bible-aaron-burden-via-unsplashAaron Burden via Unsplash

The resounding message from this year’s National Catholic Development Conference (NCDC) was clear: people have less and less faith in institutions — yet there is still reason to hope.

Today Catholic fundraising is getting harder. The list universe is getting smaller. Donors are questioning the institutions they give to. But all of this can be overcome.

One comment made by Larry May, InfoGroup’s  SVP for Strategic Development, caught my ear. He said, “People are looking for something to believe in.” He’s right. There may be a general lack of faith with the political system and with institutions in general, but everyone still wants to see good in the world.

Organizations simply have to get smarter, and better, to achieve success.

The causes that fundraising supports haven’t changed, and neither has people’s willingness to help them. Donors aren’t reluctant to help those in need; they just want to trust the organization they are giving to.

Here are a few points from the conference to solve these issues:

  • Prospects need to be convinced by the mission: If an organization can get their mission across and show that they are actually providing societal good, donors will follow.
  • Focus on the donor: Donors want to know WHY the money is needed. This can come from establishing what’s going to be done with the donations or showing an honest need for funds to fix a problem.
  • Share what the organization is doing: Because of the dwindling faith in institutions, donors want to know what the charity is doing. This goes beyond a mission statement. It’s a deeper sharing of stories that the organization has accomplished.

Another point of note from NCDC: the shrinking universe of names to mail is a legitimate concern, but this can be overcome. Using other channels to drive names into a mail file can bring in donors who are connected to your cause. A bright spot with this is that data shows moving a donor from online to direct mail is much easier than going the other direction. That means you can use prospecting via email, web, etc., to improve your organization’s mail file health.

“Where are we going?”

It felt like that question got repeated often during the conference. The question is fair; times are uncertain, and depending on the outcome of November’s elections, a lot can change: tax law, foreign policy, and a great number of things that can affect the nonprofit sector.  

The best way any organization can answer that question is to understand their file’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), the absolute basics of which are Net Revenue and File Size. I’ll admit it’s a lot easier said than done, but improving both of these should always be the goal of fundraising campaigns. Net essentially shows your organization’s ability to raise money right now (i.e., getting immediate aid to the cause your organization supports). File Size, on the other hand, is a long-term indicator of that same ability. If your file size is large and growing, it suggests that you’ll be able to raise more in the future.

Finally, here’s a key conference takeaway: Times may be difficult, but if we keep the faith and continue to learn the strategies that are driving results, then the future should be filled with fundraising success.

Grant Novins is a Marketing Data Analyst at Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. Contact us at, and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.