The 2012 Cygnus Donor Survey Reports on US and Canadian Nonprofit Fundraising | Miratel Solutions

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The 2012 Cygnus Donor Survey Reports on US and Canadian Nonprofit Fundraising

I regularly write about reports and research conducted by nonprofit fundraising industry leaders and insiders that provide insight into giving and outreach trends like the latest Blackbaud Index or the Giving USA Annual Report for example. A while back, I wrote about the 2011 Cygnus Donor Survey which is a report based on the findings on research of both American and Canadian Donors by Cygnus Applied Research Inc. Now in its fourth edition for US findings and its third for Canadian, The 2012 Cygnus Donor Survey helps give a glimpse into the 2011 fundraising landscape of active donors in each country including past donor activities and future giving intentions.

With the help of 57 charitable organizations, a total of 21,807 active donors in both countries who have made a gift in the past 2 years were surveyed in various areas of their philanthropic habits and attitudes. The results for both the US and Canada were interesting – surprisingly similar in most areas yet drastically different in a couple of cases. Overall American and Canadian respondents gave 41% and 39% more respectively in 2011 over 2010, which is great news. Both American and Canadian donors cited improved personal financial situations as the reason they gave more. However, American donors also added that the efforts made by nonprofits in accomplishing good work as a reason, while Canadian donors included responding to emergency relief appeals and contributing to organizations that produced impressive work. Other key findings in the report include:

Highlights & Similarities

  • 90% (USA) and 91% (CAN) with budgeted philanthropic dollars dispersed their complete intended budget and in many cases exceeded their budget. This is great news for nonprofits, particularly for those with strong monthly donor programs, as they can rely on this segment of the donor demographic to reliably maintain their giving amounts throughout the year. The challenge is acquiring, growing and retaining this demographic to make steady gain on overall fundraising performance.
  • 83% (USA) and 83% (CAN) of surveyed participants indicated that they conduct research (mainly online) of the nonprofit organization before making a gift. It’s imperative that nonprofits create and maintain a website and/or blog that is informative, compelling and engages the potential donor with reasons to support the cause and the organization.
  • USA-canada-flags-nonprofit-fundraising44% (USA & CAN) of surveyed donors stated that they could have given more in 2011 than they actually did. Clearly there are still untapped opportunities for fundraising growth. However, nonprofits must be careful on how they attempt to increase donor’s gifts, as over-solicitation and transparency in use of gifts were cited as the main reasons why many limited their contributions.
  • 36% (USA & CAN) of respondents cited giving more to charities that communicated their accomplishments to their supporters. Communication is key as donors limited their gifts to organizations that lacked transparency. Donors have shifted their support in the past 5 years to charities that actively communicated their initiatives and how effectively the disbursements of funds are allocated.


  • 76% (USA) and 94% (CAN) of donors responded that they had been asked to join a monthly donor program. It’s important for all organizations to implement, maintain and actively pursue monthly donors, as they are a consistent resource of donations. Many donors plan their philanthropic budget in advance so it’s important your organization is considered. Sending an appeal to join your monthly donor program or a thank you letter, a token of appreciation or other marketing tool reminds donors that a monthly program exists and is available.
  • 19% (USA) and 33% (CAN) were reluctant to provide email addresses to a nonprofit. As social media and digital marketing is on the rise, it’s important to establish a comfort level with donors and that a privacy policy is outlined at the onset confirming that their personal email address is not shared and how the organization will use the information.
  • 37% (USA) and 23% (CAN) have personally participated in athletic pledge-based events. When over 70% of respondents have pledged or sponsored someone participating in an athletic event in the past two years, not only do they become supporters but they may also become participants. This helps increase awareness of the event which will grow the number of active event participants who are likely to share their involvement with their network.

One interesting aspect that the report identifies is that in every reporting area there are many opportunities for growth in the 35 years of age and under donor demographic and makes several recommendations on how to acquire and engage them. The overall report also has over 40 observations and recommendations on how nonprofits can improve their performance. You are able to review the Executive Summary for free or purchase the complete report.

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Miratel Solutions is a Toronto call centreeBusiness, and letter shop mail house specializing in professional fundraising services including telephone fundraisingonline fundraisinglottery servicesdonation cagingdonation processing and other donor management services. We are committed to our CSR business values in all contact centre services and mail house operations and advancing the missions of the nonprofits we proudly serve.

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