JGA Blog

Defining Campaign Success: Using a campaign to grow major gift donors

August 14, 2018

Like many others, I began my career in fundraising by attending the Principles and Techniques of Fundraising class at The Fund Raising School at Indiana University’s Lilly School of Philanthropy. As a new member of the development team at the Indiana University Foundation more than 20 years ago, I learned that, typically, an organization could anticipate that 80% of the dollars raised in a fundraising campaign would come from 20% of the campaign donors. The so-called 80/20 rule.

Much has changed in the last twenty years. Mirroring, or perhaps in response to, the changing landscape of wealth distribution in our society, fundraising campaigns have more significant dollar goals that rely on fewer and fewer donors in order to achieve success. Campaigns are now typically based upon the projection that 90% of the dollars will come from 10% of the campaign donors. In some corners of the nonprofit sector, notably higher education, successful campaigns may have 95% or more of the dollars contributed from as few as 5% of the campaign donors.

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Giving USA 2018: Implications for Higher Ed

July 20, 2018

According to Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017, total charitable giving in the United States grew by 5.2 percent to $410.02 billion in 2017. This marks the highest total amount given in the 40 years Giving USA has tracked this data, both in current dollars and when adjusted for inflation.

With this milestone year, U.S. giving continues a steady growth trend over the past eight years, indicating a positive climate for philanthropy. Giving to every category of recipient organizations increased when measured in current dollars, except for international affairs, which dropped by 4.4 percent. 

What this Means for Colleges and Universities:

Giving USA estimates that giving to education organizations (of which giving to higher education typically accounts for about 70 percent of the total) increased 6.2 percent in 2017 to $58.9 billion. The Council for Aid to Education’s Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey shows that individual giving (alumni and non-alumni) to higher education increased by 6.3 percent, a strong rebound from 2016, with alumni contributions growing by a significant 14.5 percent, foundations by 5.5 percent, and corporations holding steady at the 2016 level.

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Getting the Most Out of Board Retreats: 7 Best Practices

June 28, 2018

Nonprofit Board retreats can be a productive tool to get key volunteers and staff on the same page. It’s an opportunity to devote a significant amount of time solely to an important topic or agenda item, without interrupting the normal business of a standing board meeting.

We recommend setting aside time for you and your organization’s leadership to focus on important issues. Board retreats can also be an effective tool for building camaraderie and collaboration among board members. According to the BoardSource Leading with Intent: 2017 National Index of Nonprofit Board Practices, 42 percent of nonprofit boards hold annual retreats for their board members. The report indicates that providing this type of social time can be impactful when it comes to increasing the level of satisfaction board members feel with their board service. CEO’s of boards which held annual retreats were more likely to report their board worked as a collaborative team and that their board members were eager to serve the maximum number of terms on the board.  

As for planning a retreat and the topics that need to be covered, there are several considerations that should influence your thinking:  

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Giving USA Reports U.S. Giving Tops $400 Billion in 2017

June 12, 2018

Giving USA released its annual estimates of U.S. charitable giving today, and the results show impressive growth despite a shifting national landscape. Giving USA 2018: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2017 reports that total charitable giving in our nation reached $410.02 billion in 2017, an increase of 5.2 percent over 2016. This total breaks the lofty $400 billion mark and is the highest in the history of Giving USA, which began tracking this data more than 40 years ago.

Published by Giving USA Foundation, a public service initiative of The Giving Institute, Giving USA is the longest running and most comprehensive report of its kind in America. It is researched and created by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

All but one of the nine major categories of charitable organizations realized growth in giving. (International affairs saw a decrease of 4.4%.) Amid new national leadership, numerous national disasters, and the uncertain impact of tax law changes in December, Americans gave. This positive growth trend was fueled by a strong economy and an increase in personal consumption (4.5%)—the strongest indicator of individual giving.

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Giving Trends in America Highlight Need for National Conversation

June 06, 2018

This is the time of year when some attention gets focused on giving in America. The Giving USA Foundation will release next week its report on the latest facts and trends. JGA is a member of Giving USA and the Giving Institute and we are pleased to help promote awareness of the upcoming report. 

As we do so this year, we should pay special attention to the trend lines – and what they mean not only for giving and volunteering but for our nation. From my perspective, there are mixed signs – and some real concern.

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How Women and Men Approach Impact Investing

May 24, 2018

Impact investing is a rapidly growing field – one that's important for nonprofit fundraisers to understand. As more people see impact investing as a way to advance social change, how will this influence the philanthropic sector? Do nonprofits need to adjust or evolve their donor engagement strategies as impact investing continues to gain steam?

As a relatively new practice, there is not yet much research regarding how people use impact investing, and even less research connecting the fields of impact investing and philanthropy. A new report from the Women's Philanthropy Institute – "How Women and Men Approach Impact Investing" – is among the first to explore this connection through a gender lens. It includes a number of key insights for nonprofit organizations to consider, including:

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Create a Development Plan to Guide your Fundraising Efforts

May 10, 2018

Do you have an updated development plan and do you use it? Creating a comprehensive development plan can guide your organization’s fundraising efforts and position you for future fundraising success. The plan can help you prioritize your fundraising activities for both short- and long-term growth, identify key constituent groups, and provide metrics and benchmarks by which to measure and evaluate success.

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Establish a Plan Early for Counting Planned Gifts in a Campaign

April 13, 2018


Nonprofit organizations across the country utilize campaigns to rally key constituents around programs and projects that move the organization forward. Fundraising campaigns provide a great platform to share the vision of the organization, serve as the catalyst to engage volunteers in hands-on fundraising activities, and significantly increase philanthropic resources to the organization. When done properly, campaigns can significantly enhance an organization’s impact and improve operations, however, much planning and preparation are required before moving into a campaign.

The role of planned gifts in a campaign is one area that must be discussed early. Planned gifts are funding as much as 40 percent of some comprehensive campaign goals, so it is crucial to establish a clear policy for these types of donations before beginning to solicit gifts for a campaign.

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New Research Shows Benefits of Diversity on Nonprofit Boards 

February 20, 2018

Nonprofit boards that include a higher percentage of women tend to have board members who participate more in fundraising and advocacy. Members of these boards also tend to be more involved in the board’s work, new research released today shows. 

These findings are just two of a number of results from the study, The Impact of Diversity: Understanding How Nonprofit Board Diversity Affects Philanthropy, Leadership, and Board Engagement, which can help board members and nonprofits strengthen their boards through diversity. The research was conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI in partnership with Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates and BoardSource. 

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Good Stewardship is the Key to Donor Retention

January 31, 2018

Have you looked at your overall and new donor retention rates lately? If your organization is like most other nonprofit organizations, there is ample room for improvement.  According to the 2017 Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) 2017 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, the average overall donor retention rate for the nearly 11,000 nonprofits participating in the study was 45%. The average new donor retention rate was 23%. 

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As noted in the AFP report, for the past 10 years, the average overall donor retention rate has been less than 50%.

How can your organization move the needle on donor retention?  A good place to start is with donor stewardship.

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