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Arts Fundraising Study: Invest to Reap More

Any of AccuList’s performing arts marketing and museum and zoo marketing clients that fret over investing in fundraising efforts in 2019 should take a look at the recently released “DataArts Fundraising Report” from Southern Methodist University. Basically, the report concludes, arts and cultural organizations that make smart investments in fundraising reap more dollars, with individual donors a “vital source” of contributions.

Mixed ROI by Sector, Higher Individual Donor Dollars

Looking at fundraising by 2,421 organizations across 11 different arts and cultural sectors between 2014 and 2017, the study found good news for many marketers even though the overall ROI on every dollar spent on fundraising declined from $8.80 in 2014 to $8.56 in 2017. This reflected issues in select sectors. Seven sectors—including performing arts companies, orchestras and operas—actually saw an increase in return on fundraising over the period. The biggest ROI gain, adjusting for inflation, was a 28.8% bump for community-based organizations. But gaining sectors were offset by ROI declines for art museums, dance companies and theaters. Another encouraging sign was an increase in the average individual donor contribution over the four-year period. The report attributed some of the improved donor generosity to a shift toward investment in donor relationship building, with the average organization allocating 62.4% of fundraising expenses to staff in 2017, up from 54.4% in 2014, and thus allowing for more donor development.

Size and Location Make a Difference

For arts and cultural fundraising, size matters, but in an inverse fashion, the report found. Small- and medium-sized organizations increased the returns on their investments in fundraising over the four years, while larger organizations had steadily declining ROI. Individual donors are important for success, per the report, especially outside of the big metro areas where government support, foundations and corporate donors help foot expenses. But locations vary widely in terms of revenue successfully tapped. For example, New York organizations had the highest average number of corporate donors at 12 and also had the highest percentage of expenses covered by government support (9%). Compare that Big Apple haul to the lowest metro-area average of four corporate donors in Los Angeles and Chicago’s low of 2% expenses covered by government funds. On the other hand, Chicago reaped the most from foundations, with 7% of expenses picked up by foundation support, way ahead of New York organizations which, though they had more foundation grants than any other market, only saw those grants cover 3% of expenses.

For details, go to the SMU DataArts Fundraising Report.

Nonprofits’ Crucial Year-End Fundraising Drives Have Begun

AccuList USA works with big and small nonprofits on their key year-end fundraising campaigns. With a third of annual giving occurring in December, over half of nonprofits starting year-end plans in October, and direct mail the leading fundraising channel, October often sees final tweaks to direct marketing plans (and mailing lists).

Planning for Year-End Fundraising Success

For example, nonprofit marketers may want to check their current plans against the four-step master plan recently offered by fundraising consultant Gail Perry on her blog. Step 1: Set goals for each donor segment, and don’t forget lucrative leading-donor annual gifts, lapsed donors and board members. Step 2: Select channels for a multi-pronged appeal, integrating direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing, social media, website, and video creative–and design a consistent message for all. Step 3: Gather resources and set a budget. Step 4: Set a timeline and calendar. Read the complete article by Perry for details and tips.

How Small Nonprofits Can Punch Above Their Weight

Of course, smaller fundraisers often bemoan budget limitations at this point. A guest post by Damian O’Broin for the Institute of Fundraising offers a bracing response. Greatness is not a function of size, it’s a function of attitude, he argues, citing donor surveys. The things that matter most to donors don’t depend on big budgets and lots of staff but on good, donor-centric fundraising practices: thanking promptly and properly; showing progress and impact; getting to know supporters and responding to their needs; empowering supporters; and asking consistently. “Because what we found from these surveys is that the best way to improve donor commitment is with great donor service. Responding to e-mails. Dealing effectively with queries when your donors call you. Thanking donors promptly–and just as importantly–making donors feel thanked,” he says. Even modest direct marketing campaigns, assuming they are well targeted, can use these practices to boost response.