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Human services organizations lag in fundraising, but they’re gaining ground

This post was originally published here (Urban Wire)

When people think about the nonprofit sector, they’re often thinking about human services organizations (HSOs): food banks, homeless shelters, youth services, sports organizations, and family and legal services. In 2013, HSOs constituted the largest percentage of all public charities (35.5 percent), but they received just 11.7 percent of all charitable contributions.

While some well-known HSOs are large and well funded, most fly below the radar, delivering needed services in individual communities. And most, regardless of size, don’t have a sense of how their peers are performing or know how to find reliable data on fundraising to benchmark their performance. In other subsectors, such as health care and education, data and research on giving are relatively easy to find, but there is no obvious analogue for HSOs, the unsung heroes of service provision in many communities.

But while HSOs might lag behind other organizations in fundraising, a new look at data shows they are gaining ground.

Where to find fundraising data

Until recently, the nonprofit sector lacked a national dataset to create fundraising benchmarks or to compare organizations across or within subsectors. But the Growth in Giving (GiG) Initiative—which includes the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, and DonorPerfect, and a number of other fundraising software firms—created a database that will help advance research, education, and public understanding of philanthropy.

The GiG Initiative’s unique data-collection process allows donor software firms to contribute data on individual gift transactions without jeopardizing the confidentiality of any contributors or organizations. Since 2012, software vendors have contributed data—including, when available, historical data from the past 10 years—from over 6,000 client organizations.

The GiG database contains more than 109 million gift transactions, including over 22 million donations to HSOs, providing dozens of key metrics of fundraising performance and descriptive information about subsectors and locations for many nonprofit organizations.

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Author: Nathan Dietz

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