5 Ways to Drive Fundraising Performance and Revenue

By Jarrett O'Brien | May 2, 2019 | Fundraising, Nonprofit

 Kathy Laux, Grubhub Controller, giving words of thanks during her speech at a closing ceremony
Kathy Laux, Grubhub Controller, giving words of thanks during her speech at a closing ceremony.

What’s new in nonprofit fundraising in 2019? We surveyed over 300 fundraising professionals in the U.S., and found out the most productive ways to fundraise (based on time investment vs. revenue), that the amount of data and CRM adoption correlate to achieving (or missing) fundraising goals, and more.

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We also recently spoke with Eric Dayton and Ryan Nishimoto, two fundraising trailblazers from buildOn. Eric thinks about CRM all day long as the Director of Data at buildOn, while Ryan spends his time fundraising as the Director of Development. Keep reading to learn about effective fundraising strategies that helped buildOn grow total giving by 75%, and helped them grow online giving by 130%. I’ll spoil the secret for you: having a nonprofit Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) is vital to building a culture of philanthropy.

So, let’s jump right in. Here are the 5 ways you can breathe new oxygen (& revenue) into your mission:

Eric Dayton“Our strategy is to provide real time data to all stakeholders (staff, beneficiaries, donors), fostering a culture of embracing data as a source of true, proactive intelligence and ensure that forward-thinking, innovative behavior is always encouraged.”
–Eric Dayton, Director of Data Management, BuildOn

1. A balanced, measurable fundraising strategy

A focused fundraising strategy can help you double down in areas you know perform well, but first you need to be able to measure that performance. Ryan at buildOn uses a balanced fundraising scorecard approach to look into their past successes, see where they can improve, and predict future revenue.

A diverse fundraising portfolio is also beneficial, as we know from our Fundraising Productivity & Performance Report. For example, those that missed their fundraising goals had an average of 7.3 sources of revenue, and those that exceeded their goals averaged higher at 8.3 sources. One more source of income could make all the difference, but what new revenue source do you test next?

Below you can see how “productive” different revenue sources are also based on how much revenue each generates, and the average time staff invest in these activities per week.

Sources of revenue and time per week at nonprofits, based on 2019 research

2. A team approach to fundraising

buildOn manages all revenue sources on one platform for maximum productivity, with teams on the same page. Shared responsibility in driving funds that fuel your mission is a core component of creating a culture of philanthropy, which creates a shift within the organization. Everyone is capturing their conversations, communicating the same mission promise, citing the same impactful stories and data.

Ryan Nishimoto“Through our digital tools like NPSP and Classy, we are able to engage wide ranges of teams across geographical boundaries, while creating unique engagement plans based on their profile.”
–Ryan Nishimoto, Director of Development, buildOn

Ryan and his team uses the same moves management strategy with engagement plans for each individual donor, but also for corporate sponsors at the organizational level. And, Eric gets to see how everyone across all teams are following these plans.

The research report showed that when CRM is widely adopted throughout the organization, Fundraising professionals are more likely to indicate that they exceeded their fundraising goals last year. The difference in missing goals was even more apparent.

Graph from 2019 Nonprofit Fundraising Productivity and Effectiveness report

3. Meaningful, multi-threaded relationships improve fundraising

Strong relationships are another area of creating a culture of philanthropy, and buildOn suggested considering some questions to have a more holistic view of your supporters. Who is the donor behind the donor? What organizations do they work for and what do those organizations want? These questions are relevant to unlocking corporate grants and sponsorship, too.

    “buildOn believes that to build our movement we need our donors to be taken through an intentional process to steward them to become long-time supporters, and it involves steps which are specific to our donors based on their funding level and psychographic characteristics.”
    –Eric Dayton, Director of Data Management, buildOn

In Nonprofit Cloud, Eric has also set up levels that are based on actions and points that supporters take, or engagements they have with the team. This places a value on the level of connection with their mission, to understand where supporters are in the engagement curve.

Data on these relationships are key to success, yet only 26% of fundraising professionals considered their quality of data as “good.” And, the more data you have on donors and these relationships, the better your chance of exceeding your goals. Of those that had the more standard data types (1-4 different types), 50% of these organizations say they exceeded their fundraising goals last year. However, those with more types (5+), 63% of these organizations say they exceeded their fundraising goals. Good data quality supports raising more revenue.

Rebecca Woods, Grubhub employee, dancing with community members en route to a welcoming ceremony. A great example of an engaging experience!
Rebecca Woods, Grubhub employee, dancing with community members en route to a welcoming ceremony. A great example of an engaging experience!

4. Enable immersive & personalized supporter experiences

Another core component from a culture of philanthropy is seeing fundraising as engagement, both physical or digital today, and not as separate activities. Supporters want to be educated, entertained, escape their day to day, or experience something beautiful (esthetic). These four E’s that define the four realms of experience comes from an HBR article from the consumer lives in 1998, but expectations have shifted in our giving lives some time ago also.

    “Our participants not only get to immerse themselves in the experience, culture, and emotion of our programs, but are also able to revisit those same points through photos/video AND see the real impact they are making through the data we share at a steady cadence after the primary experience. They are connected and driven emotionally and analytically.”
    – Ryan Nishimoto, Development Director, BuildOn
Karen Mettling, Spirit Aerosystems software engineer and volunteer, passing bricks on a worksite

Karen Mettling, Spirit Aerosystems software engineer and volunteer, passing bricks on a worksite

Community members and Spirit Aerosystems employees after a game of "Net Ball"

Community members and Spirit Aerosystems employees after a game of “Net Ball”




As Ryan points out, the experience for today’s donors matters deeply to them. Donors also care about the impact of their investment. buildOn looks at these experiences holistically, the skills of donors they want to leverage, and how that comes to life from a peer-to-peer or a corporate supporter (who can be the same people!).

They are able to deliver personalized impact reports to their supporters that show the impact of if they invest, but also the results of their specific investment, but get them to give again.

buildOn’s personalized impact dashboard on literacy for a specific funder
buildOn’s personalized impact dashboard on literacy for a specific funder

One hurdle in creating customized digital and physical experiences is when not everyone has access to the same data. That is, when nonprofits don’t all use CRM internally across departments, it’s harder to tie programs to results to fundraising campaigns. Most respondents in a recent survey used CRM in fundraising, but not in other departments. This is a missed opportunity to create personalized experiences for all your constituents.

Graph of what nonprofit departments use CRM

5. Support productive, happy employees with modern tools

Keeping nonprofit staff happy, minimizing turnover, and maximizing new hire efficiency are also very important. Nobody likes using outdated tools, forced to do busy-work instead of impact-work. Imagine being that new fundraising professional starting at your organization, only to be handed a binder, spreadsheet, or partial list in an old database. Younger generations expect modern tools, and more experienced professionals need to know the latest time-saving tricks and ways of leveraging technology to scale their efforts.

    “Data has become the cornerstone of our 3 Year Strategic Plan as we have focused on replacing redundant administrative processes with real-time automated solutions for better program execution, deeper evaluation, stronger demonstration of program impact and financial transparency and ownership.”
    –Eric Dayton, Director of Data Management, buildOn

It’s no wonder that 81% of respondents who use CRM on their phones reported being satisfied with the user experience of their organizations’ CRM system, yet for those who do not use any mobile capabilities, only 59% of respondents were satisfied.

So the question we can all ask ourselves is, where are our largest opportunities to go beyond just fundraising and build a culture of philanthropy? To leverage CRM and data in new ways to exceed our goals? Building on buildOn’s success, in which of these five areas can you improve to ensure you’re one of those nonprofits that exceeds your fundraising goals in 2019?

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