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New Report: Relentlessly Pursuing New Donors is Hurting Nonprofit Fundraising

Posted By Marc A. Pitman, Concord Leadership Group, Monday, April 1, 2019
Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2019


  • New report explores critical issues facing fundraising in America
  • SWOT and PESTLE analyses of US fundraising
  • Eight issues explored in depth, including:
    •  Diversity and inclusion
    •  “Stagnant” giving levels
    •  Crisis in donor retention
    •  The rise of giving and fundraising through social media
    •  Professional standards
    •  Implications of recent tax reforms on charitable giving
  •  The Critical Fundraising (USA) Report can be downloaded from:

The fundraising sector in the USA will face worsening results if it fails to invest in retaining the donors it already has.

The warning comes in a new report – the Critical Fundraising (USA) Report – published by the international fundraising think tank Rogare and launched at the AFP International Conference in San Antonio, TX, today (1 April 2019).

In one of the report’s essays, Greenville-based leadership expert Marc A. Pitman points out that nonprofits on average are losing almost six of every ten new donors. This results in nonprofits mistakenly focusing on the more expensive “donor acquisition” strategies than doing the much more cost-effective work of keeping the donors they have.

The problem, Pitman argues, is that many nonprofits are started to fix an issue, with little regard to how they will fund the work. In fact, in The Concord Leadership Group’s 2016 study of nonprofits, sixty-two percent of nonprofit leaders reported their nonprofit’s strategic plan lacked a fundraising plan.

Pitman says:

“This retention issue could be rooted in the lack of seeing fundraising as a core component of running a nonprofit and relegating fundraising to an afterthought or a ‘necessary even.’ Rather than spending time to implement best fundraising practices, board and staff keep doing the same thing – mailings and events and ‘nagging people’ – without measuring what works.”

He adds:

“The message of donor retention’s proven ability to have a disproportionate positive impact on fundraising needs to be heard by nonprofits.”

The Critical Fundraising (USA) Report was researched and compiled by a task group of Rogare’s International Advisory Panel, led by Barbara O’Reilly, CFRE, of Windmill Hill Consulting, who says:

“This Critical Fundraising Report is our perspective of key issues and trends that affect fundraising in the US. In compiling this report, we present, to the best of our ability, evidence-based information, not personal opinions, focusing on topics we believe are issues that warrant a deep analysis.

“In no way is this report meant to serve as a solution for all the key trends and issues we identified. Rather, we hope that it inspires conversation, reflection, and constructive responses to lift and strengthen the sector in the United States.”


Issues explored

Issues identified and explored in the CFR (USA) Report are:

  1. State of public trust in the nonprofit sector and the nonprofit starvation cycle – author: Barbara O’Reilly, CFRE (Windmill Hill Consulting)
  2. Stagnant donor retention rates and national giving levels  – Marc A. Pitman, CFC (Concord Leadership Group)
  3. Tax reform and what it means for charitable giving  – Cherian Koshy, CFRE (Des Moines Performing Arts)
  4. The current and anticipated fundraising talent crisis – James Green, MBA, CFRE
  5. Defining standards for fundraising – Heather R. Hill, CNM, CFRE (chair of the Rogare board)
  6. Diversity, inclusion, and gender equity – Ashley Belanger (Ashley H. Belanger Consulting)
  7. How data, technology and social media are affecting fundraising – T. Clay Buck, MFA, CFRE (Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada)
  8. The misalignment of social fundraising data sources and donor relations Taylor Shanklin (Pursuant).


In all, the report makes 23 recommendations, including:

  • Remove from donor communications all language that promotes the percentage of the donation that is allocated to programs
  • Conduct more research into and develop fresh thinking on donor retention, particularly around gifts that are not intended to be renewed annually, and how relationships are measured with donors who only give sporadically
  • A raft of measures to encourage inclusion at an organisational and individual level
  • Develop a new set of standards for professional practice that include the levels of knowledge needed to practice as a fundraiser
  • Invest more in multi-channel communications, new technologies and social engagement.

Download the Critical Fundraising (USA) Report:

Ian MacQuillin, director of Rogare – says in his introduction to the report:

“The United States of America holds a special – and perhaps privileged – place in global fundraising, exerting an influence that extends much further than its 50 states. There is sometimes a sense that the ideas and practices emanating from US fundraising are world-leading ideas and practices, both from the Americans developing and promulgating these ideas, and fundraisers in the rest of the world who receive them.

“With such reach and influence, it is a good idea to be able to critically reflect on the current state of US fundraising – to look not just at what’s working, but also at what’s not working so well, where the current knowledge gaps might be and how we could fill those gaps.”


Members of the USA CFR task group will present ideas and conclusions from the report at a session –  entitled ‘A critical look at fundraising in the United States’ – at AFP ICon on Monday 1 April, from 1.15 to 2.30 in room 217A.

The Critical Fundraising (USA) Report is the third in the series following the publication similar reports for Ireland and Scotland in 2017. Work is currently under way on reports for Canadian and Italian fundraising.

The Critical Fundraising (USA) Report can be downloaded from:



Concord Leadership Group founder Marc A. Pitman helps leaders, especially in nonprofits, lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. He’s the author of Ask Without Fear!® – which has been translated into Dutch, Polish, Spanish, and Mandarin. He’s also the executive director of and an Advisory Panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising think tank.

Marc’s expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences around the world and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Al Jazeera, SUCCESS Magazine, and Fox News. Marc tweets regularly at @marcapitman.

He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family!

Tags:  data  donors  Fundraising  report 


Fundraising Essentials for Small Shops

Posted By Samantha Shirley, CharityProud, Wednesday, August 23, 2017

If you are a 1-, 2-, or 3-person shop, wearing multiple hats in your nonprofit office in addition to needing to fundraise: this post is for you. Nonprofit leaders are often brought in because of their passion for the cause and ability to run an amazing program for the community they serve--but did we also mention you need to fundraise to keep your doors open? Where do you start? What are the essentials when you would rather be spending your time saving the world? (Psst…it’s not planning a gala.)

Much of the success in a fundraising plan comes from forming good habits. When you figure out the percentage of time you can devote to your development work, divide that into thirds—acquiring annual donors, major gift relationships and stewardship.


Build Your Network

You may already have a constituent base and not even realize it. All of those volunteers, program participants, event attendees—those are future donors! They may not have given yet, but everyone that touches your organization should be a constituent in your donor management software. You may want to even try asking them to spread the word about your organization—one they are already engaged in and have their own story.

These days, social media is also going to play a big role in your community outreach. The great thing is you can come up with your content and schedule it in advance. Commit to posting at least once per week—whether it’s a link to an article, your donation page, a feature on your program, etc.



Keep in mind that donations will not roll in if they are not being asked for. Schedule one appeal per quarter—rather than just your typical “end of year appeal”. This can be an email, letter or postcard. Let it show the impact donations make on your program.


Major Gifts

Identify your major donors or business partners and schedule one lunch or coffee meeting per week so you can begin to build a relationship, learn their philanthropic priorities, how they would like to be involved with your organization, and eventually make an ask.



It will always cost more to acquire new donors than to retain those that you already have. One of the most effective ways to do this is to send timely acknowledgements—if not the day the gift is received, at least at the end of the week. You can set up a night once per quarter for volunteers or board members to make thank-you calls. Here are some other ways to say thank you!


When you are able to set up your strategy and create reminders for yourself, these tactics will become second-nature. Eventually you will be able to build on them for even more impact, but it’s important to create your sustainable foundation and internal process before trying to take on everything at once—or nothing at all!


Samantha Shirley, Lead Product Manager, CharityProud

Charityproud is a donor management software based in Charleston, SC. The user-friendly and robust platform is affordable, and provides access to free, unlimited customer support. Together SC members can enjoy 50% off their implementation fee and one month of free service—a $200+ savings! Click here to request a demo.

Tags:  donors  fundraising  nonprofits 


Brewery Beer Donations at Risk

Posted By Brook Bristow, Bristow Beverage Law, Friday, July 22, 2016

Hi SCANPO friends, 

As someone deeply involved in the alcoholic beverage industry, I'm concerned with SLED's (SC Law Enforcement Division) anticipated stepped-up enforcement of a 20-year-old state law prohibiting breweries from donating their products to nonprofits.

It's always been the policy, but it hasn't been wholly enforced until now; that's why everyone is getting upset.

I predict that the crackdown will ultimately affect manufacturers of wine and spirits, along with any charitable groups seeking alcohol donations for special events. You can learn more about how these laws will affect you (and whether there's a need to change these laws) by joining me on August 3 at 11 am for my Wednesday Webinar presentation.

This is huge - it's not just about beer. The new focus on upholding these laws will affect everybody.

You can find out more by reading my overview on the policy and how it will affect nonprofits.

I hope you can join me on August 3.

Brook Bristow

Beverage Law Attorney and Owner of Bristow Beverage Law

P.S. Read more about SLED's plans in a recent Post and Courier article.

Below is a picture of Brook in front of the Cloud Gate in Chicago, IL.

Tags:  Advocacy  beer donations  fundraising  Legal  nonprofits  rules  SLED 

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