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2023 wrapped: Animal welfare orgs feeling a strain in operations

Economic conditions have put a strain on animal welfare operations this year. 

With care, food and service costs continuing to rise, more and more people are surrendering their pets to shelters across the country. At the same time, adoptions are down year-over-year.  

As a result, animal welfare organizations are feeling a crunch on the operational side. With this new reality, communicating operational needs as well as the importance of keeping animals in their homes will become even more critical in 2024. 

As we wrap up 2023, let’s review some insights from our latest benchmark report, touch on GivingTuesday results and walk through five areas of focus for animal welfare organizations in the new year. 

3 key insights from Q3 2023 

1. Retention of core donors is beginning to stabilize 

Retention of this highly important donor segment is beginning to stabilize after peaking in 2020. New technology has allowed organizations to reassess and refocus their stewardship practices and how they thank new donors. For our clients, we’ve incorporated things like postcards, special packages, peer-to-peer efforts and digital messaging to keep these donors on file. 



2. New donor acquisition declined 

The decline in new donor acquisition hit the entire nonprofit industry in 2023 and has been covered in the latest FEP reports. After Q3, new donors make up just 31.2% of our animal welfare client’s active donor files—down from 35.4% in 2022. 



3. Donor value is improving 

While the number of donors may have declined, donor value has reached a five year high. After the close of Q3, donor value sits at $109.  



A quick update on GivingTuesday 

GivingTuesday results across the nonprofit industry were mixed, with reported revenue up only 0.6% this year and a 10% decline in the number of donors who gave. 

However, RKD’s animal welfare clients saw a different story. With a 24.3% lift in day-of revenue and a 29.6% increase in full campaign revenue, these organizations saw nice improvements year-over-year.  

You can read more about our GivingTuesday findings here 


Areas of focus as we head into 2024 

Omnichannel donor journeys 

We can no longer think of campaigns as “direct mail” or “digital.” In 2024, animal welfare fundraisers will have to focus on building omnichannel donor journeys that share community impact with donors across all the channels in which they engage with your organization.  

Data will play a huge role in the execution and success of these campaigns—helping you to build tailored journeys for each audience segment. Digital transformation will also play a role. So, auditing things like your website, media campaigns and email program for areas of opportunity can help you grow in the new year. 

You may be thinking, “My organization is too small for that level of sophistication.” But it’s all about starting where you are and making small changes as you grow.  

Resources to get you started: 


Diversified acquisition streams 

Acquiring new donors through the mail is getting more difficult. This doesn’t mean you should cut acquisition or give up on your direct mail completely.  

Animal welfare organizations should avoid putting all their eggs in one basket and instead focus on optimizing and diversifying their acquisition streams. In addition to print, this could be email, Google grant, digital media and more. 

Resources to get you started: 


Increased digital investment 

Going hand in hand with a diversified acquisition stream is an increased investment in digital. Not only do digital channels (like paid media) open your organization to a whole new audience, they are also great avenues for engagement and retention.  

Today’s donors expect a strong digital experience, and animal welfare organizations must build a strong digital foundation to meet their expectations. 

Resources to get you started:  


Core donor retention 

Core donors (those who have given two consecutive years or more) account for 58.3% of revenue in 2023, making them an incredibly valuable segment for animal welfare organizations moving into the new year. 

Unfortunately, with new donor acquisition in decline, it will become increasingly challenging for organizations to grow their core donor files. In 2024, retention of existing and new core donors will be a top priority. Make sure your acknowledgement letters are timely and personal, speaking to the difference the donor is making at a mission level. In addition, focus on sharing impact stories, finding monthly or quarterly touchpoints to let the donors know the difference they are making, making sure your newsletters speak to the donor and not blare “the organization did it”, and inviting them to tour your facilities to foster these relationships.  

Resources to get you started: 


Planned and major giving 

As donor acquisition gets harder and harder and animal welfare organizations need more and more revenue to help offset operational costs, planned and major giving will become two critical areas for continued growth. 

A single planned or major gift can have a remarkable impact on your organization, so focus on fostering and stewarding those relationships to help close the revenue gap in 2024. 

Resources to get you started:  


This isn’t a complete list—just a good starting point as you think about the new year. Strategies and solutions will differ based on your organization’s size and results. If you have any questions about what I’ve shared above or would like to discuss how you can mold these solutions to fit your needs, please reach out to myself or anyone on the RKD animal welfare team!  

RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, social service, disease research, animal welfare, rescue missions, and faith-based charities. RKD Group’s omnichannel approach leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive online and offline engagements and donations. With a growing team of professionals, RKD Group creates breakthroughs never thought possible.

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