Charity Choices

A Resource for Donors

Does promotion impact what charities receive through the CFC?

     Most charities are raising less through the Combined Federal Campaign, some a lot less.  As a result, many are cutting back on CFC promotion. But if you’re still raising significant money through the CFC, data on CFC giving is showing that now is not the time to do that. 

     Even if you’re not getting a lot of CFC donations, this data also shows the impact promotion can have on charities that are relatively new to the CFC.

     We’ve been examining the impact of promotion by using the newly-available data on how much individual charities receive through the CFC.  Before 2009, it was impossible to know how much most CFC charities were receiving.  It wasn’t made public.

     But beginning in 2009, the Workplace Giving Alliance, a group of workplace giving federations based in Boston, began to collect data directly from most individual CFCs.  From this data, WGA has estimated what each charity receives each year.  This data has been extremely helpful in seeing the factors that impact how much CFC charities get.  The data is just for National and International charities, not local charities, but you can still learn a lot from it.

     We’ve been collecting and analyzing this data for several years.  We wanted to see the impact that being in our guides had on charities.  It’s had a very clear and measurable impact, as we report below. 

     But we’ve also looked beyond our guides to see if CFC promotion in general made a difference.  Just how much difference it makes has surprised us. 

Many newer, smaller charities are raising much more in the CFC

     One surprise is how well some newer charities have done in the CFC.  The charities that raise a lot are not just the big, long-established charities with strong brands.

     One example of this involves military and veterans charities.  A charity begun in 2005 and first in the CFC in 2006 now raises the third most in the CFC – The Wounded Warrior Project, $4.6 million in 2013.  WWP has put a ton of money into a broad promotion and branding campaign, but it has also invested a ton of money specifically in CFC promotion. 

     But WWP’s impact extends beyond what it raises.  Many other charities with “wounded warrior” in their names have also shot up in the CFC over the past five years, while dozens of other long-established military and veterans charities have plummeted. To look at this phenomenon, we looked at military/veterans charities that were among the top 100 CFC recipients in the 2009 and 2013 CFCs.

  • From 2009 to 2013, six charities with “wounded warrior” in their names collectively went up 166%, going from $2.6 million to $6.978 million. 
  • In contrast, eight of the nine other military/veterans charities in the top 100 in 2009 went down nearly 65% (the only exception was the Fisher House Foundation, the 4th largest CFC recipient).

     Other relatively new charities in other fields have also done very well in the CFC:

  • Five relatively new animal charities that entered the CFC after 2003 -- all of which have evocative names and often dramatic display ads (such as Dogs on Death Row) -- are each raising more in the CFC than dozens of other long-established animal welfare organizations. Only three other animal charities raise as much as each of these five newer charities. 

     But it isn’t just new charities that do well.  Among charities doing similar work, those that have invested in CFC promotion over time have greatly outperformed those that have not.

  • We looked at five CFC charities that have “Bible” in their names.  Of these five, the one that has done by far the most promotion raised 33% more money in the CFC than the other five combined.  These other five charities are not small organizations – they had combined annual revenue of more than $155 million. This charity (Wycliffe Bible Translators) uses our guides, other CFC-related ads, attends many CFC charity fairs and uses volunteers to thank its CFC donors personally. As a result, it is raising tens of thousands of dollars more through the CFC than these other charities.

Being in Charitable Choices'  guides and CFC ads works

     You can see the impact that CFC promotion can have for many types of charities by looking at those that have been part of our Charitable Choices guides for several years. 

  • We looked at 58 charities that had been part of our guides from 2009 to 2012.  During these four campaigns, these charities went down just 3%.  In contrast, the average CFC charity went down nearly 20% during this period.  (Just four of these 58 charities accounted for this decline, and one had been the subject of a critical front-page article in the Washington Post.)  

     What the data is clearly showing is that promotion pays.  Even if the amount your charity is raising is going down, as it has been for Wycliffe, that doesn’t mean that promotion isn’t having a big impact on what you are still receiving. 

  • If one of the 58 charities we examined was raising $100,000 in 2009, it was raising $17,000 more in 2012 than the average charity not in our guides (the difference between going down 3% vs. 20%). 

     Promotion is going to become even more important in the CFC as the major rules changes take effect starting next year.  For example, the official CFC catalogs are going to be phased out, which will make it even harder for charities to get their messages to potential CFC donors.  The data is already showing a dramatic increase in the percentage of CFC donations going to the top 50 CFC charities. 

More Content...

For the fifth straight year, donations to the Combined Federal Campaign declined last fall, to $177.8 million, an 8% decrease. Since 2010,...
Americans give more than $1 billion a day to charities: $390 billion in 2016. This figure includes giving by individuals,...