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Fundraising took big hit in 2009

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Charitable fundraisers had their worst year in a decade but are upbeat about prospects for 2010, a new survey says.

Just 43 percent of charities responding to the 2009 State of Fundraising Survey by the Association of Fundraising Professionals said they raised more last year than in 2008, compared to 46 percent who said in 2008 they raised more than in 2007.

In a typical year, AFP says, 60 percent of respondents say they raised more than in the previous year.

“We’ve never seen so many organizations raise such few funds,” Paulette V. Maehara, president and CEO of AFP, says in a statement. “This is as challenging a fundraising environment as most charities have ever seen, even worse than after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.”

In 2009, 46 percent of fundraisers responding to the survey said, they raised less money than in 2009, and 11 percent said they raised about the same.

But 60 percent said they expect to raise more money in 2010 than they did in 2009, up from only 28 percent who estimated last year they would raise more than they did in 2008.

“There is a real sea change in how fundraisers are viewing the fundraising landscape,” Maehara says. “There’s a sense that we’ve seen the worst and what while 2010 may not be an extraordinary year for fundraising, it will be a year of solid growth.”

Charities that said they raised more in 2009 than in 2008 typically saw only modest increases, with 68 percent of them seeing increases of 20 percent of less, compared to one-fourth of fundraisers who said three years ago they had seen year-to-year growth of 50 percent or more.

Fundraising fell last year across the board, regardless of causes, size or geography, and for nearly ever fundraising strategy.

Fundraising was flat or down for direct-mail, telemarketing, major gifts, planned giving, online fundraising, special events and grants from foundations and corporations.

Special events took a particularly heavy hit, with just 33 percent of respondents raising more in 2009 than 2008 through special events, compared to 74 percent three years ago who raised more through special events than the previous year.

In 2010, a big percentage of charities plan to increase their efforts in the areas of major gifts, planned gifts, online solicitations, and corporate and foundation grants, all of which typically cost less than other strategies and focus on existing donors with ties to the organization that already are strong, AFP says.

Charities plan to focus roughly the same level of effort on direct mail and telemarketing, and just one-third of charities plan to focus on special events, which typically cost more and are used to attract new donors.

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