2011 – 2012 Academic Year Fundraising Outlook

2011 – 2012 Academic Year Fundraising Outlook

August 5th, 2011

By Kris Kindelsperger


August marks the practical beginning of the fundraising year for education institutions and others that are on a fiscal year beginning in June or July.

So what does the coming year look like from a fundraising perspective?

We don’t hear many development staff believing that 2011-2012 is going to be dramatically better. A slower than expected economic recovery, continued high unemployment, and the remaining uncertainty around a whole range of fiscal policy issues don’t do much to suggest that this will be a banner year in fundraising, at least based on donor confidence.

In our observation many annual fund programs have been holding their own and, in some cases, growing modestly.

Donors are not abandoning the organizations that they have funded over time.

Attracting new donors is a challenge, and our research on millennial donors suggests ever more sophisticated strategies will be required to secure them as donors.

Designated giving continues to be popular. Giving online, and the use of social media are all growing though not at the rate some had projected just a few years ago. Most institutions find they need to “do it all” – mail, phonathon, social media, online giving, and personal visitation to get the job done.

Major gifts are a bit trickier. Donor confidence continues to wax and wane, and a gift officers continue to hear some variance of:  “I’m not sure this is the best time; I’m waiting to see if my business recovers; I’m waiting to see what the market will do, My broker is cautioning me to go slow.”

I’m not sure you would define this phenomenon as exactly “stalling techniques” but the decision making that goes into making major gifts -particularly lead and large major gifts – is definitely impacting the timelines of campaigns and other time-sensitive fundraising projects.

Capital fundraising, especially for new buildings, seems to have lost much of its luster with more and more individuals and foundations focusing on programs and endowment.

Planned gifts are an increasing part of the mix of larger commitments.  Extended payment schedules (up to 10 years or more) as well as structured gifts that don’t mature until the donor’s death are frequently negotiated to reach high 6 figure and 7 figure gifts.

These realities do not seem to be dampening the expectations of nonprofit leaders or boards.  The pressure to raise more and more remains strong. 

Our advice is to take a deep breath, plan well, be assertive, try new techniques, and continue to build personal relationships with your organization. 

People and organizations are still giving and still giving generously.  But staff and volunteers alike need to be prepared that minus a “lightening strike,” geometric growth in fundraising results may not be in the cards for 2011-12.

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