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  • Online Giving Flat In 2018, Open Rates Dropped

    Online revenue grew by an average of just 1 percent last year, down from 23 percent growth in 2017 and the first time in 13 years of the M+R Benchmarks Study that growth was in the single digits. The 71-page report, released today, analyzed 4.4 million emails sent to 37.5 million email addresses, more than 7 million online gifts and $376 million raised by 135 nonprofits.

    “What we saw was a really extraordinary spike in 2017. That growth was not able to be maintained but we didn’t lose any ground either,” said Will Valverde, creative director at consulting firm M+R. “One way to think about it: 2018 growth just showed up a year earlier,” he said, looking over the past five years of data. There were probably lots of things that impacted the flat online revenue growth, Valverde said, and not just one simple explanation. It could have been the political reaction to the 2016 election, changing donor behaviors in light of new tax laws, or other factors.

    “It’s a surprise in a sense because we never reported a number like that. Every other time, we’ve reported double-digit growth,” Valverde said. “For those of us who’ve been fundraising day after day through 2018, after end-of-year that a lot of nonprofits had, with December not meeting expectations for lots of groups, it’s not a shock,” he said. What helped to stabilize online revenue in 2018 was the steady expansion of monthly giving revenue, according to Valverde, which increased 17 percent. Also a key element in 2018 figures was online donor retention.

    Overall, 37 percent of donors who made a gift online in 2017 donated online again to that nonprofit in 2018, about 3 percent less than in 2017. Only one in four new donors who made their first online gift in 2017 repeated the gift, compared with prior online donors whose retention rate was 59 percent. This year’s study also looked at the distribution of donors and revenue by donor level.

    Donors who gave at least $250 accounted for 17 percent of all gifts during 2018 and 57 percent of revenue, according to the study. Only 10 percent of donors who made gifts of less than $25 in 2017 gave again in 2018, according to the report. Retention rates increased as the size of gifts increased, peaking with donors in the $250 to $499 range who had a retention rate of 54 percent. Again, monthly giving had a hand in boosting those numbers as well. The average one-time gift was $123, compared to the average monthly gift of $23, which would work out to $276 over 12 months.

    Email revenue decreased by 8 percent but still accounted for 13 percent of all online giving. For every 1,000 email appeals sent, nonprofits raised an average of $45. Email lists still saw growth, up 5 percent, with nonprofits sending 4 percent more fundraising emails than in 2017, with 14 percent churn.

    Open rates were 15 percent, down 4 percent since 2017. Response rates were down even more, 13 percent for fundraising emails to 0.06 percent, and 15 percent for advocacy emails, to 1.8 percent. For the first time, the study analyzed almost 33,000 unique Facebook Fundraisers. The vast majority of Facebook revenue in 2018 was via Facebook Fundraisers, a peer-to-peer tool that exploded last year, accounting for 99 percent of all nonprofit revenue processed on Facebook. For every $100 in direct online revenue, nonprofits raised an additional $1.77 via Facebook.

    Health nonprofits in particular took advantage of Facebook Fundraisers, receiving $29.88 via the tool for every $100 received in direct online revenue, far ahead of other categories. The average gift for health nonprofits was $37 and the number of Facebook Fundraisers per organization was highest, by far, at 690. Three of the seven subsectors averaged more than 100, with the next closest being rights groups at 132.

    The average number of gifts to an individual Facebook Fundraiser was 7.4, the only outlier there were rights groups, at an average of 9.5. Almost one quarter of the revenue raised via Facebook was during November, likely due to #GivingTuesday. Otherwise, the percent of Facebook-related revenue raised in each month ranged from 5.17 percent to 8.51 percent.

    When it came to social media, for every 1,000 email subscribers, the average nonprofit in the study had:

    * 806 Facebook fans, up 6 percent;

    * 286 Twitter followers, up 26 percent; and,

    * 101 Instagram followers, up 34 percent.

    Also for the first time, the study examined membership and ticket revenue, which saw a pretty significant shift toward online than the previous year, Valverde said.

    “Membership giving followed a similar trajectory to other kinds of online revenue. After robust 21 percent growth in 2017, nonprofits saw a 5 percent increase in membership revenue in 2018,” according to the report.

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  • Give OUT Day Raised $1.1 Million for LGBTQ Nonprofits

    Give OUT Day ( — the only national day of giving for the LGBTQ community — raised more than $1.1 million for greater than 475 participating nonprofits.

    Held on April 18, Give OUT Day raised $1,132,970 for nonprofits from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and for the first time, Puerto Rico. Give OUT Day also broke its previous record for number of donations made through the campaign at nearly 14,000.

    Give OUT Day is organized by Horizons Foundation (, based in San Francisco, Calif.

    “The record-breaking success of Give OUT Day demonstrates the incredible power of our communities when we come together,” stated Horizons Foundation President Roger Doughty. “Never before have so many nonprofits raised so much through a single-day campaign to power the LGBTQ movement. Theses nonprofits — from youth groups to senior centers, from choruses to advocacy groups, from nonprofits in Alaska to Puerto Rico — are now better equipped to advance a world where LGBTQ people thrive,” concluded Doughty.

    One of the participating organizations was The Source LGBT+ Community Center in Visalia, Calif. The Source has participated in Give OUT Day every year since 2016, growing its success each year. In 2017, The Source secured enough individual donors to win second place on the national leaderboard for small-budget organizations, earning additional prize money. The next year, they took first prize, which helped fund a move to a larger building for their organization to provide critical community services.

    The Source has grown rapidly, this year moving to the medium-budget category – and winning first prize yet again. Funds raised on Give OUT Day this year will go toward their critical youth programs.

    In addition to the funds raised by individuals, Horizons Foundation, with support from other foundation partners, awarded leaderboard prizes worth nearly $100,000. Prizes were awarded to organizations that raised funds from the greatest number of individual donors in multiple categories.

    Give OUT Day leaderboards were sponsored by Laughing Gull Foundation, Harnisch Foundation, Horizons Foundation, and two anonymous funders. Additional Give OUT Day sponsors and partners include Lesbians for Good, Click & Pledge, Clever, and The Blade Foundation.

    Give OUT Day has provided unrestricted operating funds to organizations since its inception in 2013. More than 58,000 individual donors’ contributions have exceeded $6 million and supported more than 600 different organizations in every part of the country.

    Next year’s Give OUT Day is scheduled for April 16, 2020.

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  • Sponsorship Is Not A Philanthropic Activity

    When it comes to sponsorships, it’s about audience, not cause, for most businesses that fundraisers approach. Fundraisers need to stop thinking of sponsorship as philanthropy. It’s a straight line from sponsorship opportunity to audience to prospect for the potential sponsor.

    Chris Baylis, president and chief executive officer of The Sponsorship Collective in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, talked about the deadly sins of sponsorship recently during a session at the annual Association of Fundraising Professionals’ annual international conference in San Antonio, Texas.

    Sponsors really don’t exist and often the cause is irrelevant to the decision of whether or not to sponsor an event. According to Baylis, cause is important to the nonprofit’s audience and that audience is important to the sponsorship prospect. Fundraisers should use the cause to attract and define your audience and your audience to define and attract a prospect. It’s about bringing the prospect to their potential audience via your cause.

    It is not a coincidence that the sponsors of this conference all happen to sell products to charities, Baylis told the fundraisers. It’s all about audience.

      The lack of valuation of the event will hurt the solicitation. There are five elements of which to be aware, according to Baylis.

    • Start with the question “How would my sponsor get this exposure without me?”;
    • Logo placement equals awareness via small ads in publications targeting your audience;
    • If the sponsor wants an email address, how much will it cost them to get an email address without you?;
    • Sampling? Look to events attracting the same audience as a starting point; and,
    • Run a social media campaign.
      And when you land that meeting with a potential sponsor, ask these five questions:

    1. Who is your target audience?
    2. What does your target market value?
    3. What can you tell me about your sales goals for the coming year?
    4. What would you consider to be the most important elements of a sponsorship package?
    5. Tell me about a time a sponsorship deal went well/didn’t go well. Why?

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  • Woman Murdered After Nonprofit Posts Man’s Bail

    Bail went from $5,000 to $1 million for a man who allegedly murdered his spouse shortly after a nonprofit posted his bail on a domestic violence case.

    Samuel Lee Scott, 54, of Saint Louis, Mo., was arrested for domestic assault, a misdemeanor, after allegedly hitting his wife, Marcia Johnson and inflicting injuries to her face, ear and cheek bone. Scott was released from jail after the St. Louis Bail Project posted his bond.

    That night he allegedly went to her home around 7:45 p.m. According to the office of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner, she was assaulted again resulting in “a broken eye socket, several broken ribs, and (bruises) from head to toe.” She died five days later.

    The Bail Project is a national organization modeled after The Bronx Freedom Fund, which she co-founded by Robin Steinberg and David Feige in 2007. It expanded to St. Louis in January 2018 and has 13 offices, including a home base of Venice, Calif. Advisors to the organization include Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group and entertainer John Legend.

    Steinberg is also a Gilbert Foundation Senior Fellow of the Criminal Justice Program at UCLA School of Law where she works with faculty and students on bail reform initiatives and research.

    Gardner announced that she plans to meet with the nonprofit’s leaders “to review their policies and practices to help them better understand the risks to victims and witnesses when posting bail for any type of domestic violence cases or for any defendant who is a potential safety risk to an individual or to the community.”

    A spokesperson for The Bail Project did not return calls seeking comment. In a statement, Steinberg is quoted saying: “No one could have predicted this tragedy. It’s important to remember that had he been wealthy enough to afford his bail, or bonded out by a commercial bail bond agency, he would have been free pretrial as well. In times like this, we must come together for this family and keep sight of the need to transform the larger systems that create poverty, racism and violence, including the pretrial bail system.”

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  • Being Folded Into Parent Firm

    The social enterprise of cloud software giant Salesforce is being melded back into the company and Salesforce is paying $300 million to make it happen. The firm has been selling customer or constituent relationship software at a discount or giving it away with nonprofits eventually paying various service fees. will convert from a California public benefit corporation into a California business corporation and Salesforce will pay a one-time cash purchase price of $300 million for all shares of The $300 million will be distributed to the independent Foundation, a California nonprofit public benefit corporation and 501(c)(3) organization.

    Salesforce announced it will continue to provide free and discounted software to nonprofits and education institutions and will facilitate employee volunteering, strategic grants and matching employee giving up to $5,000 per employee annually. Salesforce made the announcement during a call with investors and analysts on Monday and issued a press release.

    Salesforce will create a new nonprofit and education vertical led by CEO Rob Acker. The new vertical will be responsible for the sales, marketing and customer success of the Salesforce Customer Success Platform to the nonprofit and education communities, as well as the development of’s Nonprofit Cloud, Education Cloud and Philanthropy Cloud vertical applications. The company will make additional contributions to the Salesforce Foundation.

    The deal is subject to approval by the Attorney General of California. Upon the closing of the transaction, Salesforce will terminate its current reseller agreement between Salesforce and, and Salesforce will incur a one-time, non-cash accounting charge in the fiscal quarter in which the transaction closes.

    A spokesperson for Salesforce said the company can make no further comments until the deal is approved, which is expected in either June or July.

    Salesforce estimates that this non-cash charge will be approximately $200 million, but the final amount will not be determined until the closing of the transaction. Salesforce is a traded on the New York Stock Exchange with the symbol CRM. Salesforce stock opened Tuesday down $6.95 per share, about 4 percent from its 52-week high of $166.99.

    The combination with is expected to increase the company’s full year fiscal 2020 revenue by approximately $150 million to $200 million, depending on the transaction close date, according to the firm. During the conference call with investors and analysts, Salesforce’s Chief Financial Officer Mark Hawkins admitted that margins are smaller when dealing with nonprofits and the monthly subscription rate.

    “But it’s also going to be on a pathway and convergence over time to our overall Salesforce operating margin over the longer term,” Hawkins said during the call. Prices are expected to increase, although not immediately.

    Technology experts in the nonprofit sector have been expecting this type of move for some time. “The number of nonprofits using Salesforce has been accelerating, so it’s not a surprise to me at all that they want to bring into the main business,” said Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN, the Portland, Ore., nonprofit technology organization. “I hope that building an internal vertical for nonprofits and education will mean even more investment in the unique needs those sectors have, and an increased visibility across the other verticals of the power of the technology for social good,” she said.

    The deal could cut two ways, according to Karen Graham at Tech Impact, based in Philadelphia, Pa. “On one hand, this could open up access to product development resources at a level not seen before in It is part of a dawning realization across the tech sector that nonprofits are not just a feel-good investment, but a huge part of the economy — with formidable buying power. On the other, giving up their public benefit corporation status means will be accountable above all to Salesforce shareholders, not the good of society,” she said.

    Adam Martel, CEO and co-founder, of fundraising technology firm Gravyty in Boston, Mass., said that it’s an interesting deal, but might not be a bad thing for nonprofits. “Because was an actual 501(c)(3), it always felt like they were cost-constrained and struggling to achieve their full impact to empower both small and large NPOs (they were slow to build new products, slow to fill tech gaps, etc.), especially as they sat in the shadows of Salesforce’s hyper-growth.”

    Martel said his hope is that the deal will “finally provide full access to the robust resources of Salesforce that has made Salesforce such an impactful company. Since nonprofits are so price-sensitive and have an upper-limit to the amount of money they can spend on technology (within the realm of cost to raise a dollar metrics), I think that Salesforce has a great opportunity to improve their products quickly, serve more of the market and achieve greater scale which will increase their revenue and allow them to be directionally aligned with Salesforce investors.”

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  • Special Events: They Just Don’t Happen

    Planning a donor cultivation event takes time and planning. One element of the planning is why you are holding the event. You’d think it’s about the money. It isn’t.

    Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, spoke about donor cultivation events during the recent annual international conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals held in San Antonio, Texas. Often at donor cultivation events the rule is if you ask for money you’ll get advice but ask for advice and you’ll get money.

    Like plants, cultivation events just don’t happen, she told the audience. There are two things to keep in mind. You know the first one — donor acquisition is expensive so once you have a donor you keep to keep the person. The second element is that donors want to know how you’ve used their money.

    There are four reasons to have an event: To raise awareness of wider audience to your cause; to generate excitement about it; to get feedback from a specific sector of potential donors; and, to lay the groundwork for future cultivation.

    Your event plan requires a purpose. For example, the purpose could to be to build relationships with current donors, cultivate relationships with prospective donors, get advice from supporters, obtain media exposure, secure government funding, recruit volunteers or to increase clients, Lysakowski, who is based in Boulder City, Nev., told the audience. Through it all, you need to tell your story.

    There are seven steps to getting this all done. You must choose your audiences, determine your events, plan your schedule, secure your hosts, send your invitation, create your agenda and follow up.

    When it comes to the event host, your chief executive should be part of the show but probably shouldn’t host. Finding the perfect host might need some individual cultivation, too, she told the audience.

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  • Volunteer Time Value Hits All-Time High

    The value of a volunteer’s time hit an all-time high during 2018 at $25.43 an hour, up 3 percent from 2017. It’s an increase of 20.3 percent since 2008 when the rate was $20.25.

    An estimated 63 million Americans volunteer roughly 8 billion hours of their time, contributing approximately $203.4 billion in time to nonprofit organizations of all types. The data is from Independent Sector’s annual value of volunteer time study.

    The value of volunteer time is based on the hourly earnings approximated from yearly values of all production and non-supervisory workers on private, non-farm payrolls. It is based on averages of earnings provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The national average is increased 12 percent to estimate for fringe benefits. Independent Sector, in partnership with economic impact data firm IMPLAN in Huntersville, N.C., indexes this figure to determine state values.

    The value of volunteers in Washington, D.C., topped the list at $41.72 an hour with Mississippi last at $12.64. The study also total Puerto Rico with that value at $12.64 an hour. The full state-by-state breakout is available here

    “Volunteerism has been a driving force in the strength and power of our civil society since this country’s founding,” said Dan Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector in Washington, D.C. “We know that giving of our time, talent, and effort transforms organizations, communities, and our nation, and also has profound effects on the individuals giving their time. The Value of Volunteer Time gives us just one concrete measure to illustrate the power of individuals to transform communities.”

    Total volunteer hours are up, but the percentage of people who volunteer is declining. According to the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute, the volunteer rate nationally has dropped from about 29 percent to roughly 25 percent. Based on an adult population of 252 million, that means a decrease of more than 10 million American volunteers.

    The national volunteer rate isn’t the only thing going down, said Cardinali via a LinkedIn post. He wrote: “The giving rate is dropping at the same time – down from 67 percent in 2000 to 56 percent in 2014. Total dollars are up, which is a good thing, but only because the most affluent Americans are giving more and not because more Americans are giving, and that’s not a good thing. Whether it’s giving or volunteering, you want to see everyone participating in civil society — you want to see everyone saying, ‘I have a stake in my community and I’m committed to doing what I can to make this a better place’.”

    Cardinali wants Congress to hike the volunteer mileage reimbursement rate. “Businesses can reimburse their employees at a rate of 54.5 cents per mile, but volunteer mileage has been fixed at a mere 14 cents per mile for over two decades,” he wrote. “What does that say about the way we value volunteers? If you’re driving for business, every mile is 4 times more valuable than if you’re driving to make life better for another human being?”

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  • NPOs To Get First Crack Residential Real Estate

    Legislation that would put nonprofits at the front of the line to buy multi-family buildings in San Francisco is expected to easily win approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

    It’s called the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA). The right of first refusal would be given to nonprofits on multi-family buildings which landlords would have to post as available. The nonprofits would have five days to announce interest and then 25 days to put a deal together which involves the building’s current tenants. The nonprofit has the right to match a higher offer from a private buyer.

    The law is intended to be an affordable housing initiative in a city where rents are sky high. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to vote next week with at least 10 of the 11 elected officials announcing support for the plan, as reported by Backyard, a newsletter from the housing nonprofit Next City, based in Philadelphia, Pa.

    COPA is similar to the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act in Washington, D.C. Tenants have had the right of first refusal to buy the buildings they live in when their landlords are looking to sell since 1980.

    According to the website Rent Café, the average rent for an apartment in San Francisco is $3,609 per month and the average size is just 792 square feet. Some 93 percent of apartment rents in the city exceed $2,000 per month. The Presidio area is the most expensive at an average $4,881 per month and the Treasure Island area is the most affordable at an average $2,616 per month.

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  • 2019 Best Nonprofits To Work For

    “One thing we’re big on here is data analytics,” said Eric Dill, senior vice president, human resources, at American Arbitration Association (AAA). Just don’t call it “Moneyball” for nonprofits.

    “We may have great ideas but we need to sell that to a wide group of individuals,” he said. Senior executives and leadership have a global view while finance executives focus on whether it demonstrates actual cost savings. “They can analyze data all they want; it’s the actionable side of it,” Dill said.

    The New York City-based nonprofit focused on alternative dispute resolution was among a number of organizations that secured a spot in the 2019 Best Nonprofits To Work For in its first year of participation in the 11th annual national study. AAA ranked No. 49 overall and fifth among large organizations (250 employees or more).


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  • Community Brands Buys Attendee Interactive

    Community Brands has made its third acquisition in the nonprofit event space in just the past two weeks, acquiring Attendee Interactive, a Marriottsville, Md., company specializing in conference planning and event management.

    Attendee Interactive provides content solutions for managing event websites, speakers, session abstracts, and continuing education accreditation. The self-service tools are made available to both attendees and exhibitors, allowing event planners to maximize time, staff productivity, and budgets.

    The company also provides software to help manage the logistical aspects of events. Capabilities offered include management of function requirements, space diaries, staff time and schedules, vendors, as well as the ability to easily create event function books.

    This deal comes on the heels of St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Community Brands acquiring Core-apps in Arnold, Md., and TripBuilder Media in Westport, Conn. Financial details of the three deals were not released by Community Brands, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based provider of cloud and on-premises software and payment systems for associations, nonprofits, schools and faith-based groups.

    Core-apps and TripBuilder Media added capabilities for mobile event apps, attendee engagement, digital attendee wayfinding, and attendee tracking to the Community Brands event technology portfolio. Together with the capabilities of Attendee Interactive and the company’s existing event management solutions, the combined capabilities present one of the most comprehensive event technology offerings available.

    Attendee Interactive has existing product integrations with both Core-apps and TripBuilder Media, according to information from Community Brands. As a part of the integration, speaker and session abstract data from Attendee Interactive is integrated into the attendee touchpoints from Core-apps and TripBuilder Media.

    The integration is intended to save conference planners time and ensure that attendees are accessing the most up to date information about an event. In addition, onsite data gathered from Core-apps and TripBuilder Media can be made available in the online planner tool from Attendee Interactive, for a two-way sync between attendees and planners.

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