a survey that would become the Individual Donor Benchmark Report (IDBR), answering questions similar to those she’d had herself.Now in its third year, the IDBR has become a reliable resource for smaller nonprofits (meaning those with a budget under $2 million), giving you the data you need to compare yourself to organizations with similar resources as you have. With the kinds of data contained in the IBDR, you can really see where you’re doing well and where you have opportunities for growth.

We Hold These Truths

With the data collected over the past few years, theIDBR has found some universal truths that have carried over from year to year. First, the single most important thing you can do as a small nonprofit is to make a plan. The single thing that really mattered, through all the data, was whether an organization has a fundraising plan. The plan is what ties everything together, makes the data correlate, and shows you just where your money comes from… or where it could be coming from.The second universal truth demonstrated by the IDBR is that there is a HUGE opportunity in online giving. Organizations with new online giving programs have the potential for massive, almost exponential fundraising growth, and even established programs saw 25% growth from 2013 to 2014. Online giving is one more channel through which your donors can give, and you’re missing out on that stream entirely if you’re not ready to maximize online gifts.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Understanding very well how much a difference in budget can affect a nonprofit’s fundraising ability, the IDBR offers benchmarks for organizations with varying amounts of revenue. Compare your own organization, at a glance, to small (under $200K), medium (up to $499,999), large (up to $999.999), and super (up to $2 million) organizations, with a nice “average” category included for good measure. For example, the average nonprofit raises 36% of their revenue from individual donors, but the various categories range from 25% to 57%.You can compare your numbers by total dollars raised, number of gifts, and even break things down by the issue your nonprofit seeks to address. Be reassured, though… every size of organization saw double-digit percentages in revenue growth between 2013 and 2014!The IDBR also looks at fundraising strategies and challenges, including a Fundraiser’s Wish List. Unsurprisingly, the top wish was “more help for fundraising activities,” and the number 2 item was a wish for more time to spend with donors.

It’s All in the Plan

The data expert at Third Space Studio collected the survey results from 87 different nonprofits and found that the ONLY thing that really matters is whether your organization has a fundraising plan. Everything else, no matter how well-intended, was “no better than a crap shoot” without a plan. And who wants to shoot crap, anyway?Two-thirds of the organizations polled say they have a fundraising plan, and using it at least “sometimes.” And the difference between the haves and the have-nots is significant. The IDBR found that there’s no correlation between staff time and revenue, or fundraiser salary and revenue, or number of donor meetings and revenue… unless you have a plan.It’s that plan that is key to your fundraising. The survey results show that “for every $1 more you pay your primary individual donor fundraiser, you are able to rase another $4.25.” So all you need is a plan to recoup that expense more than fourfold? Yes, please!With a plan, you can expect a full-time individual donor fundraiser to bring in about $280,000. With a plan, individual donor meetings can yield over $5,000 in increased donor revenue. With a plan, you are simply able to raise more money. So what are you waiting for? Get planning!There’s so much more in the IDBR that it might be overwhelming to try to sum up in one blog post. Check back here soon for more info on recurring giving, online giving, technology, communication, and even the people who make it all happen, or visit Third Space Studio to download your own copy of the Individual Donor Benchmark Report.Happy planning!