Study: Fundraising Up Despite Donor Fatigue Concerns

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Fundraising is in a healthy state nationwide, despite fears that donations for victims of the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina might have come at the expense of other charities.

The Target Index of National Fundraising Performance, released yesterday by Target Analysis Group, revealed that across all nonprofit sectors the number of donors, donor revenue and the number of new donors increased through the first three quarters of 2005. The study evaluated transactions across 55 leading nonprofit organizations. For the first three quarters of 2005, 27 million donors gave more than 43 million gifts totaling $1.2 billion.

After the Asian tsunami, donations to international relief rose markedly in the first three quarters. The report shows that international relief groups saw a 100 percent median increase in revenue during that time.

Fundraisers feared that this drastic increase in giving might redirect donations from other organizations, but that concern seems unwarranted. Median revenue growth across all charities through the first three quarters of 2005 was 7.9 percent.

The report also concluded that there's a limit to what people give, barring an unprecedented disaster, such as the tsunami. Philanthropic giving has hovered at 1.9 percent of GDP since 1964, though donations to tsunami relief drove nonprofit giving as a share of GDP well above this benchmark.

In the past two quarters, giving as a percentage has dropped back below GDP growth.

But organizations did report a number of new donors through the third quarter. Across all sectors, the median number of new donors increased 4.7 percent, the report said. Animal welfare and environmental groups saw healthy increases in the number of donors. The report attributes this increase to concern over fallout from Hurricane Katrina. Gains in donors were most abundant in the international relief sector, where new donors increased 142.3 percent.

The report also found that donors acquired during disaster relief are notoriously difficult to retain, which explains the third-quarter median decline in donor retention. Despite this, the total number of donors was up 2.5 percent through the third quarter.

Americans are giving more to their chosen charities. Median revenue per donor increased 3.5 percent across all sectors, with international relief and animal welfare seeing the biggest gains.

Like other transactions, it appears charitable giving is also moving online.

"Disaster-responsive donors used the Web as a channel for giving in greater numbers than ever before," the report said.

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