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Fundraisers Who Use Academic Research Do Better – Study


Tuesday, 13th January 2015 at 10:19 am
Lina Caneva, Editor
Not for Profits that consult scientific studies on how best to approach donors and new fundraising strategies are more likely to raise more money, a new study in the US has found.

Tuesday, 13th January 2015
at 10:19 am
Lina Caneva, Editor


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Fundraisers Who Use Academic Research Do Better – Study
Tuesday, 13th January 2015 at 10:19 am

Not for Profits that consult scientific studies on how best to approach donors and new fundraising strategies are more likely to raise more money, a new study in the US has found.

More than 1,200 Not for Profit groups from the United States and Canada responded to a survey designed to learn how organisations use scientific findings and whether those that do had better results in 2014 than the previous year.

The study by the Science of Philanthropy Institute, a research center that operates out of the University of Chicago, found that organisations that reported a lift in donations— up to 29 percent —were more likely to regularly evaluate their fundraising methods than those who didn’t.

The study found that those that at least sometimes performed evaluations that incorporated scientific findings also were more likely to report an increase in donations.

But the report also showed evidence that about half of the Not for Profits that took part are not availing themselves of a growing body of scientific literature on fundraising.

The study found that some 51 per cent of organisations do not have staff that have formally studied or taken coursework about scientific research methods. Nearly 23 per cent have someone who understands the scientific method, while 24 per cent of organisations have some employees who understand some parts of the scientific method.

The study found that more than half of the organisations with budgets of less than $1 million do not have any staff members who understand at least some of the scientific method.

As well, more than 70 per cent of organisations with budgets of less than $250,000 are uncomfortable with or unable to assess the scientific rigor of a fundraising study.

The study found that less than 10 per cent of organisations deliberately sought out scientific research studies for information regarding effective fundraising methods when designing their campaigns and as many as forty percent said they sometimes used scientific research. Both groups reported increased fundraising results over the twelve month period.

The more than 50 percent that did not use any scientific research on fundraising when designing their campaigns showed a drop in fundraising revenue over the same period.

Attending conferences and listening to podcasts/reading online summaries are the most common sources for accessing scientific research studies on fundraising, the study found.

Research authors said the study showed that while some organisations are using the scientific method in designing their fundraising plans, many others are not.

“The Science of Philanthropy Initiative (SPI) and organisations like it need to continue to reach out to NFPs to educate them on how and why using scientific research methods in the design of their fundraising campaigns will lead to increased donations.

“We also need to work with NFPs to determine the roadblocks to using science in designing fundraising campaigns.”


Lina Caneva  |  Editor |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and Editor of Pro Bono Australia News since it was founded in 2000.

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