The Pentera Blog

New Study Confirms What Pentera-Funded Study Says About Stewardship

A recent study about donors by the Blackbaud Institute draws conclusions that are similar to The Planned Giving Study that was initiated and funded by Pentera - including that about 20 percent of donors give about 80 percent of the dollar total to nonprofits, meaning that cultivating donor relationships and stewarding those donors is critical.

Vital Signs: Monitoring Giving Patterns in the Donor Marketplace was written by Chuck Longfield, Blackbaud's chief scientist and senior advisor. The 2017 study analyzes data on current giving from more than a thousand nonprofit organizations. The Planned Giving Study was conducted by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, analyzing the planned gifts received by more than 100 institutions of higher education.

The major finding of Vital Signs is that "fewer households are supporting organizations with more money." The study found that in 2015 (the most recent year for which data was available), 20 percent of donor households made 83 percent of donations - virtually identical to the 82 percent of the planned gift total that came from 20 percent of donors in The Planned Giving Study. The results of both studies thus conform to what is known as the 80/20 rule in fundraising. And both studies said that those 20 percent need to be carefully cultivated and stewarded.

The Planned Giving Study found that the 80/20 rule had not changed over time for planned giving, while Vital Signs found that in current giving there has been a decline in the number of donors - but that those donors are making larger gifts so that the total amount given has continued to increase.

With fewer donors, "organizations are responsible for stewarding their best donors," Vital Signs says. "This calls for investment in research that affords insight beyond generation generalizations. It is essential to learn precisely what distinguishes the demographic profile of those supporters most passionate about an organization's unique mission and program."

The Planned Giving Study does exactly that, profiling the donors who made planned gifts to case-study universities. And like Vital Signs, The Planned Giving Study strongly emphasizes stewardship.

"Nonprofits should pay close attention to long-term stewardship of donors," The Planned Giving Study says. "A planned gift reflects the donor's strong commitment and sense of loyalty to the organization. This is in fact the beginning of a relationship; stable infrastructure and well-established processes are required to nurture donors and their families over the long term. Cultivating a long-term relationship with an individual donor is more than being a good steward of a gift that has been made; it is more about building trust and helping the donor to preserve the legacy for the future."

Both studies have numerous other findings. Vital Signs can be requested from Blackbaud here. The Planned Giving Study can be requested at