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Fundraisers’ Confidence Soars In New Survey

Fundraisers are the most optimistic about giving and prospects for the future than they have been since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being “least confident” and 10 being “most confident”), fundraisers reported an average confidence level of 8.04 for reaching their 2021 fundraising.

That is a big up-tick from September 2021 when the confidence level was 7.63 and 6.52 in September 2020. 

The reactions were to questions asked by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in its Fundraising Confidence Survey. The survey, conducted in late December 2021 and early January 2022, asked questions regarding how confident fundraisers are in various aspects of their fundraising work and what they see ahead in terms of trends and challenges. The survey looked at fundraising trends and expectations for both the last half of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

“It’s not a surprise that we’re seeing higher confidence in fundraisers as the charitable sector and the entire world slowly but surely moves out of ‘pandemic mode’ and transitions into a new normal,” said Mike Geiger, MBA, CPA, president and CEO of AFP.

Confidence in direct mail as a fundraising tool plunged in the eyes of respondents. Direct mail was selected by 50% or more of respondents as a priority in previous surveys and was the highest priority for fundraisers in September 2021. However, in December 2021, just 26.5% of respondents selected direct mail as a priority for the next three months, 30.2% during the next six months, and 35.2% during the next 12 months. 

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“This is the most significant change we’ve ever seen in the Fundraising Confidence Survey data so far,” said Kevin J. Foyle, CFRE, MBA, chair of AFP. “My sense is that there are two reasons for this shift. First, there is a cycle with direct mail, with many charities relying on it significantly at the end of the year, so we expect to see a drop in priority with a new year. Second, as we continue to move out from the pandemic, there are now greater opportunities for in-person donor cultivation and solicitations, so it’s likely that direct mail will decrease in priority overall throughout 2022. That will be a trend we’ll be following closely in future surveys,” according to Foyle, who is also senior vice president for development and public affairs and chief development officer for the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth Houston).

Hiring, Investing in Capacity 

The confidence that fundraisers have in their organizations’ capacity to hire staff and invest in fundraising infrastructure and capacity is also high. Optimism about hiring and increasing capacity was 5.64 for the first quarter of 2022, significantly greater than the 4.76 confidence level a year ago for the first quarter of 2021. 

The optimism extended when looking at the next six months of 2022 (6.23 now compared with the level of 4.28 a year ago) and the next 12 months (6.78 now compared to 6.06 a year ago). 

When asked specifically if their organizations are planning to hire in the next three months, the trend flattens but is still higher than a year ago. One-third of respondents (33%) indicated that their organization would be looking to hire fundraising staff over the next three months, the same level as September 2021. However, that figure is higher than the survey from December 2020, when just 19% indicated their organization would be hiring. 

Future Fundraising Priorities 

From a list of 11 categories, respondents were asked to choose the three areas they were going to increase their fundraising efforts most during the next three months, six months, and 12 months. 

Donor retention was identified as the biggest priority, as it has been in most versions of the Fundraising Confidence Survey. More than 6 in 10 respondents (62%) selected it as a priority during the next three months, 56.9% as a priority during the next six months, and 56.5% as a priority for the next 12 months. 

The major gifts area was the second most important, selected as a priority during the next three months by 54.5%, over the next six months by 59.5%, and over the next 12 months by 61%. 

Telemarketing remains the lowest priority (a priority for 1% of respondents over the next three months and a priority for approximately 3% of respondents over the next six and 12 months), followed by donor-advised funds (12.3% for the next three months, 13.8% for the next six months and 18.7% over the next 12 months), which have stayed relatively the same in priority over the last year. 

This article was originally published by The NonProfit Times. It is reprinted with permission. 

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