Why in the world, given all the human misery and global angst, is the number of donors supporting animal welfare organizations rising while all other sectors–human rights, civil liberties, the environment and health — remain flat or in decline?

The release this week of Target Analysis Group's Quarterly Index of National Fundraising Performance for the 1st quarter of 2007 triggered this thought: why does a $200 billion industry –the fundraising trade — invest so little in research and understanding?

Apart from the Target Analysis Group, Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy, Boston College's Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, and Giving USA, and of course our own DonorTrends, there's very little consistent research and reporting on trends that so affect the civil society essential to our democracy.

It strikes me as strange that Proctor & Gamble and Colgate spend more on understanding their $3 billion toothpaste markets than our sector spends on plumbing the donor trends of our $200 billion annual cumulative market.

Of course we've heard various reasons … “We have to make this year's numbers and research isn't in the budget” … “I know what I'm doing” … “We've always done it this way, so why waste the money on a bunch of surveys or focus groups?”

Talk about heads in the sand. Times they are a changin' but our trade is mighty slow to change with them. This is the case because the statistics of change are a lot easier to come by than the reasons behind why the change is occuring in the first place.

When you read the most recent report from Target Analyis you find good news and bad. Helen Flannery and Rob Harris, the co-authors of the Quarterly Index reports, have spotted some interesting/scary/hopeful trends along with their always thoughtful analysis

First the Good News. It's been nearly two years since Tsunami and Katrina donations skewed or clouded overall fundraising results. So, with that filter removed, Target Analysis reports that revenue for the 70 diverse non-profits it studies, reflecting the giving of 38 million donors, has now stabilized to a normal growth rate of about 1% a quarter. That's what the authors call “normal sustainable giving.”

Now the Bad News. The general decline in donor populations that has marked the past five years is a cause for concern. So far, organizations have generally compensated for the decline in number of donors through efforts to upgrade exsisting donors. The result: increases in net income for the short term.

Of course the long-term concern is whether real revenue will be jeopardized by this decline in the donor population.

The benchmarking provided by Targeted Analysis enables fundraisers to compare how they're doing with how other organizations are doing. Very pleasing (or not pleasing) to boards and development committees. But, in reality, we all should be hard at work — and budgeting and spending money — to figure out why these trends are occuring and what to do about them.

The beauty of the Target Analysis Index reports is that they reflect the trends among 70+ non-profits ranging from Amnesty International to Trout Unlimited and the giving patterns of some 38 million donors.

If you care about fundraising (and what Agitator reader doesn't!) take the time to download and carefully read this quarter's report of The Quarterly Index of National Fundraising Performance.

Continue reading below and you'll see some questions that came immediately to my mind. Answers to which may affect the very survival of the organizations you serve. Questions that only systematic, continuous research can answer.

Continue reading “Going To The Dogs”

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