Do New Yorkers know your nonprofit? Will they donate?
18 billion dollars was donated to nonprofits in New York City and its surrounding metro area in 2012 by individuals, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s interactive tool “How America Gives,” which lets you analyze charitable giving by region. And more recent data shared by NYC’s Economic Development Corporation reveals that New York metro area residents from all income levels gave substantial amounts of time and money to charity—an average of $1,669 in 2014, up 17% in inflation-adjusted dollars from 2004.
With 8 million prospective donors in New York City alone giving more to charity each year, it seems like nonprofits shouldn’t have a problem fundraising from individuals. But if you’re feeling disgruntled that your nonprofit didn’t receive a fraction of that total, remember that our great city is also home to 35,000 nonprofits, and that New York State has close to 98,000 organizations that all feel an urgency to get a slice of New York’s great philanthropic pie.
The competition for nonprofits to stand out and engage people is palpable. Between ads, social media, email, volunteer canvassers on the street, good ol’ fashioned snail mail and even forms of gaming like Pokémon GO, it’s nearly impossible for New Yorkers to go a single day without being asked to sign a petition, volunteer, or donate.
Good thing nonprofits are increasingly integrating the concept of the ladder of engagement into their fundraising and communications strategies—the simple idea that an organization will be more successful at gaining (and keeping!) new supporters if you ask them to engage in quick and easy ways before asking them to take bigger and more meaningful actions over time. The first step on the ladder is basic awareness—getting yourself on the radar screens of people who haven’t heard of you before. After all, can you really expect someone to donate to your organization if they haven’t even heard of you?
A missing piece in the effort to be better known is market research: gathering information and data about target markets or customers. This is part of the DNA of corporate business practice, but it’s often underutilized with nonprofits because of budgets or lack of clarity on how to do it well.
In 2016, Big Duck launched the Brandraising Benchmark to measure awareness and perceptions about nonprofit brands among a national audience. By doing research for several nonprofits at once, we’ve figured out how to keep it affordable and provide useful comparative data too. This fall, we’ll be launching the first-ever New York City Benchmark, specifically designed to measure awareness and affinity of nonprofits by New Yorkers. The Benchmark will tell you if New Yorkers have heard of your nonprofit, what they think of you, and whether they’d be likely to donate in the future—all useful indicators to give you a sense of where you stand in the minds of New York’s individual donors. By repeating the Benchmark over time, you’ll be able to measure if your outreach, awareness, and brand-building efforts are really moving the needle.
Sound interesting? All the details about the New York Brandraising Benchmark are online here. You can also download a sample results report that will give you a better sense of what you’ll get from participating.