Have you wondered how your charity or nonprofit’s fundraising efforts compare to the larger Canadian sector? With the recent release of The Blackbaud Index- Canada, it’s simple for organizations to benchmark their overall and online giving against the several hundred Canadian nonprofits currently included in the index.
What does access to this data mean for the Canadian sector? I spoke with Patricia Tynan, a Senior Channel Manager from Blackbaud, about the impact The Blackbaud Index has had on the fundraising strategies of organizations across the border.
“I know many US organizations are using it as a yardstick for their own performance,” says Patricia, “it’s a great tool when you audit your fundraising performance.” While benchmarking your own organization against the general sector trends is useful, one of the less intuitive uses of the index is to use it while planning fundraising calendars and strategies.
“When is the best time to plan a new campaign or event? You may want to select one of the months where giving is flat. So if the index dips from February to April, what does that tell nonprofits? They may want to try something like a direct mail piece when there’s a lower amount of money flowing throughout the industry or think about having events when there’s less competition. ”
At TechSoup Canada, another benefit we see to evaluating your own organization’s targets in context of the larger sector is that this also reflects on technology infrastructure. Tech is such a fundamental part of the operations of most organizations, so whether you’re large or small, this helps to contextualize the overall capacity of the online options available for your donors.
The Blackbaud Index – Canada Report, released alongside the index, has some good news for the Canadian nonprofit sector. Overall giving grew 2.7 % between December 2013 and February 2014, while online giving grew 7.2% in that same timeframe. This is a good sign of stability in the Canadian nonprofit and charitable sector, with the Canadian sector showing better performance than the US and UK.
The report consulted professionals from the Canadian sector like Michael Johnston, president of Toronto fundraising firm Hewitt and Johnston Consultants, and Derek Fraser, chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, to develop solutions that organizations can explore to remain competitive. These solutions emphasize the importance of developing volunteer leadership to increase capacity, collaborating with similar charities for impact, integrating fundraising with programmatic work, and especially, implementing donor loyalty “cradle to grave” strategies.
However, The Blackbaud Index – Canada Report also highlights a downside within the sector: the growing gap between the competitiveness of smaller and larger organization that have greater resources and fundraising capacity. When choosing how to implement solutions to close this gap, the smaller organizations often face greater resource constraints. I asked Patricia for her opinion on what steps smaller organizations looking to stay competitive can take that will likely have a high return-on-investment.
1) Understand your recurring donors and most loyal supporters, and focus on retaining them with great donor loyalty programs.
“Some organizations don’t run the metrics to see who their recurring donors are, but retaining them should be a high priority for any organization that’s dependent on donations.” For example, what if a young donor is giving an organization around 15% of their overall income? Knowing those metrics can be highly motivating when it comes to building great donor loyalty programming, and the lifetime potential of that retention is very valuable. “Having a donor loyalty program is huge. If you don’t have tools available such as target analytics and you’re a really grass roots organization, start with asking, who are the recurring donors or active supporters? Outside of your donor database, you can identify them by checking your social media accounts and clicking through to their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn profiles. While it is a bit of guesswork, you can discover all kinds of information online: where they work, job titles - indicating income, where they live, and other information to develop a deeper understanding of your donors and supporters.”
2) Design your online presence to rival the big leagues.
“There is a lot that people can do to bootstrap their online presence. A certain amount of aesthetic needs to go into design, and something like Wordpress can be used to create an effective website that’s viable, affordable, and can be used to establish a great online presence with templated tools until you grow and get bigger.” The main tips here? “Avoid poor design and ineffective navigation to the donation page, and make sure there is a clear call to action and a donation button.” It’s also a good idea to use platforms that can be transferred easily if there is staff and volunteer turnover in smaller organizations, and template-based options are helpful for this.
3) Attract and retain younger donors by highlighting impact.
“If you have a $25 donation, what is the impact? Is that a week of shelter for a dog? Is $100 the cost for spay and neuter surgeries for 3 animals? Clearly outlining the impact of a specific amount is a great way to assure younger donors and gives them the option to really know what they want to put their money towards.” Being able to communicate the true costs of your direct services to donors is a great place to begin sharing impact with donors.
4) Make specific asks of your volunteer community.
Tapping into resources that are already around you is the best option to increase capacity under constrained resources. “If you’re at a nonprofit, you should always be asking, and you can look to your community before you go to someone else.” To be most effective with this, however, Patricia notes, “the request needs to be specific, say that you need help with sponsorship calls to 3 businesses – provide contact info and a due date. An ask can be as simple as, can you spend 15 minutes showing me how to use Hootsuite?”
5) Find the best tech options for your scale
“Blackbaud products have a reputation for being for the massive organizations,” acknowledges Patricia, “but something like eTapestry is very accessible for smaller organizations.” In the TechSoup Canada catalogue, eTapestry is available for one year at a discounted rate. “Be resourceful- what does NTEN say? What does TechSoup Canada have available?* What about Idealware methodology for selecting software and vendors? Apply a methodology and remember to reach out to the community first.”
The Blackbaud Index - Canada is updated monthly and available for anyone to benchmark their own performance. What are the future plans for the index? “Growing the Canadian index to rival the size of the US based index, because the more data points the more solid it will be, and with a few years of this data, we will be able to create future content such as the yearly Charitable Giving Report featuring Canadian data exclusively. I am really excited to have this tool available for the Canadian sector.”
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