Fundraising Trends: 7 Modern Strategies to Consider for 2021

The lessons of 2020 are definitely influencing plans for 2021. From fundraising to operations, everything is changing, while the need to do good remains as crucial as ever.

We know that plans can change and trends can shift (one of those 2020 lessons), but it’s still worthwhile to look ahead at the way things seem to be headed when you’re trying to create your fundraising strategy.

Let’s get started.

1. On-the-Go Operations: Mobile Optimization

Remote work at nonprofits evolved quickly in 2020, and now many organizations are hitting their stride. This mobility will serve organizations well, even when they’re back in the office. No longer should your staff members need to log into their desktop computers in order to make quick updates — mobile devices make things more flexible.

When your staff members can use important data about your nonprofit straight from their smartphones and tablets, they can better prioritize and track progress for work from anywhere.

For instance, if you can access your organization’s CRM dashboard from your phone, you can always see high-level, important metrics such as campaign progress and donor retention rate. This helps you keep these metrics at the forefront of your mind when on-the-go.

Past a high-level data dashboard, your nonprofit should also make sure you can dive deeper into various aspects of your strategy.

For instance:

  • Productivity. Setting tasks for yourself or your colleagues on your phone helps you stay on top of the most important projects from anywhere as well as collaborate more easily.
  • Donor research. If you’re prepping for a meeting with a donor, some last-minute research on your phone about the donor’s interests, family members, or history with your nonprofit can make the meeting much more successful. Plus, you can record new data to the donor’s profile right after the meeting while it’s still fresh in your mind.
  • Donor stewardship. Check the activity feed for your organization from your phone. This means you can immediately reach out and acknowledge gifts no matter where you are (or you can set a task for a colleague to reach out).
  • On-site donation. Take online donations via card with a swiper or by typing in the card details. You can also attribute cash donations to donors right away so that you don’t lose track of names and faces while accepting these gifts.

Access to specific strategic elements of your nonprofit through mobile-optimized tools can be incredibly helpful.

For instance, let’s say you have a table at a local farmer’s market. You should make sure it’s easy for donors to give at the table while they’re doing their shopping and that it’s easy to attribute these donations to individuals in your donor database.

As another example, let’s say you’re at a local coffee shop reading or watching the news and see a story about a donor who is being offered an award by the community. You can quickly make a note or create a task for someone at the organization to send that donor a note of congratulations.

2. A New Type of Fund: Donor-Advised Funds

Donor-advised funds are growing more and more every year. While they don’t make up a large percentage of overall giving just yet, they’re becoming increasingly more popular due to the tax incentives associated with them.

And what exactly is donor-advised giving?

According to this article, it’s “a form of philanthropic giving in which an individual creates a ‘personal charitable savings accounts’ and deposits their contributions of cash, stock, or other assets without choosing a specific recipient right away.”

The major benefit of donor-advised funds is that supporters can receive a tax benefit as soon as they contribute to the account. The account is handled by a financial service so that the amount can grow before it’s donated.

Some of the other notable characteristics of donor-advised funds include:

  • They’re incredibly resilient. This means that even during an economic downturn or financial hardships, donors can still contribute to their community nonprofits. This makes donor-advised funds particularly important during economic instability.
  • Large financial firms like to manage donor-advised funds. Major financial firms are getting more and more involved with these accounts, giving donors the security of a name they recognize. Donors can create their accounts with big names like Fidelity, Vanguard, and Schwab.
  • Some of the most generous donors are likely to have these funds. Donor-advised funds are not something that nonprofits should ignore because they’re increasingly popular with some of the most generous donors.

After a donor has put money into the fund, they can advise the financial firm about where they’d like to make a contribution. Then, this money is given to the nonprofit in the form of a grant.

If you note which donors make use of these funds in your database, you can actively engage with them and focus on building your relationships.

3. Virtual Events are Here to Stay

Due to social distancing requirements, more nonprofits held virtual events in 2020 than ever before. For many, it went better than they’d expected. As the event-going public becomes more accustomed to virtual events, it’s likely that virtual events will remain part of the events landscape, even when social distancing is no longer necessary.

You do not need to be especially tech-savvy to host a successful virtual event. Most video conferencing technology is fairly simple to use, and after 2020, more people than ever have a working knowledge of it.

Virtual events offer nonprofits many benefits, including:

  • Access to a larger audience. Nonprofits are no longer limited by their geographic location, people can attend a virtual event from anywhere.
  • Lower cost production, for greater fundraising ROI. Compared to traditional events fundraising, virtual events are much less expensive to produce. Food and venue are often major expenses in traditional events, while virtual events allow you to keep a lot more of what you raise.

As the year goes on, you may find virtual events becoming another digital communication tool in your toolbox. Webinars, talks, panel discussions, live Q&As, and behind-the-scenes tours are all great ways to connect with your donors, outside the traditional silent auction/gala dinner box.

4. Agility for the Win

The organizations that weathered the challenges of 2020 best were those that were able to adapt quickly. Call it an “agile approach,” or “nimbleness,” or just “staying flexible,” nonprofits that could assess new needs and make new plans ended up being more stable.

While 2020 was a banner year for quick and unpredicted changes, becoming more flexible is a good strategy anytime. After all, things keep changing, and none of us know exactly what the year will bring. How can you pursue your mission, even in the face of significant changes?

You need to have strategies in place and processes for fundraising. Agility is not about winging it–it’s about continually assessing what you’re doing and how it’s working, and correcting processes as you go. As you craft your fundraising plan, consider not only what might need to change, but how you might know when change is necessary. Instead of setting a five-year strategic plan and continuing to work the plan when it no longer makes sense, consider building in new, more frequent checkpoints.

To get started cultivating a more nimble mindset, look back on 2020. What worked? What didn’t? Where did rigidity work against you, or where did you need more structure? Don’t hesitate to stop doing fundraising activities that aren’t suited to your organization right now.

5. Gaining a New Perspective: Appealing to Younger Donors

When nonprofits think about generational giving, they’re usually only considering the Matures (born before 1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964), Generation X (born 1965 – 1976), and Millennials (born 1977 – 1995). This leaves out a very important group of upcoming supporters: Generation Z.

Generation Z, or Gen Z, is comprised of those born after 1996. They’re also sometimes referred to as “philanthro-kids” due to their philanthropic tendencies (just think about Greta Thunberg’s environmental activism at only 16!).

This young generation of supporters is growing up fast with the oldest reaching age 25 in 2021. As they enter the workforce — and even before — nonprofits should be ready to reach out to these newest supporters. as they’re the future of nonprofit contributors.

Here are some strategies to help your nonprofit appeal to these youngster supporters:

  • See how many of your current supporters are Gen Z. This can help you create stewardship or acquisition strategies as necessary. If your CRM doesn’t facilitate this research process, it may be time for an upgrade.
  • Check out mobile giving opportunities. Mobile usage among Gen Z is incredibly high. Therefore, your organization should make sure to meet them where they are. Consider setting up text-to-give options, adding a donation button on Instagram, or other mobile opportunities to encourage these supporters to engage with your mission.
  • Build out your monthly giving programs. Gen Z grew up in the world of subscriptions. The “set it and forget it” mindset is a strong incentive for these supporters. This means they may be less likely to visit your website to make regular donations. However, they may be more likely to participate in an automated monthly giving program. Make sure you emphasize your recurring gift options for these supporters to ease the giving process.

Younger generations are the future of all organizations. Make sure your organization is ready to welcome them with engagement opportunities that take their needs and desires into account.

6. Adding a Personal Touch: Personalized Outreach

You’ve probably read before about how important personalization is as you reach out to your supporters. In the coming year, as more and more communications go digital, there’s a danger of letting those communications become impersonal – which means that donors are likely to feel like they don’t matter to you.

When you buy fundraising software, look for something that allows your organization to auto-populate the name of supporters and relevant information from their donor profile from your donor database into emails, direct mail letters, and other messages. This is especially important for your nonprofit’s email strategy.

7. Tapping Into CSR: Growth in Corporate Giving

Another trend in the nonprofit world that your organization should keep an eye on as you enter the new year is the growth in corporate giving. Corporations are starting to feel a stronger sense of social responsibility for the community.

An increased sense of corporate social responsibility leads to the introduction of new corporate philanthropy programs. These programs include various ways that corporations can help nonprofits like yours. For instance:

  • Matching gift programs. Matching gifts are donations made by companies that match some ratio of gifts made by employees.
  • Corporate sponsorships. Corporate sponsorships are support provided to nonprofit organizations from a company in return for brand advertisement or other benefits.
  • Community days. Community days are the days when a company encourages all of its employees to go and volunteer at a community nonprofit.
  • Volunteer grants. Volunteer grants are contributions given to organizations where employees of the contributing company volunteer. Generally, the company agrees to donate a certain amount in response to the employee volunteering a certain number of hours.

Nonprofits have a tendency to focus on the individual contributions made by donors. While these are great, ignoring corporate giving opportunities is like leaving free money on the table. Ask your donors to do some research (or provide a matching gift database) to learn if their companies have these types of programs.

Lately, society has been pushing corporations to be less selfish and to give back to the community more. Therefore, in 2021, make sure your nonprofit is taking full advantage of these opportunities from corporations.

8. This Idea Isn’t Just Sci-Fi Anymore: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence isn’t quite what’s portrayed in traditional sci-fi movies. Don’t worry, robots aren’t taking over the world just yet.

Instead, artificial intelligence is a tool that nonprofits can use to better communicate with supportersAccording to DonorSearch’s article, artificial intelligence can be helpful in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Automating data cleansing. Instead of manually sorting through hundreds of individual constituent records or screening your donor database, invest in a software solution that will automate the mundane, routine task of cleansing mailing addresses, email addresses and phone numbers. This allows your staff to maintain high response rates when conducting outreach, while also spending more time on fundraising instead of data management.
  • Responsive, suggested gift amounts. Instead of static online giving pages who present visitors with the same giving ladder, responsive giving ladders that suggest unique gift amounts for each individual user based on previous visit and giving history, geography and other demographic information will soon be the norm.
  • Generating summaries about supporters. Instead of filing through all of your donor information in a convoluted donor database, your tech can use set algorithms to pull important information for you. For instance, you may look for an engagement or generosity score to quickly learn about your supporters.

With the proper tools, your nonprofit can streamline tasks at your organization, saving your team members a lot of time. This time can then be redirected to what really matters: your mission.

We can take an inventory of all of the lessons we’ve learned and start making plans in what feels like a whole new world. By implementing some tips to leverage these top trends, your nonprofit will be ready to take on 2021!

Shared Content, Wild Apricot; originally published 1/8/2021 

Sayana Izmailova is the Content Marketing Specialist at Wild Apricot, a membership management software company. She has worked at a number of nonprofits and uses her experience to help small organizations advance their mission.

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