GUEST COLUMN: Roger Craver –

Fundraising Atlas Does More Than Shrug

At the end of April I reported on a new forecasting service, The Atlas of Giving.

I called it an important innovation because fundraisers have largely sought guidance through the rear view mirror of past performance, as opposed to steering through the windshield of the present and future. After all, ‘til the Atlas of Giving came along, all we had to rely on were ‘old’ services like Giving USA and the various Blackbaud Charitable Indexes.

So, now that year-end is approaching, I decided to check back and see how their predictions panned out. Quite well, I’m happy to report. In April actual overall fundraising returns were ahead by 11%, but the Atlas forecast that the summer and fall results would decline and the year would finish just 3.8% ahead of 2010.

Today The Atlas of Giving released its monthly report of actual results through the end of September, their forecast through the end of 2011, and also their forecast for 2012. Here are their key findings:

True to their forecast, giving slowed as the year progressed. The decline began in May and by September was 4.6% lower than the April peak.

The decline in giving will continue through May of 2012 when an uptick occurs; The Atlas forecasts that overall giving in 2012 will finish 9% ahead of 2011.

For 2011 the highest growth area is ‘bequests’ (up 7%), with the slowest growth in ‘human services’ (up 3.9%). The one decliner is ‘societal benefit organizations’ (down 1% compared to 2010).

Despite the declines in the last 2 quarters, The Atlas forecasts that overall giving in 2010 will finish 6.1% higher than 2010. (Their April forecast was +3.8%).

Of particular importance to Agitator readers – and any fundraiser or CEO – is the Atlas’ attention to trends in various sectors of the nonprofit world and also its analysis of state-by-state trends.

There’s far too much valuable detail in today’s Atlas of Giving Report to summarize here. And every fundraiser will have their own take and can form their own guidance from this whopping, data-packed report of 62 pages.

Suffice to say some sectors are in for some good times in 2012. Others are in for trouble. And those organizations with concentrations of donors in one state or another will find both the actual report and the forecasts of giving by state fascinating and helpful.

Forewarned is forearmed. In looking at their website you’ll see that all these data and analyses are available in the Atlas’ “Pro Reports” for a full year for a piddling sum of $99 for 12 months of reports, PLUS they apparently also send you a monthly powerpoint so you can show the Board not only what’s what, but what’s over the horizon. I only wish in the years I was a consultant I had had access to goodies like these.

Talk about innovation. Talk about non-Flat Earth Fundraising! Atlas, you deserve a raise.