We wrote an updated list of the top nonprofit fundraising trends in 2020. Although new fundraising trends take shape every year, fundraising trends of 2019 continue to hold relevance…
As 2018 winds down, it’s time to reflect on the past year and begin to prepare for 2019 has in store.
Since the 2010s, nonprofit fundraising trends have swiftly advanced. A lot of changes occurred due to the rise of technology and the growing impact of the Internet. Some others are directly related to the cultural and societal shifts.
The nonprofit/giving industry is constantly evolving. Large nonprofits are streaming live from their offices and adding GIFs to their Instagram stories, landlines are dead, donors give via Apple Pay on their phones while riding the metro to work, and organizations are being asked about proof of their impact on Facebook Messenger. And the speed at which these are happening is often baffling.
It seems that nonprofit professionals frequently fail to account for this speed and unpredictability.
During the last few weeks of 2018 and the first few weeks of 2019, it’s important that you feel confident in your nonprofit’s fundraising plans and capabilities.
By thinking ahead and staying aware of the happenings and trends around you, your nonprofit can be ready for the year ahead.
8 Key Nonprofit Fundraising Trends that will Impact Nonprofit Organizations in 2019:
Fundraising Trend #1: Mind the Gen Z
The world has been talking about millennials for years. While nonprofits should continue to account for millennials, since they are the largest part of the current workforce, it’s now time to start examining the Gen Z.
Its members were born after 1996 and make up an estimated 27 percent of the population in the United States.
They’re sometimes also called “iGen,” a term that denotes the digital and cloud natives that make up this generation. Gen Z makes up a quarter of the U.S. population and by 2020 will account for 40% of all consumers. Understanding them will be critical to succeeding in 2019 and the decade to come.
The 2017 Global Trends in Giving Report noted that Gen Z members are interested in giving to many different causes. The top causes they are interested in supporting include youth, animals, and human services. Gen Z members are also quite passionate and willing to help as volunteers.
Although most of Gen Z hasn’t entered the workforce yet, they are very motivated to do “good” and give back. Be authentic though – the digital natives of Gen Z can quickly determine if an organization is being truthful.
What can you do?
- Be concise and grab their attention. This generation is growing up with access to an incredibly vast amount of information, much of it irrelevant to their lives. To survive, they had to learn how to quickly filter and sort through information. They are also expertly adept at blocking out marketing ‘noise.’ To win their attention, provide them with an engaging and immediate experience and keep your messaging brief and compelling.
- Mobile mobile mobile. Gen Z is the first mobile-only generation. Members of Gen Z spend a lot of their time on their phones, preferring to conduct all online activity that way. Your website and your donation page should both be optimized for mobile.
- Visuals matter. Gen Z spends a lot of time on visual-based platforms like Instagram. When trying to communicate with Gen Z, it’s important to mimic these platforms and create and use authentic visuals. In addition to photos and videos, infographics are also a great tool to relay data in a memorable and digestible way. Use visuals to tell captivating stories.
Fundraising Trend #2: From Generalization to Hyper-Personalization
Increasingly so, donors expect a hyper-personalized and customized approach. Corporate giants like Netflix and Amazon use sophisticated new technologies to make recommendations when we are browsing their sites. Netflix even shared how they not only use the individualized viewing history but also use static imagery from movies to show different cover images to different users in order to appeal to the myriad of different tastes.
It seems that, as a society, we are also beginning to expect this same level of sophistication in our interactions with the rest of the world. In 2019, this expectation will increasingly include nonprofit organizations.
It’s no longer enough to use one generic marketing strategy and try to appeal to a very diverse base of donors.
On the donor side, research suggests that fundraisers have an opportunity to increase engagement with non-white communities. The majority of all racial and ethnic groups recently surveyed by Blackbaud indicated that it was important to support nonprofit organizations. In fact, African American and Hispanic donors said they would give more to charity if they were asked more often, but felt they were solicited less frequently. This is the case for many other groups.
According to the 2017 Trends In Personalization study, 96% of respondents believe personalization helps build customer relationships, while only 45% agreed that marketers are actually getting personalization right. And it’s more important than ever to appeal to different demographic groups within society.
What can you do?
- Make the “ask” personal. Don’t recommend a donation of $50 to a prospective major donor worth millions. Do your research before you make an ask, especially if you’re approaching potential donors individually.
- Pay attention to your giving/donation page. Get to know your audience before refining your messaging. Choose projects and wording that you know will most resonate with your donor base.
- Specialize your messaging. When communicating to an increasingly diverse base of donors, whether the communication happens online or offline, specialize your messaging. Account for generational differences and other demographic data.
Fundraising Trend #3: E-mail is Not Dead
E-mail is not dead.
In 2017, global e-mail users amounted to 3.7 billion users. This figure is set to grow to 4.1 billion users in 2021. (Statista)
Email has a median ROI (Return On Investment) of 122% – over 4x higher than other marketing formats including social media, direct mail, and paid search.
A study done by Dunham & Company revealed that email accounts for 26% of online revenue and that the number is estimated to rise in the near future. While only 6% of donors were willing to donate through email in 2012, that number rose to 28% in 2018.
Naturally, the way e-mails look and sound has been constantly changing throughout the years. For example, e-mails today are much more visual than before.
It’s also been shown that, although more and more people use social media and spend more hours on their devices, the opposite trend also arose in recent years. There has been a backlash against social media quietly boiling among young people.
One 2017 survey of British school children found that 63% would be happy if social media had never been invented.
Young people cite reasons like wasted time, ‘false’ presentation of life, stress and pressure to be perfect, desire to form meaningful real-life connections, and more – as reasons why they’re stepping away from or limiting their use of social media.
This is yet another reason why e-mail is not dead. E-mails aren’t as distracting as social media and are easier to control. E-mail will be the way to reach those young people who are taking a break from social media. In addition to that, e-mails are cost-effective and easy.
What can you do?
- Make sure your e-mail marketing strategy is top-notch. Segment your audience based on demographics, desired communication frequency, giving status, etc. Get clear on what you’re trying to accomplish through your emails (e.g. increase sign-ups for your recurring giving program).
- Pay attention to your e-mails. Your e-mails should have a clear call to action, with a compelling subject line and sent at the right time. While high-quality visuals are essential, don’t overload your e-mail with visuals and calls to action. Simplicity works. Thoroughly analyze data including email opens, CTR, and unsubscribes.
- Use storytelling. Stories are one of the most powerful tools at your disposal. They compel people to give and make them engage in a way that nothing else can. Use your e-mails to tell stories of impact.
Fundraising Trend #4: The Growth of Corporate Giving
Corporate sponsorship support is a payment by a business to a nonprofit to further the nonprofit’s mission, that is generally recognized by the nonprofit with an acknowledgment that the business has supported the nonprofit’s activities, programs, or special event. (councilofnonprofits.org)
In recent years, corporations and their philanthropic arms have started to invest more in socially and environmentally responsible initiatives. This has largely been driven by the rise of conscious consumerism, but also conscious employees. Research has confirmed time after time that there is a positive relationship between how employees perceive their company’s contributions to the community and employees’ commitment to their work.
A 2016 study by Cone Communications revealed that 58% of Americans consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.
When partnering with a corporate organization, your nonprofit is also likely to reach new audiences, in addition to raising funds. This new visibility could lead to new donors and new volunteers.
What can you do?
- Look into donation matching programs. Companies often offer donation matching as an employee benefit. When an employee makes a donation, they can request that their employer also donates to the same nonprofit. The employer’s donation is the matching gift.
- Corporate sponsorships and partnerships. Before partnering with a for-profit organization, think about your audience and how they would receive the news about the partnership. Do your research and ensure the corporation’s values match yours. Prepare a sponsorship proposal and start reaching out to potential sponsors!
- Offer volunteering opportunities. Monetary donations are not the only way to give. More and more corporations allow and encourage their employees to volunteer time inside and outside of work.
Fundraising Trend #5: Recurring Giving is the Way to Go
When a donor sets up a recurring donation, they choose to give a pre-determined amount of money on a regular basis. Many people like to give monthly (the most common form), bi-monthly, or yearly, but they can give as frequently as they’d like.
Recurring giving can have an enormous positive impact on the long-term financial sustainability of your nonprofit. It provides a steady stream of income, leaving more space for your nonprofit to focus on growth and innovation. Recurring donors are also more engaged, give more, and keep giving to your organization for long.
However, most nonprofit organizations still struggle with recruiting recurring donors or converting one-time donors to recurring donors.
In addition to this, it’s increasingly important to offer as many different payment options to your donors as possible. This is one of the advantages of having an online donation system.
What can you do?
- Invest in online donation software like Donorbox. Donorbox is a powerful and efficient donation management system that is specifically optimized for recurring donations. It will make constructing your own donation pages much easier and will provide you with a number of other features and benefits.
- Promote your recurring giving program. Drive program awareness by passively and actively promoting the program. For example, link to your recurring giving program in your email newsletters, share social media posts highlighting recurring donors, and place a prominent link to your recurring giving program on your website.
- Engage with your donors through regular e-mail communication and social media. Consider incentivizing your one-time donors with gifts. Design and run powerful social media campaigns that will clearly demonstrate the value of recurring donations by showcasing the impact they have.
Fundraising Trend #6: It’s All About Communities
In the nonprofit world, there’s been a lot of focus on community-led and community-driven development. These approaches involve a community working together on a shared vision to govern and learn from local action to achieve social change objectives.
Likewise, there’s been a lot of focus on community-driven fundraising. A lot of nonprofits have already explored peer-to-peer fundraising.
While crowdfunding (another popular fundraising strategy) uses one landing page to collect donations from a large number of people, peer-to-peer fundraising invites donors and supporters to fundraise on your behalf. With peer-to-peer fundraising, fundraisers often have their own donation pages. Peer-to-peer fundraising has another powerful advantage – social proof.
Social proof is a powerful psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation. In essence, this means people do what they see others do.
Many have started to express their desire for real human contact in the age of brands and ubiquitous marketing noise. This craving for human contact really paves the way for a new way of fundraising for nonprofits.
What can you do?
- Attempt peer-to-peer fundraising. Mobilize your supporters and donors in a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign by clearly explaining its benefits, and by offering a lot of support and encouragement. Make fundraising materials available and easy to access for your fundraisers.
- Go the extra mile. Offer tours of your offices or your program locations. Organize events where your donors and beneficiaries meet. Have ‘open doors’ when your nonprofit staff is accessible for conversations with donors or potential supporters.
- Build a community. Create a strong brand that others will want to be a part of. Offer leadership positions or other rewards to the most active volunteers and donors. Encourage your donors and supporters to take active roles in furthering the mission beyond donating.
Fundraising Trend #7: Artificial Intelligence is Rising
In Accenture’s 2018 Technology Vision, four out of five executives (81 percent) said they believe within the next two years, AI will work next to humans in their organizations, as a co-worker, collaborator and trusted advisor.
AI broadly refers to programs, computers, and machines that perform ‘intelligent’ tasks. These include planning, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, knowledge representation, perception, motion, and manipulation and, to a lesser extent, social intelligence and creativity.
One of the simplest uses of AI is chatbots. Chatbots are services that sometimes use artificial intelligence and that you interact with via a chat interface. They use messaging services like Messenger, Slack, Telegram, and more.
Jewelry brand Lokai and nonprofit Charity: Water used a chatbot Yeshi, through a creative spin to storytelling, to bring more awareness to the water crisis in Ethiopia girl’s using Facebook Messenger. The chatbot also accepts donations. Chatbots can deliver personalized care to donors and potential donors 24/7.
In 2019 and beyond, there’s a lot of potential in human-machine collaboration.
Artificial intelligence can help nonprofits gather more data and use it better to advance their missions and solve societal problems. For example, a nonprofit that helps youth at risk of self-harm and suicide can use AI (as well as psychology and machine learning) to label content on social media to see which young people are at risk. To that end, Crisis Text Line’s service has learned that the term “ibuprofen” is 16 times more likely to predict the need for emergency aid than the word “suicide.”
AI can also be used to dramatically improve your programs and services. For example, CollegeForward uses machine learning to identify coaching methods to prepare at-risk high school students for college.
Many nonprofits are already witnessing the powerful implications of AI when it comes to their impact, even though AI is still at a nascent stage. Now is the time to get on board with exploring AI.
What can you do?
- Consider creating a chatbot. Messaging apps are growing fast. Facebook Messenger, for example, is used by over 1 billion people every month and it is growing faster than Facebook. This presents a big opportunity for your nonprofit. Your chatbot can handle donations, member registrations, and give out information about your programs and services.
- Personalize communication with your prospects and donors. AI can nurture donor journeys by personalizing their donor journey with tailored, personal messages based on actual, real-time donor behavior. These personalized messages, shown to donors at very specific moments, could encourage many more to contribute to your nonprofit.
- Use AI to become a data expert. Smart use of data can help push what’s possible in an organization. For example, AI can help you analyze data to predict a potential donor’s likelihood to give a major gift by looking at their giving and volunteering history, event attendance, affiliations, relationships, and even data from wealth screening tools.
Fundraising Trend #8: Impact Transparency Matters
Donors today care about where their money is going. There’s a lot of momentum around impact transparency.
In 2019, donor due diligence is going to be a key fundraising trend for nonprofits in driving how people will contribute. Donors — especially millennials — want more personal involvement with the causes they support. Many donors nowadays have an array of skills and resources to investigate a nonprofit’s governance policies and social impact. And they are not lazy to do so.
To meet this need and respond to this trend, have an “Impact” page on your website where you clearly demonstrate your social impact. Of course, in order to do that, you need to measure your impact first. If your nonprofit is not measuring impact already, that should be your first step. Many nonprofits also produce impact reports or include the impact reporting in their annual report. There are many other creative ways to be transparent with your donors and supporters.
For example, charity: water mapped every of their completed projects on Google Maps with GPS coordinates, photos, and information about the community served. That way, their supporters can see exactly where they work, the types of projects they fund, and how many people have received clean water.
What can you do?
- Invite your donors to visit your program location (e.g. shelter, community kitchen, school, etc;), and let them witness first-hand how their gifts are changing the lives of the beneficiaries.
- Explore live streaming. Live streaming is one of the most immediate and authentic tactics you can employ to increase the transparency of your organization. Raw footage is often the most powerful so prepare for the unexpected by always having your mobile phone on hand.
- Use infographics. Infographics help you talk about complex ideas to your audience. They’re an efficient way to show how your organization is using the donations. Through data visualization, nonprofits can better engage their audience by simplifying complex information. Infographics can also help attract a wider audience, as they can easily be liked, shared, and spread by your supporters.
The key is for nonprofits to take a step back and understand how these fundraising trends can boost their organizations’ goals and further their missions in 2019 and years to come.
Forward-thinking organizations staying aware of the world around them and are constantly learning. Learning and awareness are essential to how nonprofits can deliver services and accomplish their missions.
Organizations that don’t do that fail – and this is the harsh truth. Only those nonprofit professionals and organizations that constantly learn and adapt can survive and thrive.
We hope our article helped you learn more about the biggest and most significant fundraising trends in 2019. Learn the latest nonprofit fundraising trends of 2020 in our article here.
We also hope you can take these insights forward and apply them to your operations and everyday activities.
We’ve only really scratched the surface here, so we encourage you to do your own research.