Guest Post by John Killoran
Staying up-to-date with current fundraising trends plays a huge role in making sure you maximize incoming revenue.
And while nonprofit professionals had their guesses as to what the fundraising industry would look like this year, no one could have predicted the extent to which a global health and economic crisis would disrupt daily operations.
So now it’s time to play catch up to discover all the ways fundraising has shifted in the last few months, (both pandemic-related and otherwise) and figure out what trends will look like going forward in this “new normal.”
While there’s no way to know for sure, planning your future fundraising endeavors by acknowledging and predicting trends is a good way to go.
One thing we know for sure is that nonprofits have never been so dependent on virtual fundraising practices.
Let’s walk through five other current and upcoming fundraising trends that can set any nonprofit up for success:
- Targeting the younger generations
- Making the move to mobile
- Keeping a focus on transparency
- Leveraging current events
- Employing “old-school” tactics
Falling behind the times in terms of your current fundraising strategy puts your organization at risk for losing potential revenue.
On the other hand, staying up-to-date is a great way to maximize donations and build donor relationships.
Ready to jump in? Let’s get started.
1. Targeting the younger generations
Many nonprofit organizations essentially target Generation X and Baby Boomer donors.
While these two groups have comprised a majority of fundraising revenue in the past, it’s important to remember that there are new generations rising as well.
Millennials, (the oldest of which are approaching 40) and Generation Z are entering the workforce in droves.
And with more and more disposable income, these younger generations make excellent potential donors.
Therefore, you don’t want to neglect the opportunity to collect their support.
So how can you target this newly emerging network of donors?
Many of the following suggestions in this guide focus on ideals that resonate with the younger generations (i.e. mobile-first design, increased transparency, etc.).
Plus, it’s a good idea to do your own research concerning the focus toward younger donors.
For example, this resource from Double the Donation provides key statistics regarding preferred methods of giving and inspirations for giving, broken down by generation.
That can be a great resource for determining the best outreach and solicitation strategies for your ever-changing network of donors.
2. Making the move to mobile
Did you know that more than 50% of web traffic can be attributed to mobile devices? And that number is only growing!
That’s why if your nonprofit has yet to prioritize mobile-friendliness for your marketing materials, now is the perfect time to do so.
Here are three key areas of your nonprofit to focus on ensuring mobile accessibility:
- Communications: The majority of email users are logged into their personal accounts on their mobile devices. The moment you send out that donation request email or weekly newsletter, subscribed donors will likely receive a notification from wherever they are! However, sometimes emails designed for desktop readability can be difficult to navigate on a mobile device, thanks to incessant scrolling and zooming. If that happens, the recipient is likely to click out of your email and never come back to it, even later on a computer.
- Nonprofit website: For similar reasons, your nonprofit website should be designed with mobile users in mind. Make sure your navigation, images, and text are all clear and easily viewable even from a smaller screen. This way, users can learn more about your organization (and your fundraising efforts!) from wherever they are.
- Online donation forms: Finally, and arguably most importantly, it’s crucial that your online donation forms are able to be easily navigated from a mobile device. When donors have the option to give on the go, they’re more likely to actually submit a donation. In fact, text-to-give campaigns are one of the most popular and effective types of mobile fundraising, largely due to their convenient and streamlined giving process.
The more accessible your nonprofit’s communication is, the more engagement you’ll be likely to see in return.
That means you’ll be able to take in more revenue and build stronger relationships with supporters!
3. Keeping focused on transparency
Due to past scandals in the nonprofit sector, many donors are wary of trusting their hard-earned cash with just any organization.
Because nonprofits rely so strongly on funding from grants and individuals, ensuring financial transparency with these wary supporters is essential to a healthy operation.
Because of this, there are certain requirements set in place by the IRS (such as an annual filing of tax form 990 to maintain tax-exempt status) to encourage financial transparency among nonprofits.
However, there are a few other key ways you can keep your donors in the loop and take your transparency a few steps farther:
- Publish an annual report. Compiling and publishing a report of your nonprofit finances each year is a great way to let supporters see how you’re handling your funding. You should show both the financial decisions you’ve made as an organization and the impact that these gifts have made toward your mission. By keeping track of both revenue and expenses throughout the year, you can easily create a document that can be shared with the public for viewing.
- Share regular updates. On a smaller scale, it’s a good idea to share updates with your donors and constituents on a regular basis. For example, if a donor makes a significant contribution to your nonprofit, you can thank them by sharing exactly where their funding has gone. If they’re supporting a particular community program, be sure to send out pictures and updates to all supporters involved!
If a donor makes a contribution to your organization and never hears back, they won’t see the impact of their donation— and might never give again.
This might be due to a lack of trust, or simply a lack of interest in an organization that seems disengaged or unappreciative.
On the other hand, nonprofits that go out of their way to communicate the impact of donations to their supporters are more highly regarded as trustworthy and well-meaning organizations.
That’s a great way to retain donors and begin to build lifelong partnerships.
4. Leveraging current events
There’s a lot going on in the world around us right now, and your nonprofit doesn’t operate in a vacuum.
Instead, your nonprofit staff, donors, and constituents all experience the impact of worldly events in one way or another.
That’s why it’s crucial that your fundraising asks are relevant to current events.
Here are two (of many!) important happenings to consider when crafting your current and upcoming fundraising strategies:
- Coronavirus: The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted every aspect of life, from individuals to businesses and nonprofits like yours. That’s why it’s important to consider the crisis when you make your fundraising requests. Be sure to recognize that while some donors might not have the funds to help out right now, others might be looking for ways to get involved and help others through this difficult situation. You’ll also want to highlight any ways that your nonprofit is working in response to COVID-19. You can learn more about fundraising amid the coronavirus with this guide from Double the Donation.
- Election effect: In the months leading up to a major election, many nonprofits see a significant rise in donor funding— especially those with missions relating to social, political, and environmental issues. Supporters see a need for change and long to make a tangible difference by donating to such causes. As an organization working toward one of these missions, this can be a great chance for you to secure new support.
Ignoring these major current events in your fundraising efforts is not only a missed opportunity for increased funding, but it can also come across as tone-deaf and even inappropriate to your audience.
Even if your organization isn’t on the front lines in response to these events, it’s important to integrate the effects of timely matters into your strategy.
5. Employing “old-school” tactics
With the sudden move to virtual everything amid coronavirus and social distancing guidelines, it can be harder than ever to break through the online clutter.
Sometimes, the solution is to make your digital content as engaging and eye-catching as possible (always a good idea!). However, sometimes the best solution is to reach your donors offline instead.
Consider the following engagement strategies that might just make your organization stand out:
- Personal phone calls: Many donors love receiving periodical phone calls from the organizations they support. After all, it’s one of the most personal ways to communicate besides face-to-face interactions (which aren’t happening now). Just be sure you ask how the donor is holding up first, before diving into any requests for funding.
- Handwritten letters: Everyone loves getting a handwritten letter in the mail. Not only is it a nice, personal touch to show donors you’re thinking of them, it can also serve as a physical reminder of your organization to keep your mission top of mind. Check out these free, downloadable fundraising letter templates here for some inspiration.
- Physical newsletters: Similarly to the handwritten letter, getting mail can be exciting— especially when the rest is mostly bills. Sending newsletters on a regular basis is a great way to keep your donors and constituents up to date on current happenings and even invite them to participate in any upcoming fundraisers. While email newsletters are also effective, the physical counterparts offer a unique opportunity for donor engagement.
These so-called “old school” engagement tactics can be a great way to grab donors’ attention in the midst of a very chaotic world.
However, don’t give up on your virtual engagement strategies, either.
The most effective strategy is multi-channel and incorporates on- and offline communication strategies.
One of the best ways to raise more with effective fundraising (and keep up with changing trends!) is by employing the help of top fundraising tools.
Check out this list of free and low-cost fundraising software from Snowball for more information on resources that can bring you increased revenue without breaking the bank.
Author: John Killoran
John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations.
Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.
Do you need a step-by-step guide to creating digital storytelling campaigns?
You are in luck!
Sign up and get a free chapter of my new book, Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits. This book is designed to be a step-by-step how-to guide for small and mid-size nonprofits that want to learn how to set goals, measure results, and carry out amazingly successful digital storytelling campaigns!
When you sign up, you will also receive my free weekly bulletin with tips, tricks, and advice for savvy nonprofits on how to kick butt at online marketing and fundraising.