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10 benchmarking reports & programmes to help your fundraising

Melanie May | 9 November 2022 | News

a man and a woman study some figures in front of a laptop in an office. The laptop has post-it notes on the back and the office walls are white painted brick. By olia danilevich on Pexels

There are a lot of benchmarking programmes as well as freely accessible benchmarking reports that can help charities assess their fundraising performance in a range of areas from individual giving to legacies, and digital. In no particular order, here’s a summary of 10 of those.

The Chase Index  – About Loyalty

The Chase Index is, About Loyalty says, the world’s only established benchmarking programme for increasing fundraising income by measuring and growing supporter loyalty. It is built on nearly 10 years of research, and over 400,000 donors across 39 different charities. Its benchmarking allows charities to measure the three key drivers of their supporters’ loyalty and compare this against over 275,000 of these donors from all types of causes. 


Getting Started with TikTok: An Introduction to Fundraising & Supporter Engagement

Through the diagnostic process, charities can see which areas of their fundraising strategy, campaigns and supporter communications work and don’t work, which supporters have high loyalty, and the impact of the actions they then take. This makes it possible to develop a stewardship (or supporter experience) plan that targets actions where they will have the greatest positive impact and measures the impact of different elements of it. And charities also become part of its membership community, with access to regular reports and workshops. 

The current intake for the Spring 2023 wave is currently open for charities of all sizes to sign up to before the end of November deadline.  

Most recent key trends identified?

About Loyalty Director Roger Lawson says:

“Good question. Because we have different charities in each wave, we do not say whether loyalty in general is going up or down. We’re not benchmarking ‘the sector’ but enabling individual charities to benchmark their own supporters and performance, and to compare amongst The Chase Index community of 30 plus charities. Through consistent and repeated benchmarking we have proven the validity of our long-term research theory, in determining what are the true drivers of supporter loyalty – announced earlier this year in our report – The Definitive Case for Growing Supporter Loyalty.”

Fundraising Benchmark – LarkOwl

In 2019, LarkOwl undertook some research into the return on investment for different types of fundraising, to help them understand more clearly ‘what good looks like’, repeating the study in 2020 and again in 2021.

For the 2021 Fundraising Benchmark study, results were gathered from 45 charities across two months – June and July – up from 39 participating organisations the previous year, with ROI expressed as the sum raised in return for every £1 spent on a fundraising activity.

LarkOwl’s 2021 benchmarking study (which includes all the data it captured across three years) is available to download from the website with highlights also covered here. The study will be run again in the future, although probably not until 2024.

Most recent key trends identified?

Caroline Danks, Director at LarkOwl says:

“Charities did well across the board with trusts and grants. Maintaining these levels (in the absence of emergency grant funding) is now challenging, as predicted. Charities which didn’t furlough their fundraising teams performed better.


“In the comments sections, overwhelm, overwork and burnout was a key theme. But on the plus side, many respondents used the past year to reflect and regroup, with a focus on systems and processes. Several described moving from reactivity to proactivity. One respondent felt ‘empowered’ by all that they had learned and many used words like ‘excited’ in the context of moving forwards, finding confidence in digital and seeing increased income as a result of deepening relationships with existing supporters.”

Legacy Monitor Consortium – Legacy Foresight

Legacy Foresight, part of Legacy Futures, has been analysing and benchmarking the legacy giving sector for more than 25 years. Its flagship benchmarking programme is the Legacy Monitor Consortium, which tracks growth in the number and values of legacy donations the UK charity legacy giving sector. This provides a real-time understanding of giving trends and allows charities to compare growth and assess performance against the market and peer charities.  

82 charities take part in the consortium ranging from market leaders Cancer Research UK, RNLI and RSPCA to rising star legacy brands such as Maggie’s and WaterAid. Last year, consortium members received £1.7bn in legacy income and more than 50,000 gifts in wills – which represents around half of the overall UK charity legacy market.  

Other benchmarking includes its bi-annual Legacy Marketing Benchmarks programme, looking at the scale of investment in legacy marketing and providing a benchmark of response metrics across different channels. It benchmarks as part of its research programmes, recently defining and developing a set of digital legacy fundraising benchmarks, as part of digital legacy marketing programme Legacy Fundraising 2.0. And it benchmarks the In-Memory giving sector as part of its In-Memory Insight programme. This measures the funds raised from in-memory donors by the charities in the consortium, and the resources invested in in-memory marketing.   

Top level findings are shared with the sector through free briefing reports, but the full insights and access to a benchmarking portal is reserved for the consortium members who provide the data. Charities can find out more by contacting Caroline Waters, c.******@le*************.uk  

Most recent key trends identified?

Ashley Rowthorn, Managing Director of the Legacy Futures group says:

“Legacy income is growing – in 2021 total UK legacy income was worth £3.5bn, coming from 129,000 bequests, and is set to reach £4bn in 2022. It’s extraordinarily resilient, even in the face of economic challenges like we are experiencing right now. Legacy gifts can be transformational, and often sizeable. In 2021 the average residual bequest value across the sector was £54,500, while the average pecuniary bequest was worth £4,050.


“Investment in legacies is growing, but historically underinvested in – of our marketing benchmarking consortium, legacies brought in 44% of fundraised income for the charity, but legacy fundraising investment was just 4% of fundraising budgets. Over the next few months and years charities will be stretched and considering areas to cut costs, but we really believe that investing in legacy fundraising is hugely important, and helps make a charity more resilient for the future.”

UK Digital Benchmarks Study – Rally & M+R

The UK Digital Benchmarks Study measures digital performance in fundraising, advocacy and marketing across a breadth of channels including email, social media, web and SEO. The next report will be published, free to all, in July 2023. And charities who take part receive a personalised report where they can see their individual performance benchmarked against the group plus charities of a similar size and working in similar cause areas.

The study first came about through a partnership with Rally and M+R who wanted to give charities accurate and relevant data to make smarter decisions about how to invest their time and budgets and where to focus their efforts to maximise the success of their digital programmes.

There is still time for charities to get involved in the next UK Digital Benchmarks Study, with charities including Amnesty, Art Fund, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, Dementia UK, Dogs Trust, Freedom from Torture, Greenpeace, and Great Ormond Street Hospital already signed up to be part of the 2023 Study.

The closing date to sign up to the 2023 UK Digital Benchmarks Study is 12 December and the fee has been frozen at the 2020 level of £1,200. Find out more here or email uk**********@we********.uk.

Most recent key trends identified?

The previous study highlighted the following key trends:

1. More people are giving online. This raises the question of what we need to do to engage and mobilise them.

2. We need to transform our approach to email to unleash its full potential.

3. We need to build our whole digital ecosystem, not individual channels in isolation.

THINK Stewardship Tracker – THINK Consulting Solutions

THINK Consulting Solutions runs THINK Stewardship Tracker, which benchmarks the performance of member charities against one another on a series of dimensions. This information and the ranking is primarily restricted to members only.

THINK CS’s Stewardship Tracker uses ‘mystery supporters’ to provide charities with valuable insights into the experience their donors have. We have been running the programme for ten years, and worked with nearly 50 charities in the UK – large and small. By tracking individual givers’ experience over a twelve-month period, the Stewardship Tracker provides data on how well charities are stewarding their donors across a range of 90 separate tasks.

These include:

At the end of each year THINK CS benchmarks all members against each other, so they can see how well they are stewarding their donors compared with other charities.

THINK CS also ran a specific Benchmarker product in 2018 and 2019, which it stopped due to the difficulty of getting participants, and it runs specific benchmarking projects for clients, such as on legacy activity.

Status of UK Fundraising – Blackbaud

2022 marked the fifth year of Blackbaud’s Status of UK Fundraising Report, which provides an annual comprehensive view of fundraising. To do this, it looks at how over 1000 charity professionals rate themselves on areas such as income trends and fundraising targets, digital transformation, and collaboration. It is made freely available as a download.

Most recent key trends identified?

This year’s report findings highlighted a decrease in income for around a third of organisations, mainly driven by the pandemic, lack of resources, and supporters giving less, and a decrease in optimism in being able to deliver services and thrive. Overall, it shows that the economic situation is the main concern for UK nonprofits, while recruiting and retaining fundraising talent is also becoming more challenging.

The Charity Digital Skills Report – Zoe Amar Digital & Think Social Tech

Established in 2017 and authored by Zoe Amar (Founder of Zoe Amar Digital), Nissa Ramsey (Founder of Think Social Tech), and until this year Laura Clough (Skills Platform), The Charity Digital Skills Report is an annual barometer of digital skills, attitudes and support needs across the sector. The report tracks how these have changed year on year and analyses how other key building blocks for digital change are progressing, including understanding user needs, leadership, strategy and governance.

This year, the survey was redeveloped extensively to capture a snapshot of the sector at this pivotal moment of change and to discover where it needs help with digital to maximise its impact. The survey mapped charities’ digital priorities as we entered the next phase of the pandemic, looked at the key trends in how charities’ use of digital has changed over the last year, tracked progress made over the last five years and what this means for the sector, measured where charities have skills gaps and what they need to grow their digital knowledge and confidence, and gathered data on what funding and support needs charities have to help them move forward with digital.

Most recent key trends identified?

Zoe Amar says:

“We’re seeing digital progress as well as growing pains across the sector through The Charity Digital Skills Report.


“More than half (56%) of charities now have a strategy for digital, and almost three quarters (72%) are actively working to progress with digital. This is really encouraging. Yet we know from our data that there are big skills gaps at board level, with only 1 in 5 (21%) of boards providing buy-in and support for digital. 4 in 10 (40%) of charities need funding for devices, software and infrastructure. At staff level, almost half (49%) believe they are poor at digital fundraising. We need to get the right foundations in place with governance, resourcing and skills if we are to move forward with digital both organisationally and as a sector.”

Charity Benchmarks – Open, Freestyle Marketing & Wood for Trees

Charity Benchmarks is in its fifth year and is a joint initiative by Open, Freestyle Marketing and Wood for Trees. It is used by a range of household name charities and is built on a huge dataset that examines the costs, revenues and KPIs behind over a billion pounds of UK fundraised income every year (tracking a total of £2.3bn of fundraised income across 2020 and 2021).

As well as the main report showing the ‘hard’ financial information, the study includes:

It costs £5,000 to participate – although if you sign up before Christmas you’ll get £500 off. This gives access to the full report and a 200+ page document benchmarking your performance against the market on a huge range of metrics.

An abbreviated version of the report is also made available for free to anyone in the sector who finds it useful – just email he***@op*********.com.

Most recent key trends identified? 

The 2021 report showed how the two years of pandemic had taken its toll on teams and individuals, but also highlights the positives that had come out of it, including the move towards more integrated ways of working between departments, and a speeding up of digital adoption. It also highlighted that while income and supporter volumes had remained fairly consistent, the volume of new supporters had dropped compared to 2020, and that average contactability remained low, with mail and phone contactability falling, while email rose.

State of the Sector Report – Wood for Trees

Wood for Trees’s State of the Sector Report is an annual look at key insights and trends in the sector. The 2022 report covers top level trends in income streams, recruitment and supporters as well as taking a deeper dive into engagement metrics such as lifetime value, cross-sell and regular giving attrition.

The information is collected from Wood for Tree’s InsightHub benchmarking reports, with the report providing a snapshot of some of the most interesting data and trends Wood for Trees saw in 2021. The full set of benchmarks is available to any customer using its InsightHub reporting portal, which offers charities online reporting, benchmarking and insights enabling them to measure their performance against the sector and share the insight gained across their organisation.

Most recent key trends identified?

The January 2022 report showed that income and recruitment in 2021 outperformed the previous year, with charities seeing a rise in people actively giving as well as a in recruitment and a continued high level of one-off donations. It also highlighted a small but discernible shift in supporter profile towards a younger and less affluent demographic, as well as evidence that the amounts people are giving at are increasing, at least in the early years.

CharityComms Digital Benchmark – CharityComms

The CharityComms Digital Benchmark is a group of UK charities who pool their digital data in order to compare and evaluate their online performance.

It has two main objectives – to allow individual charities to compare the metrics, facts and figures of their own digital activities with peer charities in the UK, and to provide insights and ideas into how they can develop their digital communications and fundraising work in the UK.

Participants grant CharityComms access to their Google Analytics data. This is then pulled into an interactive dashboard in Google Data Studio, where they can see how their stats compare to their peers. CharityComms also run an annual survey of participants to provide more detailed insight into online fundraising and campaigning, delivering the results at an annual meeting.

Participation costs £400+VAT per calendar year for CharityComms organisational members, or £1,000+VAT for non-members.