As a matter of principle Tom and I don’t usually cover conferences, conventions or most industry events. The 2012 NTEN Conference that closes today in San Francisco is no exception.

The word diagram below, produced by Rally, quickly (or confusingly, depending on your point of view) tells why we don’t.










In short, when it comes to fundraising – not applied technology or the other important stuff for which NTEN deserves a raise –a great deal of fun and little of financial usefulness comes out of these self-celebratory enclaves, largely paid for by consultants and vendors on the make, nonprofit staffers in search of mobility, and still others infected with the ‘gee whiz’ virus that so afflicts ‘nonprofitdom’ these days.

Fortunately, the event does trigger the release of some interesting and occasionally even useful information. For example, in yesterday’s Agitator Tom noted and commented on the release of Convio’s  Online Benchmark Study for 2011.

Two other studies were released that deserve mention and your attention.

The first, The 3rd Annual Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report for 2012, sponsored by NTEN,  the online marketing firm Common Knowledge, and Blackbaud, makes a serious effort to build a case for the fundraising benefits of Social Networking, when in fact there’s really no case to be made (at least not yet).

I know this conclusion of mine will break Tom’s heart, but read it for yourself by downloading it here.

Key takeaways:

  • Less than 10% of the nonprofits surveyed have 1 or more full-time equivalents working on social networking.
  • On average, groups surveyed spend $3.50 on acquiring a Facebook “Like” and $2.05 on a Twitter “Follower”.
  • In return, the ROI they receive for this investment is? Well, the report is silent on specific $ amounts, but assures us the number of folks participating (signing up, taking actions, whatever) has grown by 265% this year.
  • The report also — and to its credit quite candidly — assures us that one of the major trends for the future is that all of this may, perhaps, hopefully become real, some day.

This is a well-written, well-presented, and in the end quite useful report that both, directly and between the lines, makes clear that, when it comes to Social Networking and Fundraising, you’re better off not worrying about it for the immediate future. All of this is not to demean the other useful benefits of Social Networking, but those are not really in the Agitator’s purview.

The second report, which does deal with fundraising, is the Nonprofit Research Collaborative’s  (NRC)  Report on Giving for 2011.

If you can steer your future fundraising through a rear view mirror of results long past, you’ll want to know that in 2011:

  • For the first time since 2007, of the 1600 organizations surveyed in the US, more than half saw their receipts increase.
  • 60% of those surveyed met their 2011 fundraising goals.
  • 62% of organizations with income of $1 million or more have board members involved in fundraising.
  • 71% of the organizations responding expect to raise more in 2012 than they did in 2011.

If you’re looking for strategic or tactical advice to guide your future, there’s very little here.  Nonetheless the details and charts in this 42-page report are worth studying, if for no other reason than you can give your board and CEO an idea of how well you did or didn’t do up against the averages.

I applaud everyone who undertakes studies of any type and don’t want to be hypercritical or negative. However, I do want to make clear that these sorts of efforts are virtually useless to those with years and years of experience and who have to meet the bottom line — virtually everyone reading this.

So you can image how pleased I was to receive a notice in yesterday’s mail  that on April 11th,  Carol Rhine, the Senior Fundraising Analyst over at Target Analytics/Blackbaud is holding a webinar to discuss findings from Blackbaud’s National Index of Fundraising Performance covering direct marketing fundraising.

Carol’s smart and experienced and I urge you to sign up to get her take on what actions the current trends suggest you take for your future. You can register free right here.

Meanwhile, I gotta help Tom understand his Facebook page and explain that Pininterest isn’t the interest he earns on his ATM card.

What’s your take on all this commotion and all these studies?


This article was posted in: Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing, Research, Social media.
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