The Numbers Game: Understanding the Statistics for Non-Profit Giving

Among Mark Twain’s more famous quotations is this: “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” And yet, despite the writer’s keen observation, we place an unbelievably high premium on statistics in virtually every element of our lives. They impart infinite knowledge and insight into so much of the information we’re bombarded with every day, so much so that it’s hard to ignore their importance.


For non-profits, understanding and recognizing the importance of statistics is vital to their existence: organizations that dismiss them do so at their own peril. From donor retention rates to percentages detailing fundraising success or failure, social media likes to e-newsletter pass-ons, statistics, in the most basic sense, let them know if their efforts are being rewarded in monetary returns and supporter encouragement and engagement.

That said, the folks at Nonprofit Tech for Good have compiled a useful list of fundraising and social media stats that every organization should know, digest and take to heart when seeking monetary contributions and volunteers. Consider this:

  • 12 percent of all giving happens in the last three days of the year. Because of this, every non-profit should ensure that their year-end appeals are engaging and effective, and all avenues for accepting donations—websites, email, in-person etc.—are ready for the last-minute deluge.
  • 64 percent of all donations are made by women. This may be a hard stat to get one’s head around, but it’s important. Special campaigns that reach out to women may be a smart approach, or perhaps just building a female element into social media efforts is enough. But the figure is certainly thought provoking.
  • 50 percent of all charities use special events as a means of raising money. Is your organization leveraging the potential of an event, whether it’s a cocktail party, raffle, concert, banquet etc.? Having an event dedicated to fundraising is an opportunity for your supporters to feel truly engaged and see the difference their support is making in the most practical sense.
  • 72 percent of all charitable contributions are made by individuals, followed by foundations at 15 percent, bequests at 8 percent, and corporations 5 percent. So while it’s certainly important to keep the large business- and philanthropic-backed sources of support in your fundraising strategy, don’t do so at the expense of the single-person donor who is the backbone of your operating income.
  • 88 percent of dollars raised comes from 12 percent of an organization’s donors. If the principals of a non-profit ever doubted the importance of donor retention, this statistic should absolutely hit home. Ignoring the top tier of monetary supporters can spell doom for an organization’s bottom line.
  • Volunteers give twice as often to charity as non-volunteers. Considering this statistic, every non-profit should ask themselves if they are truly optimizing the power of the boots-on-the-ground volunteer. They can help disseminate your message through door-to-door engagement, provide back up for events and offer the time and talent you may be unable to provide with a paid employee.

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