What good looked like: benchmarking ROI in 2020

10 June 2020
StrategyMonitoring and EvaluationData, Research and Analysis
Standard Content

As the Fundraising Benchmarking 2020 survey goes live, Caroline Danks from LarkOwl writes in this blog about the importance of baseline figures in making judgements and decisions.

Who remembers Fundratios? It was a very simple report which showed the average return on investment for different types of fundraising.

I remember the figures well:

As a new fundraising consultant in 2016, I found myself using the figures from Fundratios to back up recommendations to clients and encourage them to try one type of fundraising over another.

It is imperative to recognise that using these figures in isolation is about as credible as building your entire major gifts strategy around the Sunday Time Rich List.

But if you take caveats and individual charity circumstances into account, then ROI figures can be pretty useful in painting a picture about the possibilities, especially as part of an introductory conversation around fundraising for people who are not fundraisers.

It became clear as time went on, that these figures were soon going to be wildly out of date. So back in 2017 I had the brilliant idea of updating the Fundratios 2013 report.

In 2019, we launched the findings, and to date over 400 people have downloaded the study which remains the only UK Fundraising ROI benchmarking study which is both free to participate in and free to download.

Why on earth are we doing this now?

Back in 2018, fundraising wasn’t exactly easy. Years of austerity following the 2008 global financial crash meant reduced grant income and reduced income from trusts and foundations (and either a reduction or stagnation in other forms of giving).

Externally, we were faced with a reduction in public service provision and an increase in demand for the things which charities do.

The landscape was increasingly competitive. Enter 2020 and the whole world (including many of our fundraising activities) crumbling before our eyes.

Where do we even start?

What was always a tough job suddenly got about a thousand times harder.

We hesitated to continue with this study. We wondered if it was worth it given that everything changed within a few short weeks.

A Benchmarking study in 2020 will require us to use 2019 figures. i.e. figures relating to our fundraising work before the coronavirus ruined it all.

We seriously questioned the point of this when our ability to make plans beyond the short term are hampered and knowing that a return to ‘business as usual’ is far from guaranteed?

However, we believe that in order to make judgements and decisions in our future, we need baseline figures to inform us about where we’ve come from.

Imagine a further study a couple of years down the line. Committing to regular data collection across a very turbulent few years will be helpful in showing:

The more we consider it, the more we believe that this is the PERFECT time to assess the return on investment figures for each area of our income generation activities.

Our vision

Data at the ready? Let’s do this.

So how can I get involved?

We’re confident that now you’ve seen our 2019 report, you’ll want to play a part in a better, more robust and up to date study, even if meeting those ROI figures will be hard (and by hard we probably mean impossible) for the foreseeable future.

You can participate by signing up to our email list here.

We will be sharing the survey link and instructions with subscribers during June. You are of course welcome to email us directly hello@larkowl.uk if you’d prefer not to sign up to our regular newsletters and we’ll send you the survey link directly.

Sign up here and we’ll send you everything you need.

Caroline Danks
Caroline Danks
Director at LarkOwl
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