Fundraising the SMART Way™: Hard Data about Fundraising Productivity

Ellen Bristol

May 3, 2015

About the Author

Ellen Bristol

Ellen Bristol, President of Bristol Strategy Group, is a nonprofit thought leader in fundraising effectiveness and nonprofit management optimization. She has a passion for helping small to medium sized nonprofit organizations, NGO’s, and social enterprises build and grow fundraising capacity, adapting classic principles of the process-management discipline to this all-important strategic function.

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Hard Dara about Fundraising Productivity

Our Leaky Bucket Assessmen, open since April 2011, has revealed significant gaps – “leaks” – in the way large proportions of nonprofits manage their fundraising efforts.  The data is troubling indeed. While we know and honor the brilliant dedicated work of many outstanding fundraising professionals, we recognize that many more nonprofits could improve their financial situations by adopting some basic management tools to improve accountability and performance.

Fundraising the SMART Way Infographic

We developed an infographicdescribing the SMART Way management model. Then we mapped our Leaky Bucket data to the model.  See what you think!


Tweet this! When fundraising results fall below desired levels, 49% of organizations choose to throw more events, costly tactic that eats up staff time and can alienate your donors. And this! Only 47% of respondents have a strategic plan, which means 53% don’t – and if you don’t have a plan, you don’t know where you’re going.


There’s more to development than the skills of asking, managing campaigns, and grantseeking.  The management tools – targets, plans, guidelines, metrics, performance indicators – need a shot in the arm.

We would love to hear from you – agree, disagree, think we’re nuts, or anything in between!  And more than anything, we’d love to see these statistics change for the better. 

Help us (and yourself) in our campaign to imrpove fundraising productivity. Complete your own Leaky Bucket Assessment to make our study even more significant.

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