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Fundraising Trends Go Back to Basics

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Kay Todd

Product Marketing Manager

There's a lot of pressure in the world of philanthropy today. Giving USA reports that $485 billion was donated to US charities in 2021, but growth remained flat, donor volume dropped, and competition is higher than ever.

The State of Fundraising

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the number of donors to organizations fell by 7% in the first half of 2022 compared with the first half of 2021. There's also enormous competitive pressure because the number of organizations fighting for the same donations is growing. Right now, there are 1.5 million 501(c)3 organizations in the US, and that number has grown at an annual rate of 1.4% over the past 20 years.

To make matters worse, nonprofits have struggled to hire and retain talent at every level, a looming recession has us on edge, and rates of donor acquisition and retention are falling.

In a 2021 survey by the National Council of Nonprofits, three out of four nonprofits reported job vacancies of greater than 10%. Fewer staff means service and support suffer, driving capacity for growth and retention to a screeching halt. In fact, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project found that the donor retention rate decreased by 6.2% year-over-year from the first quarter of 2021 to the first quarter of 2022.

It's Time to Shift Back to Basics

There's a bright side for organizations who refocus and shift back to tactics that aren’t new today. Consider this: Average gift amounts across the DonorDrive platform grew by 20% from 2021 to 2022. Something is working.

Plus, new donors from the pandemic are sticking around. There's a lot of opportunity to connect with new supporters you picked up over the last couple of years. According to Giving USA, donors who gave during the pandemic are continuing their support. Giving USA also reports that a growing number of Gen Z donors are getting more involved. Younger generations are highly engaged and looking for mission-impact. This equals opportunity for organizations who can tap into this audience.

For the last three years, contingency plans, cancellations, re-orgs, and layoffs have been the norm. Now that we seem to be settling into our “new normal," we're hearing overwhelmingly that organizations are going back to basics — tried and true methods of engaging, communicating, and recruiting that inspire supporters to want to do more.

Trend 1: Personalized Communication Strategies Still Work

It’s never been easier to make a lasting impression. Personalize your digital outreach with thoughtful communication for relationships that last.

  • Greet them personally with their name.
  • Celebrate specific milestones and gifts.
  • Make it easy to participate with clear CTAs.

To ensure your message doesn't get lost in the inbox, use uncommon subject lines, send when unexpected, and keep the content mission-first.

This email from the National MS Society greets the supporter by name, includes supporter history, and displays several CTAs that invite action. Think about how you can leverage existing templates with automated content like this. A few small tweaks can go a long way.

Your supporters want a meaningful connection.

Humanize your cause with personalized communication and memorable experiences. Launch a handwritten thank you campaign, like this example from the Down Syndrome Association to volunteers of a local Buddy Walk.

Here are some other ideas to try:

  • Pick up the phone.
  • Host a meet-and-greet with impacted families.
  • Rally around activation and giving days.

Trend 2: Mission-Focused Fundraising Will Drive the Biggest Impact

Raise a megaphone to your mission, and supporters will hear you. 90% of millennials surveyed in The Millennial Impact Report are not committed to give to a single organization. They’re more motivated to give by a compelling mission.

Next-gen supporters expect to see the impact of their contributions. 

Shelley Hoss, President and CEO of Orange County Community Foundation, said in a Forbes Nonprofit Council Post, “Potential donors relate most to social issues when impact on real lives is at the heart of the story. Center your organization’s narrative in human terms through written word, videos and images.”

This email from Covenant House is both mission- and impact-first. It's clear in the header that contributions will impact young people facing homelessness and trafficking, and if you scroll down you can see by exactly how much. For $111, a donor can provide five nights of housing for new residents in 2023. That's a compelling message.

How do you bring your mission to the forefront for measurable impact? Deliver targeted communications tied to key moments for the most influential interactions that bring you closer to your constituents and drive awareness, action, and trust.

  • Diversify communication with phone calls and texts.
  • Orchestrate scheduled and triggered notifications.
  • Pair with personalized direct mail campaigns to drive the story home.

Trend 3: Supporter-Centric Strategies Make It Easier than Ever to Get Involved

Make it easy to connect and feel welcomed, and carry that across the entire supporter journey. Start by refreshing your supporter journey map with flexible, relevant experiences. Your supporter experience should reflect the needs of your community. Demonstrate the importance of participation by making it easy to get involved with:

  • Customizable recurring gift opportunities
  • Fast and convenient payment options
  • Tailored toolkits and coaching resources

Amplify impact with affinity groups, local chapters, and societies.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) offers channels for supporters to find and connect through local groups. AFSP is a national organization, but they make it hyper-local by connecting supporters who live in the same communities. These Giving Societies act as entry points for supporters who are new to the organization and offer varying benefits for each giving level.

Offer mobile payment options relevant to your audience.

Look at your data to learn which devices and payment options make the most sense for your supporters. We’re seeing the growth of some mobile payment options outpacing the growth of even credit cards.

You don’t need to offer every mobile payment option though. Look at your data to understand who your audience is and which devices are most relevant. Across the DonorDrive platform, over 60% of traffic comes from mobile, specifically Apple devices and the iPhone.

Spark action with toolkits for every step of the journey.

Build toolkits to help supporters unlock their full potential when they need it most.
Include a social media content bank with pre-written text and imagery, create a template library for email and letter-writing campaigns, and build a Facebook Fundraiser how-to guide.

Go Back to Basics to Superpower Your Fundraising Strategy

Illuminate impact to build momentum and bring supporters back. The end-to-end supporter journey should span a lifetime, not a single campaign. Create a culture of giving through transparency and storytelling with direct impact at the center.

What's the formula for success? Deliver personalized communications with mission-focused fundraising and supporter-centric strategies.