Survey Reveals Top Barriers to Year-end Fundraising Success


Time and Staff Shortages Top List, But Few Plan to Outsource

Results from the 2019 Giving Season Survey reveal a high degree of dedication to the work of fundraising. Even when that’s not a person’s only job.

But the numbers also suggest that while most nonprofits know their main fundraising barriers, only a few have a plan in place to remove them in time to boost year-end revenue.

The findings below summarize data from 95 nonprofit respondents. Abeja conducted the online survey June 6-30, 2019.


Some 87% of survey participants are responsible for fundraising – but less than half say they’re paid to focus on donors.


Are you responsible for fundraising? Paid staff dedicated to fundraising?


It’s no secret that fundraisers often wear multiple hats.

  • Small nonprofits may not yet have the internal structure and buy-in needed to support a dedicated fundraiser. In this case, fundraising often falls to an executive director, who must find creative ways to balance fundraising tasks with their program and management roles.

  • Larger nonprofits face their own issues. Competition for experienced fundraisers is fierce, with their average tenure now at 16 months. Staff turnover can lead these nonprofits to lose specialty skill sets, such as database hygiene, appeal writing and direct mail production, leading to inconsistent donor communications and lost revenue.

July and August are the most popular months to start planning year-end fundraising.


When will your nonprofit begin planning its year-end fundraising campaign?

Percentage of Respondents

Your Take

We start planning the previous November.”

”It varies as we prepare grants for the private sector and government.”

”We don’t plan it!


Most nonprofits plan to do all the work for Giving Season themselves. Less than 1 in 4 says they’ll outsource at least a few tasks.


How do you plan to get the work done for Giving Season?


The most successful nonprofits can afford an in-house team that balances both the analytical, left-brain aspects of fundraising (data analysis, budget projections and donation letter strategy) and the creative, right-brain work (visual layout and creative offers).

But fundraisers in smaller nonprofits may have to convince decision makers that they need some experienced, outside muscle — either in the form of contractors or an agency. Here are three ways to do that.

Most nonprofits are already worried that they won’t have enough time to execute their Giving Season tasks successfully. Budget was not a top barrier for most respondents.


What are your biggest barriers to succeeding with year-end fundraising?

Percentage of respondents

Your Take

Management buy-in is there, but our board lacks enthusiasm.”

“Planning ahead to get our appeal out early.”

“We lack donor research.


Giving Season is no time to test new tactics. The survey indicates fundraisers stick to familiar channels to hit year-end goals.


Top 5 Tools for Year-end Fundraising

Percentage of respondents

Two-thirds of respondents use an integrated campaign. In other words, they mix email (high ROI) with donation letters (high response rate) for stronger results. Then they layer in a solid web presence to give donors options to give online, offline or both.

This integration of tactics creates a multiplier effect with response rates that are typically higher than any one tactic alone.


Average Response Rates

Source: Mobile Cause & M+R Benchmarks


For most nonprofits, Giving Season focuses on rallying individual donors to give. For 4 in 10 respondents, those “small donors” make up more than half of their organization’s revenue.


What percentage of your organization's revenue is from individual donor gifts?

According to Giving USA, individual donors are responsible for 68% of all charitable giving. That number shoots up to 77% if you add bequest money.

In contrast, foundation grants account for 18% and corporate gifts are just 5% of all giving.

More reasons to love (and thank) small donors


Most respondents (80%) recognize the value of communicating at least quarterly with their donors. And nearly a third engage donors at least monthly. 


How often do you communicate with your donors? Ask for a gift?

Percentage of respondents

The consistent, relationship-building approach of frequent communicators means that they ask for money only about every 3 out of 5 times.  

In contrast, nonprofits that have only 1 or 2 touch points with donors per year believe they ask almost every time they reach out. In fact, some of these respondents report asking over 2 times more than they report they communicate.

It’s unclear whether this is a perception gap or an increased sensitivity to making the ask.

Survey Average


Ask for Money


Get Your Ultimate Giving Season Toolkit

In response to the survey’s findings, the Abeja team created the Ultimate Giving Season Toolkit. This free resource aims to save your nonprofit time and hassle by providing:

  • Fundraising self-audit

  • Giving Season calendars

  • Project plans/Gantt charts

  • Budget planner

  • Leadership pitch deck

Laura Ingalls is CEO of Abeja Solutions and co-creator of Beezable, a tool that automates direct mail fundraising. She’s produced for CNN, served as a humanitarian spokesperson in Iraq and led award-winning nonprofit and corporate communications teams. Read more from Laura.

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