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Donor Participation Project

Building a Case for Growth: Using Data to Secure Investment in Advancement

For nonprofit advancement teams looking to scale their fundraising operations, making a data-driven case for investment is key. Peter Fardy, a fundraising consultant, shares how he helped triple fundraising at Dalhousie University over 12 years by tracking performance, benchmarking against peers, and forecasting achievable growth.

First, analyze your historical data to understand your fundraising potential.

Look at new commitments secured and funds spent over at least 10-20 years.

Despite yearly variability, Fardy found a clear correlation between increased investment and higher returns at Dalhousie. Over time, they averaged $6 in new commitments for every $1 spent in advancement.

Next, compare your performance to peer institutions.

While imperfect, benchmarking helps determine if you’re above or below average in key metrics like new commitments per staff, expenditures, and return on investment. At Dalhousie, benchmarking confirmed they were competitive but underinvested in fundraising compared to peers.

Then, build a realistic forecast for future performance to make the case for increased investment.

Without additional resources, why expect to outperform your historical average or peer institutions? But with data showing the potential for growth, argue for ramping up investment to scale impact. For Dalhousie, a forecast model showed potential to triple new commitments within 5-10 years with more staff and dollars.

Finally, determine funding sources, whether from the operating budget, endowment assessments, or elsewhere.

At Dalhousie, the university provided additional funding once they saw the strong case for growth. Within a few years of increased advancement investment, the university endowment exceeded what it would otherwise have been due to new commitments.

By analyzing your fundraising performance, benchmarking against peers, and crafting an achievable vision for the future, you can build a persuasive case for advancing your advancement operations.

Like any investment, the return won’t be immediate, but with the right data and resources, nonprofit fundraising teams can drive sustainable long-term growth.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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