Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Big Three of Professional Fundraising

As discussed in this blog many times before (see here, here, and here), the inefficient use of professional fundraisers is unfortunately quite common among nonprofits.  As it turns out, there are three groups of organizations that are particularly notable in this regard: police & firefighters, children's cancer, and breast cancer.

First, consider the case of nonprofits affiliated with police & firefighters.  Based on the 2012 New York state attorney general report on professional fundraising in the state, the following chart examines the campaigns conducted by professional fundraisers on behalf of police & firefighter organizations and splits the campaigns up based on the portion of donor dollars that are ultimately received by nonprofits (with the rest of the funds going to the fundraising companies).

As indicated in the chart, the overwhelming majority of fundraising campaigns netted more for fundraisers than they did for the organizations donors were seeking to support.  The prevalence of such campaigns has not gone unnoticed; for example, the Michigan Attorney General offers particular guidance to donors for such fundraising efforts.  This is not the only such instance, though.  Take the case of children's cancer charities.  Using the same New York data as above, the associated graph for children's cancer charity campaigns is presented next.

Again, an overwhelming majority of the campaigns entailed more money going to fundraisers than the intended organization.  Even worse, this time half of the campaigns entailed the charity receiving less than 20% of the donations.  As it turns out, the case of breast cancer charities is even worse.  The associated chart for the case of breast cancer charity campaigns is next.

What is special about these three categories that makes them more susceptible to egregious fundraising practices?  The answer to that is not clear, but I would venture a guess that it has something to do with donors' reluctance to practice healthy skepticism.  As it is, our society views it as somewhat uncouth to question the financial practices of charities or those raising funds on their behalf.  These three categories all represent causes that people universally view as particularly important and worthy of funding.  When the causes are viewed as more important, perhaps donors are even less likely to question fundraisers about where their donations are going.  This means that a culture of greater scrutiny and/or transparency is even more important among the most important charitable causes.


  1. Great article, really enjoyed reading this. I have recently discovered Tony Charalambides fundraising blog, you should check it out!

  2. I always believe that people in need must be treated well and we should help them.
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