JGA Counsel

authentic and strategic philanthropic consulting

Posts Tagged ‘research study’

Mar 2014 | Are You Investing Enough in Your Hospital Foundation?

by Andy Canada


The Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) recently released a report tantalizingly titled “Optimal Investment Levels in Health Care Fundraising for Chief Development Officers.” AHP members can download the report at www.AHP.org.

This report essentially probed the key question for any fundraising executive in health care, “How much should I be spending to raise money?”  Generally speaking the answer to that question has always been, “It depends.”

And while the AHP report does not give an exact answer, it does provide some illuminating stats that should make many staff and volunteer leaders in health care organizations around the country reexamine their investments in fundraising.

The AHP report identified high performers by combining the upper quartile of respondents to their annual survey and participants in their benchmarking service. They then utilized a sophisticated regression analysis to evaluate the impact of different types and levels of investment in fundraising among this group.  The median net production revenue among these high performers was $13 million in 2012.

The study concluded that several key investment thresholds were met by most high performing institutions in their sample.  For hospitals and foundations in the U.S., those were:

  • Utilizing seven or more FTE in fundraising;
  • Investing $800,000 or more in salaries for those employees;
  • Retaining experienced staff with at least five to seven years of experience; and
  • Achieving average gift levels of $535 or more.

The report is quick to point out that its findings should not be the sole data point used to evaluate any one foundation’s best strategy, but it does provide some thought provoking points.

For example, the study’s authors point to one participating foundation at a large hospital that currently utilizes three full-time employees with combined salaries of $200,000 to raise an annual net revenue of $682,000. By any measure, this is an efficient operation that is doing good work for the organization it supports.

The authors of this study suggest, however, that they are essentially leaving money on the table.  The regression model developed through the study suggests that based on the reported success of its peers, that foundation could add three to four FTE and likely double its net revenue and ultimately its support to the hospital.

The findings of this study reinforce what so many of us already know – that fundraising, when done well, is an incredibly productive investment.  When an organization is able to invest in a sufficient number of experienced professionals to share their story and build lasting relationships with donors, the results are significant and positive.

Feb 2014 | CAE Reports Record Giving to Colleges and Universities in 2013

by Jeff Small


The Council for Aid to Education (CAE) released the annual results of its Voluntary Support for Education (VSE) survey earlier this month. The good news for colleges and universities is that charitable giving to higher education continues to rebound from the deep dive it experienced during the recession.

The VSE estimates that colleges and universities received a record $33.8 billion in 2013. This is a nine percent increase from 2012 and is up 20 percent from the low point of giving during the recession. Donors and institutions have also shown signs of moving back into an aspirational mode with giving to capital purposes rising at nearly double the rate of giving to current operations (6.9 percent vs 12.4 percent).

During the recession, institutions and donors helped to blunt the impact of the drop in giving by shifting gifts away from longer term capital projects and focusing instead on current operating costs. Giving in both areas has rebounded in the past two years, but there has been at least some sense that some signs of growth were corrections in that pattern.

Taken as a whole, the significant overall giving increase, the growth of gifts to current operations at a rate well above inflation, and the rapid increase in giving for capital purposes should give college and university leaders confidence. It seems donors are once again ready to engage and invest in the present needs and the future goals of their institutions.

These results align with a number of other objective economic and charitable indicators, as well as our own experience here at JGA. Consumers, donors, foundations, corporations, and nonprofit organizations have begun to accept that the economic recovery, while not overwhelming, is real.

While these results are extremely promising, the VSE report once again found a troubling decline in alumni participation rates. Only 8.2 percent of alumni gave to their alma maters in 2013, a slight decrease from the 9.2 percent who gave in 2012.

While the year-to-year decrease is not huge, it continues the consistent downward trend in alumni participation that has been occurring since the early 1990s. The impact of this decline has been mediated in part by the fact that the average giving by alumni has increased, it still presents a long term problem for what is the core source of support for colleges and universities.


Dec 2013 | Are You Million Dollar Ready?


by Angela White


One of things I value most about JGA as a firm is that we are committed to not just serving our clients well but also to strengthening the field of philanthropy and empowering all nonprofits to make the world a better place.  Supporting and conducting original research on fundraising best practices is one way that we pursue this part of our mission.

In that vein, I am proud to announce the results of our most recent research project, “Million Dollar Ready: Assessing the institutional factors that lead to transformational gifts.” This report probes the organizational and board-level factors that encourage gifts of a $1 million or more to colleges and universities in the United States.

Unlike most research on major gift fundraising that focuses largely on donor perceptions and motivations, our study examines what impact a number of key qualities of the institutions themselves have on the number and value of these transformational gifts.   

We know the difference million dollar gifts can make in helping an institution realize its educational vision. Yet, according to this study, less than one in three degree-granting institutions in the U.S. received a publicly-announced gift of a million dollars or more during the twelve-year study period. It is important for institutions to learn how to make themselves “million dollar ready” as they work to increase their relationships with donors capable of making such transformative gifts.

This report is a collaborative venture of JGA and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and is based on a unique data set that combines information on million dollar gifts from the Million Dollar List with a number of other data sources, as well case studies of institutions with a history of success in generating these large gifts.

We know there is no magic formula for receiving large gifts, other than perhaps listening to and building positive relationships with donors over time. But this report identifies, among other findings, that presidential tenure, board giving, rankings, and investments in faculty and staff are indicative of organizations that receive transformational gifts.

The Million Dollar Ready report examines the impact of a number of institutional characteristics on million dollar gifts, including:

  • Presidential tenure;
  • Board giving;
  • Alumni giving;
  • Enrollment;
  • Employee expenses;
  • Ratio of tenured to non-tenured faculty;
  • Endowment value;
  • Institution type and age; and
  • Location.

A special Implications section in the report provides institutions advice and takeaways to consider as they work to strengthen their ability to attract million-dollar donations. Download theExecutive Summary or the full Million Dollar Ready Report, to learn how your organization can become Million Dollar Ready.












Nov 2013 | Could your Facebook likes be costing you donations?

by Jeff Small


recent study by Canadian researchers suggests that not all social media engagement is good engagement if your ultimate goal is to cultivate donations. The study serves as an important reminder that your ultimate goal in any donor contact should be to nurture relationships.

In this study, researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business tested how different types of online interactions with potential donors impact their future donative decisions. 

Researchers offered different groups of participants different ways to show support for a cause without making a monetary contribution. Some were asked to join a group on Facebook, while others could receive a pin or magnet supporting the cause, and others were given the opportunity to sign an online petition in support of the organization.  Later, they were all given an opportunity to contribute financially to the organization. 

Researchers found that those who provided a public show of support (i.e. through Facebook) were less likely to make a contribution than those whose opportunity had been more private (i.e. signing an online petition others might not see).  The study’s authors speculate that when potential donors have opportunities to show support for a cause without a contribution, they feel less pull to make a statement through financial support. 

In other words, if they get credit in their social group for being charitable when they “like” your organization or join a charitable sounding Facebook group, potential donors don’t feel the need to show they’re charitable with their wallets.

Organizations that ignore social media as an opportunity to engage potential supports do so at their own peril, but as this study shows, not every interaction on social media will ultimately advance your fundraising strategy – and in some cases they just might be counterproductive. 

There are without a doubt success stories of organizations gaining attention, reaching new audiences, and attracting new donors through social media.  This study’s findings, however, should remind us that just like direct mail, phone solicitations, or in-person fundraising, our goal with any fundraising technique should be to nurture relationships that will support an organization over the long-term, not merely to chalk up another contact.

Oct 2013 | Implement a Generational Fundraising Strategy

by Dan Schipp


More than twenty years ago I began keeping a file on generations and their attitudes and practices toward giving.  It’s a topic that has generated a lot of research and discussion over the years.  My file is quite thick.

The most recent addition to my file is “The Next Generation of American Giving:  The Charitable Habits of Generations Y, X, Baby Boomers, and Matures”.  This August 2013 report summarizes research commissioned by Blackbaud.  It builds on another study funded by the software company in 2010.

The Blackbaud study examined the giving habits of four generations of Americans:  Generation Y (born between 1981 — 1995), Generation X (born between 1965 — 1980), Baby Boomers (born between 1946 — 1964) and Matures (born 1945 or earlier).  The online survey of 1,014 U.S. donors was conducted in mid-May of this year.

There is a lot of helpful information in The Next Generation of American Giving”.  I encourage you to read the full report.  To pique your interest in the Blackbaud-sponsored study, here are five of the ten key findings as reported in “The Next Generation of American Giving”:

1.      Baby Boomers will exert an outsized influence on giving for the foreseeable future.  Although Boomers represent a third of all adults who give, they contribute 43% of all charitable dollars.

2.      Multichannel engagement and solicitation of donors is the new normal.  While all generations are multi-channel in their communications habits, the ideal mix varies from generation to generation.

3.      Direct mail is far from dead, but it won’t last forever. Generations Y and X are far more likely to give online, and as many Baby Boomers say they give online as much as via direct mail.

4.      Generation Y donors have distinct preferences in regard to the causes they support with children’s causes being their top charitable interest.  Generation Y donors also are more likely to demand accountability and transparency than older donors.

5.      The value of some channels (e.g. social media) is understated if measured by transaction metrics only, as opposed to by engagement.

For some time now we have known that the “one size fits all” approach does not work when it comes to generational fundraising strategy.  “The Next Generation of American Giving” report underscores the added necessity of a multichannel approach for all generations. 

As you develop your generational fundraising strategy, make sure you are collecting birth dates for your donors so you can track donor behavior generationally.  Then focus on the right mix of communication and fundraising strategies for each generational group of donors.

Oct 2013 | Generational Philanthropy

 by Angela White


As we work with donors, we ask ourselves how we can help foster multi-generational giving within families and strive to find meaningful ways to engage children and grandchildren in charitable giving. 

Intuitively, we believe that parents who lead by example by making their own charitable gifts will raise children who will be philanthropic. Yet, until now we really didn’t have any proof of this intuition nor did we know what actually works in teaching children to be philanthropic.

Newly released research from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in partnership with the United Nations Foundation answers the question, “How can I raise my children to be charitable?”

This ground-breaking research, Women Give 2013, found common themes across all income levels, races, and age groups – and has also found that there is no statistically significant differences between girls’ and boys’ giving.

The research found that parents’ giving to charity is not enough to teach children to be charitable. Teaching children to be charitable requires parents to put an intentional plan together to talk to their children about giving to charity. The role modeling alone does not make the difference without coupling the giving with deliberate conversations about their philanthropic actions.

Parents need to communicate specific and focused messages about those whom they are helping with their charitable giving and explain how giving impacts the lives of others. The critical outcome of this research is that all children, regardless of race, gender, age, and income level, can learn to be philanthropic.

The study concludes with this powerful statement:

Talking about charitable giving is more effective than simply role-modeling charitable behavior. As conversations about philanthropy, including why, how, and when we give, become more ingrained within families, children’s giving will increase. The significant findings in Women Give 2013 show great promise for the future of philanthropy.


Aug 2013 | 3 Ways to Promote Your Nonprofit Cause on Twitter

by Angela White


Many of us use social media to keep connected with friends and family and to promote causes that are important to us. In our busy lives, social media opportunities offer us quick and easy ways to stay in touch.  It’s the same for your potential volunteers and donors.

In a recent blog by Caryn Stein of Network for Good, she references a Pew Research Center study that shows 72% of all adults online now use social media. Caryn notes that even those 50 and older have joined the social media band wagon with about 60% of internet users 50 to 64 using social media and 43% of those 65 and older. The Pew report identifies the percentage of internet users who are on Twitter has more than doubled since November 2010, currently standing at 18%.

As a guest blogger for Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, I recently shared how I use Twitter as donor and volunteer as a source of information that goes beyond connecting me with others and actually helps me make smart volunteer and giving choices.

So here are ways your nonprofit organization can use Twitter to help you attract supporters who are trying to decide where to spend their time and invest their philanthropic funds:

1.       Talk about issues that matter to your supporters – Share information that address causes that your audience cares about and be a source by retweeting the latest information in your areas of interest. Tweet links to articles or sources of additional information and share those with your audience. These types of retweets can help you grow your own list of followers. For example, I follow my alma mater, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College @smwc to find out information about issues impacting education, especially women’s education.

2.       Share what is happening in your community – Twitter users share information and news in real time. It presents a perfect opportunity to share immediate needs for both funds and volunteer opportunities. This allows your Twitter followers to sample the types of nonprofit experiences your organization offers. They can also respond to an immediate need and then assess their engagement and desire to engage in the future. Make your tweets actionable and allow your followers to feel connected to your community. I follow our community foundation, the Central Indiana Community Foundation @CICFoundation, and our United Way @uwci, both examples of types of organizations in every community that share a broad knowledge of nonprofit needs.

3.       Become a local and international champion – I advise volunteers and donors to select leaders they admire and follow them on Twitter to see what nonprofits they endorse. The head of your organization can build a similar following by engaging on Twitter and advocating and sharing information about your cause and the issues surrounding it. Locally, I follow Ellen Rosenthal @museummaven, CEO of Conner Prairie, to learn about the role of history and STEM research (and Ellen tweets very interesting articles from the New York Times!).

So, when you click on that little blue bird, you can be growing your base of engaged and excited volunteers and donors. Send me a tweet @angelajga and let me know what you are doing to broaden your base of supporters.

Jul 2013 | Taking Stock of Philanthropic Trends


by Kris Kindelsperger


July is a month when the staffs of many of our clients take well-deserved vacations or take advantage of the slightly slower pace to conduct staff retreats and plan for the coming year.

Many of us are using the time to reflect on the data from the Giving USA 2013 and the annual Voluntary Support of Education survey. Unlike the incomprehensible sudden fits and starts in gas prices (which may be impacting your summer vacation plans), both reports show a slow, but generally encouraging growth.

While not yet returning to pre-recession highs, philanthropic support has continued to grow in recent years and grew 4% in 2011.   That’s not the impression one might get by listening to the business round up on the news or hearing the latest economic forecast.

One thing that particularly stuck me was that individuals still make up the overwhelming majority of philanthropic support.  We always knew that individuals “lead the pack” in giving each year, but of the total $298.42 billion that was contributed in 2011 (Giving USA), individuals, family foundations, and gifts made through estates made up 88 percent of the total.  That’s a truly amazing statistic.

As we take stock of the trends in philanthropy a moderate amount of enthusiasm is in order. Americans remain very philanthropic and generous in their support of all types of organizations. So as you enjoy your summer vacation, catch up on your backlogged reading list, and plan ahead, take heart that 2013 will likely be a strong philanthropic year.

Jun 2013 | Giving Grows in 2012

 by Jeff Small,
JGA Writer and Project Manager
and Giving USA Editorial Review Board Member


Giving USA released its annual estimates of charitable giving totals in the United States today. At JGA we believe these estimates are essential to understanding the trends that are driving philanthropic decisions and the overall landscape of giving. We are proud to have members of our firm participate on the board of the Giving Institute and the Giving USA Foundation, groups that have supported this annual tracking of giving for half a century.

Giving USA estimates that giving increased 3.5 percent in 2012 to just over $316 billion. This is the third consecutive year of positive growth in giving.

This string of growth would normally not be terribly notable since there have only been three years total in the past 40 in which overall giving in current dollars declined.  Unfortunately, two of those years of decline occurred in 2008 and 2009 as charitable giving fell off a metaphorical cliff during the Great Recession.

The good news is that despite that unprecedented precipitous fall, charitable giving appears to be rebounding in a somewhat standard fashion. The average growth over the past three years has tracked close to the 2.6 percent rate of growth seen in past three-year post-recession periods, so the unprecedented decline did not fundamentally alter the resiliency of charitable giving in the United States. 

The bad news is that when adjusted for inflation, we are still well below the high-water mark of $344 billion achieved in 2007.  At our current rate of growth, it will take at least another five years to reach that level again.

These findings continue to give us cause for optimism that the philanthropic recovery from the Great Recession has found stable footing.  They also remind us that as fundraisers, you must continue to commit yourselves to strong fundraising fundamentals and building relationships with individuals.  

Rising stock values and increasing consumer confidence and consumption are driving an overall reinvestment in the nonprofit sector, but how is it impacting your donors specifically?

Giving USA can’t give you that information. Those are the types of things you and your staff can only learn through personal connection and contact with your donors. This information, and these relationships, are extremely critical.  As Giving USA reminds us, 86 percent of donative decisions are being made by individuals, couples, and families through individual giving, bequests, and family foundation giving.

Other notable findings from Giving USA 2013 include: 

  • Giving by Foundations and Corporations are helping drive growth: Giving USA estimates that giving by corporations grew over 12 percent in 2012, and nearly 15 percent total over the past two years.  Giving by foundations has also shown double digit growth over the same two year period, increasing nearly 12 percent.  Giving by individuals, in contrast, grew 3.5 percent this year and just under 8 percent the past two years.


  • Stagnation of religious giving: Giving to religion appears to have fallen slightly in both current and inflation adjusted dollars.  While revised totals show a slight increase in giving to religion in 2011, the overall growth of giving to religion over the past two years has been slower than the sector as a whole and lags behind all other subsectors.


  • A return to earth for Giving to international affairs and giving to foundations: Giving to both international affairs and foundations have been on strong trajectories for a number of years, threatening to permanently realign the observed charitable priorities of Americans.  This year giving to foundations experienced a decline of 4.6 percent in current dollars, and international affairs grew only slightly at 2.5 percent.  At the same time, more traditional domestic priorities, like education, health, arts & culture, and the environment & animals grew more quickly than the sector as a whole.



Apr 2013 | Equipping Your Volunteers for Success


by Melanie Norton


Engaging donors and prospects in a volunteer capacity offers tremendous opportunities for many charitable organizations.  Not only are volunteers an invaluable resource in terms of their time and expertise, but The 2012 Bank of America Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy tells us that high net worth volunteers tend to give more, and more often, than those who don’t volunteer – especially to organizations where they feel their gift will have the largest impact.

Getting volunteers is one thing, but keeping them engaged in activity that is both meaningful and rewarding is another.  How many times have you heard development and alumni staff say that managing volunteers is a full-time job?  That may well be true, but it certainly doesn’t have to be a painful experience.

JGA does substantial work with organizations and their volunteers, particularly in terms of campaign work.  We find that some of the most basic rules apply in terms of engaging your volunteers and truly equipping them for success.  Think of your volunteers much like you would an employee you are going to hire:

  • Do you have a volunteer “job” description?
  • Are the goals, objectives and basic expectations for the work clearly outlined?
  • Do volunteers have a precise understanding of the time commitment involved?
  • What information, experience or training do they need to be equipped with to effectively perform their duties?
  • Who will assist and/or oversee the volunteers in their work?  Where do they turn for help?
  • What constitutes success not only for the organization, but for the volunteer?

You will find that doing some strong planning and ground work in the beginning of a project will reap a variety of benefits for your organization and go a long way in assuring satisfaction for your volunteers.  After all, these dedicated stakeholders are closest to your organization and are committing the most precious resource they can’t replace…their time.