It looks like 2015 was The Year of the Capital Campaign. According to the National Research Collaborative’s “Special Report on Nonprofit Fundraising Campaigns,” released Jan. 3, about 46 percent of nonprofits surveyed were in either a capital or a special campaign during the first half of 2015, up from 11 percent in 2011. Considering that 59 percent of respondents reported increased fundraising for the first half of 2015 (up from 52 percent during the same time in 2014), it looks like the campaigns are working.
As chair of Giving USA Foundation—one of the NRC’s sponsors—I’ve closely watched philanthropy trends and nonprofit developments. Giving USA 2015 reported record giving by Americans in 2014: an estimated $358.38 billion. If this milestone is an indicator of economic recovery on the donor side, then the NRC’s revelation about campaign growth shows nonprofits themselves are similarly regaining confidence.
Organizations are realizing it’s an appropriate time to move into a capital campaign, with giving on the rise. Many of these nonprofits have not done any major fundraising effort since the Great Recession, and they recognize they do have needs they must address. It’s a move that shows strategic thinking across the sector.
The NRC’s findings, which were based on 1,071 survey responses from charities, including 88 from Canada, included additional insights I believe are noteworthy:
• Organizations running capital campaigns were more likely to report increases than those not in a campaign.
• Not surprisingly, the bigger your overall budget, the more likely you are to be considering a campaign.
• Being in a campaign causes organizations to ramp up planned giving asks—again, to be expected.
• Two-thirds count revocable gifts (such as pledges, planning giving) toward their campaign goals. This was surprising, as our firm always counsels clients to document and report them separately—advice backed by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
• Corporate and foundation grants increased slightly.
• Nearly three-quarters of nonprofits surveyed reported being “on track” to meet fundraising goals for 2015, compared with 70 percent in 2014.
• U.S. charities in the South were less likely to be on track to meet their fundraising goal for the year in comparison with the rest of the U.S.
The report also included this summary of responses regarding why campaigns were/were not on track, which you might find useful in your own planning:
Organizations that are on track to meet goals often credited:
• Hard work
• Leadership engagement
• Unexpected, or unexpectedly large, gifts
• Strong results from annual fund, special events and major gifts
Organizations that are not on track mentioned:
• Lack of leadership
• Difficulties in the local economy
• Shortfalls in special event results
• Declining gift amounts from institutional donors (corporations and foundations)
• Having an unrealistic goal set by the board