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Apr 3, 2013

A contest to get your fundraising ideas validated

I have written earlier about the Science of Philanthropy Initiative and its purpose to bring rigorous data analysis to replace anecdotally-based received wisdom.  Well, true to the dilemma of academic research, they have data but they need help in identifying the best questions to answer.  So….they are sponsoring a contest.

A contest to find out the ideas that nonprofits have for improving their fundraising.  SPI will take those ideas and sort through them to find the questions that will “further the science of philanthropy and change the way development professionals fundraise.”

As an incentive to funnel ideas to them, SPI is offering some prize money ($5k first prize, $1500 second, $500 third) and the possibility that SPI will bring its empirical methodology to test and validate the effectiveness of a submitted idea.  I think the best payoff to a nonprofit is to start following this initiative.  What’s to lose?  At  worst we will learn that our anecdotal theories cannot be confirmed or that our ideas are a bust.  At  best, we will get empirical support for our ideas and learn about others’ ideas that can be proven to be effective.

So put your fundraising ideas together and send them in.  Deadline is June 14, 2013.  And sign up for their mailing list.  It’s worth it just to see the issues they must confront in bringing data to bear on our multitude of approaches to fundraising.

What do I want most from this initiative?  I want some insight into why charitable contributions as a share of nonprofit revenue have stagnated in the 17% to 25% range since 1985.  A remarkably flat percentage.  I have my pet theories, but getting hard data to explain this could be what it takes to figure out how to break out of that range.

Don’t think there’s a problem in breaking out of that range?  Reread Chapter 6 in More Than Just Money and its ten essays on the Challenges in Philanthropy!