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July 2015

Fundraising Reading Round Up

Another week, another round of soul searching by fundraisers. There's been a lot of hot air, but also some insightful and stimulating commentary. Let's hope we can use this insight to improve our great profession.

If you haven't already done so then please get involved with the current Institute of Fundraising consultation and complete their survey asking for evidence.

Let's begin this week with some of the analysis and response to the current crisis:

Richard Turner explains why the solution is simple.

Margaret from the Fundraising Collective discusses whether the current crisis is a threat or opportunity?

Stephen George urges us to go back to basics.

So what to do now? asks Tobin Aldrich.

Tim Hopkins on the future of fundraising.

Elsewhere, here are some articles that might actually help you do some fundraising!

This article by Jeff Brooks made me smile: Things no donor said, ever.

The Fundraising Collective on how to prepare for a big campaign.

Lucy Gower explains the curse of the 20:2 principle.

Joe Jenkins of Friends of the Earth reminds us not to lose sight of our mission.

Wild Woman Fundraising describes how your donors view money.

According to Ann Green we need to connect and not interrupt.

Rob Woods gives us three ways to make use of social proof.

At 101 Fundraising, Richard Radcliffe asks where legacy fundraising is going?

Beth Kanter asks how we can become agile learners.

At UK Fundraising, Rachel Hunnybun tracks what happens when she tells charities she is moving house. Spoiler: not impressive!

The Veritus Group share seven tips to surprise your major donors.

The Donor Relations Guru on recognising anniversaries.

Fundraising Controversy: What Does the Data from 10 Top Charities Tell Us?

Every fundraiser in the UK will be aware of the sustained attack fundraising practices have had from the media, MPs and other commentators.

Whilst some of the criticisms may be legitimate (if overblown) others have been little more than hatchet jobs and extremely damaging to our profession. 

There have been numerous articles in the sector press, blogs etc with people queueing up to give their opinion. What I have been surprised at is the lack of analysis that has been undertaken to understand why the Olive Cooke case has been the catalyst for so much scrutiny and abuse of fundraising. 

Many people have suspected that we had a problem (my epiphany was when my mum started complaining about charities calling her - she never complains!), but we haven't done anything until a sustained media spotlight has been shone on us. 

What I have been surprised at is the lack of data analysis to back up some of the criticisms, solutions and arguments.

Rather than offer more opinion, I wanted to look at the figures to see if they could offer some insight into the problems we are facing as a profession.

First of all we know that individual fundraising income in the UK has seen no real growth for nearly a decade:

UK Individual Giving 2005 to 2014

Source: UK Giving Report 2014, CAF

What are the implications for this lack of growth? Well, if the market isn't growing, then the only way you can grow is by taking market share from your competitors.

My theory was if that is the case, then the best performing charities would need to be more aggressive in their asking, invest more money into fundraising and this would result in a declining ROI (but increased net income).

That's why I decided to look at the fundraising income of the top 10 charities* since 2010.

Voluntary Income 2010-14

This shows that gross and net income has grown considerably, but that ROI has dropped by around seven per cent. 

When you analyse the growth in income and expenditure, then the five year ROI of the increased investment is considerably lower than the overall four to one.

Increase in income 2010-2014 £172,585,000
Increase on expenditure 2010-14 £59,741,000
ROI 2.89

The extra £60m or so spent has returned less than three to one over a four/five year period. Most charities would be relatively pleased with this. 

However, this doesn't give the whole picture as it includes corporate, trusts and legacy income.

Therefore I wanted to look in greater detail at individual giving income. Fortunately six* of the ten charities breakdown income and expenditure of fundraising and have done so since 2010.

Individual Giving Income 2010-14

This shows that costs are rising more than three and a half times faster than income!

This means that individual giving ROI at these six charities has dropped by 20 per cent over the last five years (from 4.28 to 3.48).

At the same time all 10 charities have spent an additional £60 million (around £10m per charity) over the period. That is a huge number of extra phone calls, street fundraisers, direct mail etc. Especially at a time when inflation has been low.

If we take a look at the increase year on year, you will see there was a huge investment (nearly an extra £18m) into individual giving last year:

  Increase in individual costs

Was this the straw that broke the camel's back? Remember, this is just six charities. If the top 100 fundraising organisations* all increased their spending in a similar way over the last five years then that is a huge amount of extra requests to a pool of people who aren't giving any more overall.

A return of 1.63 over five years (though admittedly skewed by 2014 expenditure) is unsustainable in the long run.

So what's the answer? There has been a lot of hot air, but also some good ideas too. 

Here are three of my favourites:

Ken Burnett was ahead of the controversy with his five part 'Future of Fundraising' series.

I've just caught up with Mark Phillips excellent presentation at the Institute of Fundraising National Convention last week.

Finally, Charlie Hulme of Donor Voice was in fine form in this article at UK Fundraising.

We can't keep fighting for the same donors and the same pot of money. The last three months has proved that. Hopefully now we have some figures to help make that argument and develop constructive answers that will strengthen our profession.


I used this list at the Guardian of the top 1,000 charities from UK. I worked from the top down, excluding charities who don't do mass individual giving ( the Arts Council) or who receive a significant amount of funds from government sources (Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind - Sightsavers to you and me)

The 10 were: CRUK, British Red Cross, Save the Children, RNLI, Macmillan, Oxfam, NSPCC, RSPCA, Christian Aid and the RSPB.

All accounts are for 2014 apart from RNLI and Macmillan.

It wasn't possible to work this out for British Red Cross, Macmillan and the RNLI. they breakdown income but not expenditure. Christian Aid are excluded as well as they only started breaking down income and expenditure in 2011.

If someone has the time to look at more annual accounts then it would be fascinating to see the bigger picture.

Fundraising Reading Round Up

Next week is the annual Institute of Fundraising National Convention. It is usually my favourite three days of the year as I learn new things, meet friends old and new and find inspiration in the words and actions of others. Please do say 'hello' if you see me!

Rogare have picked some of the sessions to look out for and I shared some conference tips with Fundraiser magazine.

I recently contributed a tip (along with 28 other fundraisers) on stewardship to the Nonprofit Easy blog. There are some great tips, so do check it out.

Giles Pegram writes about the unhappy philanthropist at UK Fundraising.

This is something I'm discovering in my current job. At 101 Fundraising, Jonathon Grapsas describes are how people are the same, but different all over the world.

Also at 101 Fundraising, Karen Osborne shares some tips on major donor magic.

'It will never catch on' - so says Lucy Gower. Lessons from Kodak's demise.

The Nonprofit Marketing blog explain why your donors wish to be anonymous.

Michael Rosen challenges whether you are wasting your time hunting unicorns?

Veritus Group on when qualified donors become unqualified.

Why your donor messaging should be simple by Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat.

Two articles on legacies from Stephen George. He shares 10 of the best words to use in legacy fundraising and how to train your staff in legacies (in the Fundraiser magazine).

Bright Spot Fundraising explain two simple changes that boost confidence.

Penelope Burk asks if the performance of donor relations staff can be measured?

Related to this, Clairification wonders why are good nonprofit fundraisers hard to keep?

=mc consultant Charlotte Scott asks 'how good a manager are you?

Don't judge a donor by the cover warns the Donor Relations Guru.

Bloomerang release an infograph on their $5 donor experiment.

Beth Kanter recently visited London for the Future of Social conference. Discover what she learned.