Should Prior Evaluations Be Revisited?

Main – Giving USA—Figuring Out the Figures
Related – What About Bequests?

Managers of fundraising efforts that may have been negatively evaluated based on the original Giving USA metrics for 2008 and 2009 may now be wise to revisit their performance analysis for those years. If reductions in giving for a particular program were less than 7% and 6.2% respectively, that program may have in reality outpaced the norms for that year. If programs were level or grew modestly, it may be time to retroactively recognize that success.

Make sure that staff and volunteers also realize that it is entirely possible based on recent history that the “increase” in giving for 2010 may be adjusted upward or downward in future reports, so it may not be wise to use these figures as a benchmark of any sort in the near term. In fact, it may be best to wait two or three years to allow Giving USA figures to “settle” before using them as any sort of metric for evaluating performance trends.

Understanding the Giving USA process is essential for both fundraisers and those who manage or oversee their efforts. We are now learning that various models for estimating giving are themselves being tested by an economic environment unlike any experienced since the Great Depression.

As a result, instead of focusing on one year’s performance, it may be wise to consider longer term trends in overall giving as well as trends in relevant subsector giving. One might conclude that holding giving steady or experiencing only a slight decline over the past few years represents an excellent result when compared to the newly revised Giving USA and other industry estimates.

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