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  • Writer's pictureKevin Leahy

The Data Is Clear: Nonprofits Are Stuck in the 'Messy Middle'

The Data Is Clear: Nonprofits Are Stuck in the 'Messy Middle'
The Data Is Clear: Nonprofits Are Stuck in the 'Messy Middle'

No matter the type of organization, fundraising has a 'Messy Middle' problem – the time between when a donor is at the height of their excitement and belief in your organization when they commit to a gift, and when that gift closes.

The 'Messy Middle' Problem

The ‘Messy Middle’ is full of forms, templates, revision cycles, approval chains, collecting signatures, compliance, layers of bureaucracy, and manual processes that delay closing a gift.

While these steps are necessary, every day that goes by puts a donor's experience and sentiment at risk. 

Anecdotally, we know this phenomenon is real. It’s why we created Givzey (and recently held a webinar about it). But we also know there’s a lack of hard data and research available to nonprofits that speaks to this issue. We (fortunately) have data on donor retention, online giving, and many other fundraising disciplines and processes – but not the one that might matter most.

That’s why we recently put out a survey in order to compile the first-ever Nonprofit Gift Documentation Management Benchmark Report.

Ahead of its release, we wanted to share with you some of the initial insights we’ve received from survey respondents. Some of the data is encouraging, but much of it should serve as a wake-up call to the sector in terms of eliminating unnecessary risk and freeing up staff time for much more impactful activities.

Our Benchmark Survey is still open. Lend your voice to this data that will help fundraising professionals everywhere advance the Social Good sector. 

2024 Fundraising Benchmark Survey: The Data

1. Multi-Year Pledge Adoption

Multi-year pledges are a cornerstone of sustained funding for many nonprofits, yet the approach to soliciting these commitments varies. Only 32.2% of nonprofits solicit multi-year pledges at major giving levels exclusively, while 25.4% do so across all giving levels. A further 22% rarely engage in multi-year commitments, potentially missing out on stable, long-term support.

2. The Post-Agreement Process

A surprising insight from the data shows that only 42.4% of nonprofits have a defined process in place after a major or campaign donor agrees to a gift. Nearly 40% admit to being "somewhere in the middle," indicating a lack of consistency, while 18.6% do not have a defined process at all. This lack of clarity can lead to missed opportunities and donor dissatisfaction due to inefficient follow-up or unclear communication.

3. Automation of Pledge Reminders

Automation can significantly streamline the reminder process for pledges, yet only 1.7% of nonprofits have fully automated this task. Most (52.5%) have a partially automated system, requiring some manual intervention, and a sizable 45.8% still manage this process manually. Considering that staff spend an average of 8.3 hours per month on pledge reminders, greater automation could free up valuable time and reduce errors.

4. Tracking and Evaluating Donor Cycle Speed

Frequent evaluation of how and at what speed donors move through the giving cycle is critical for optimizing fundraising strategies. Yet, only 15.3% of nonprofits often evaluate this speed, with 57.6% doing so infrequently and 27.1% never considering it. This oversight can lead to stagnation in donor engagement and missed cues for upgrading donor contributions.

5. The Gift Agreement Process: Uncovering Touchpoints and Timelines

The number of touchpoints between a donor's verbal commitment and the receipt of all required documentation to book the gift is a key metric for nonprofits to track. According to the data, the average is 4.17 touchpoints for the 66% of respondents who are actively monitoring this process. However, the fact that 34% of respondents do not know how many touchpoints it takes is concerning. This suggests that a significant portion of nonprofits may be lacking the necessary processes and systems to effectively manage the gift agreement workflow. By understanding the number of touchpoints, organizations can identify potential bottlenecks, streamline the process, and ensure a seamless experience for their donors.

The timeline between a donor's verbal commitment and the signed agreement is another important consideration. The data reveals a wide range of timelines, with 27.1% of organizations taking more than a month to finalize the agreement and an additional 27.1% taking 2-3 weeks. On the other end of the spectrum, only 3.4% are able to complete the process within 24 hours, and 6.8% within 2-3 days. This variability highlights the need for nonprofits to establish clear and efficient procedures for moving donors through the gift agreement process. By streamlining this timeline, organizations can demonstrate their responsiveness to donors, build stronger relationships, and ultimately secure more commitments.

The time between sending a donor a gift agreement and receiving the signed copy back provides further insight into the efficiency of the process. While 35% of organizations report a one-week turnaround, a significant 15% indicate that it takes more than a month to receive the signed agreement. Additionally, 32% of respondents do not know the average time for this step, which suggests a lack of tracking and reporting mechanisms. Optimizing this process is crucial, as delays in receiving signed agreements can impact the organization's ability to book the gift and plan for the associated revenue. By closely monitoring and improving the gift agreement return timeline, nonprofits can enhance their donor stewardship and ensure a smooth donor experience.

Strategies to Improve Nonprofit Fundraising

Encourage Multi-Year Commitments

To stabilize funding, nonprofits should consider extending the solicitation of multi-year pledges beyond major donors to include all giving levels. This approach can provide a predictable revenue stream and reduce the frequency of fundraising efforts. 

Define the Process

Nonprofits must strive to define and standardize their post-agreement processes. Clear procedures ensure that every team member knows their role, leading to quicker and more effective donor engagement. 

Increase Automation

Investing in technology to automate pledge reminders and other repetitive tasks can drastically reduce the workload on staff and minimize human error. This shift not only improves efficiency but also allows the team to focus on more strategic tasks, such as donor engagement and program development.

Regularly Evaluate Donor Engagement

Regular assessments of how effectively and quickly donors progress through the giving cycle can help nonprofits refine their approaches and personalize donor interactions. This could involve more targeted communications, timely recognition, and tailored solicitation strategies.

Streamline Documentation Processes

Reducing the time between a donor's commitment and the formalization of that commitment is crucial. Simplifying agreement templates, using electronic signatures, and setting internal benchmarks for document turnaround times can accelerate these processes. Additionally, educating staff on the importance of timely follow-up and providing them with the right tools for tracking and reminders can further enhance efficiency.


The data paints a clear picture: while many nonprofits are committed to gift agreements as part of their fundraising mix, there is considerable room for improvement in both adoption and execution. By defining clear processes, embracing automation, and regularly evaluating donor advancement strategies, nonprofits can not only enhance their operational efficiency but also build stronger, more sustainable relationships with their donors. Such improvements are essential not just for the organizations’ immediate needs but for their long-term success and impact.

As fundraising’s first Intelligent Gift Documentation Management Platform, built specifically for the needs of the Social Good sector, Givzey helps organizations hit their metrics and solve the ‘Messy Middle.’ 

To learn more about how Givzey can help you establish efficient, fool-proof processes, elevate the donor experience, and increase revenue, book a demo today.

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