(From American Philanthropic’s 44-page Development Survey Report 2015)

#1 Organizational size matters. When assessing your fundraising goals and considering how your results measure up, pay attention to where you are on the organizational growth curve. Larger groups, for example, typically realize much greater efficiency in their fundraising operations than do smaller groups.

#2 The most highly effective organizations are not necessarily the most efficient. The most highly effective organizations raise somewhat less money per development staff member than we would expect, given their size. They do not raise more per development hour than we would expect. And they invest relatively heavily in direct-mail prospecting, despite seeing comparatively poor results.

#3 Investing in development pays off. For every hour of organizational time invested in fundraising, even small organizations raise at least $250, and the overall average is $500—likely about 10 times the cost of the average development hour.

#4 Foundation grants account for a surprisingly large percentage of survey participants’ development revenue. Overall, grants accounted for 41% of groups’ development revenue, and the percentage is higher the larger the group. Highly effective organizations depend a little less on foundation grants than we would expect, and they receive comparatively larger grants.

#5 Relationship-building is crucial. Data on meetings shows not only that larger organizations conduct many more meetings than smaller organizations, as we would expect, but also that the most highly effective organizations conduct more meetings per development staffer than their peers. Importantly, a far lower proportion of these meetings are asks, indicating that these groups are investing in relationship-building.

#6 Direct mail is vitally important. Groups of all sizes report that they receive an extremely high return on their investment in house-file solicitations, and the most highly effective organizations invest heavily in direct-mail prospecting even though their collective return-on-cost is average at best.

#7 There is under-investment in planned giving and online giving. Few survey participants reported receiving planned gifts, despite the high average size of such gifts, and their collective percentage of revenue derived from online sources is lower than reported national averages.