Fundraising, ROI and the mother of all health warnings…

Why for many, data around fundraising and ROI (Return on Investment) is thoroughly unpalatable….

When discussing a possible fundraising benchmarking project with my peers, it was clear that many people did not want to engage at all.

Maybe they had been burned before by well-meaning but misinformed leaders who had set them an unrealistic target based on an idea of what good looks like?

Maybe they recognise the huge diversity in factors which can make or break fundraising and believe that boiling these factors down to a single figure is too simplistic?

I completely understand their concerns and respect their decision not to participate.

Charities, like all businesses can be complicated beasts.  Extrapolating the correct information about exactly where money is being raised and spent is challenging for many reasons:

  • division of an individual fundraisers’ time (not necessarily equally) between different disciplines
  • where despite all best efforts, income cannot necessarily be classified as being from one source over another
  • where support staff are working alongside multiple fundraisers and employees from a range of disciplines
  • where fundraising staff are pulled away from direct fundraising tasks
  • where investment in a specific area takes many years to manifest

For large organisations, this task inevitably becomes harder.  Cross departmental working, layers of management based in multiple locations and fundraising as a team sport make measuring the origin of a gift and the money spent in order to achieve it almost impossible.

Whether we work for large or small organisations all of us are subject to our own definitions, subjective views and justifications for why we spend our time on the things we do.

The UK Fundraising Benchmarking 2019 report is available to download here.

I ask anyone reading this report to take the findings lightly and to use them alongside information about your own organisations.

It’s useful, but it’s not definitive.  It’s not perfect (it was never going to be) but it’s a start and we hope, the start of something bigger….

Thanks for reading,


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