How 2020 Has Changed the Future of Fundraising According to Experts

The Keela Team • Sep 09, 2020

Nine fundraising experts share what the future of fundraising looks like due to COVID-19

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2020 has been a pivotal year for nonprofits.

COVID-19 has propelled most organizations into digital transformation at a pace we thought would take years. 

So far in 2020, 80% of donors prefer to give online. The global pandemic has just accelerated a trend that was already there: the increased popularity of online giving. 

Never has fundraising been such a challenging job. Not only do fundraisers need to find remote, creative ways to engage with donors, but also they have to make conscious efforts to broaden the diversity of their donor pools. But the outcome is worth the work: thriving in the digital world while building inclusive donor experiences.

No need to say we find ourselves at a turning point. And with it comes many questions: What changes are needed to adapt to the new normal? How do you thrive when you can’t meet your donors face-to-face? How do you continue to fundraise in economically uncertain times? 

We asked the world-class fundraising experts speaking at Donor Experience Week their opinion on the future of fundraising due to COVID-19.

Here are their answers: 

Julia Campbell

Social Media & Storytelling Strategist,
Author and Speaker.

The dust isn’t going to settle. COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon, and even if it does get better, our society will be fundamentally changed in some significant ways. 

No matter what season we are in, no matter what kind of crisis we are facing, your donors want to know that you are making an impact. Show them how your work has changed, positively and/or negatively, since the pandemic flipped the world upside down. 

Don’t think that your mission isn’t important, or that you can’t fundraise, if you aren’t a COVID-19 essential/emergency charity. Your mission is important. Keep communicating with your donors. Let them know how they can help. 

Maureen Wallbeoff

Digital Strategist and Technology Coach

It’s a wild, wild time for nonprofit organizations – but in fairness, it’s always been a road full of surprises for fundraisers, hasn’t it? 

Pre-COVID-19, we talked a lot about donor journeys. Digital transformations. Using data to drive decision-making. Providing a great experience to our donors, volunteers, and prospects. 

Ask yourself: Did we make much progress on these things before March of 2020? 

Now, living in a global pandemic, it’s time to get serious about stewarding our supporters. Understanding what they care about. Learning which communication channels they prefer. Uncovering all the ways they are involved with our work. Humans are hungry for connection and community right now – and smart nonprofit teams will focus on building strong, mutually beneficial relationships with their supporters. 

Doing this doesn’t need to be painful, expensive, or time-consuming. It just takes some focus and follow-through. Give your supporters the experience they crave, and you’ll see results in 2021 and beyond. 

Sara Hoshooley

Founder of Charity Shift Consulting

Post-COVID – Setting Up for a Successful 2021

Trends: Pivot, adapt, new normal. 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nothing is predictable.

This year has been unlike any other and the impacts on fundraising and the nonprofit sector have been far-reaching. BUT! It’s not all doom and gloom, what can 2020 teach us to ensure we’re well equipped for 2021? Here are a few predictions and ideas to get you thinking about what the NEXT normal will look like.

Predictable funding – what can you do to ensure stable funding throughout 2021? Can you build or increase your monthly giving program? Can you ask your corporate or major donors to consider a multi-year gift? Have you started a planned giving program? Any funding that is predictable and consistent is helpful to get through 2021 and beyond.

Fundraising events – It’s probably safe to assume these will continue to be held in virtual or adapted ways well into the next 12 months. Look at ways to connect donors virtually and make them still feel connected to your cause, despite not physically being in the same space.

Donor love – do your donors know how vital they are? Do they feel loved and appreciated? Have you genuinely reached out to them without an ask over the past few months? If not, pick up the phone, send a text/email/letter/video and let them know how much their support matters.

Streamline – you may have reduced staff, increased workload, and more people depending on your organization. Take time to look at your fundraising channels – what is working well? What takes a lot of resources? What can be given to a volunteer to help with?

Cindy Wagman

President and CEO,
The Good Partnership

While it’s very hard to predict what fundraising will look like (because it’s hard to predict what the economy will look like and the overall recovery – and when), I think it’s safe to say that the organizations that will have the most success fundraising will be the ones that have continued to engage with their donors and build community throughout COVID. 

I have seen our clients continue to raise money (and in some cases increase fundraising revenues) throughout COVID because they have been nimble and able to continue to build relationships and be creative with programming. I’ve also seen a lot of organizations use COVID as an excuse to not ask for donations because they didn’t like fundraising in the first place. I am worried for those organizations and their recovery. 

Bruce MacDonald

President & CEO, Imagine Canada

How to maintain a human connection in a virtual world? In looking at donor engagement over the next two years, as we co-exist with COVID, one of the challenges facing fund development professionals will be the ability to ensure that a deep and meaningful connection to the cause is nurtured with donors and stakeholders. 

In a virtual world, this will pose both technological and resourcing challenges. Tours of program sites to showcase impact will be online. Solicitation meetings will be virtual. Stewardship events may not be able to take place. This is an area where innovative ideas and approaches are essential.

Brady Josephson

Vice President of Innovation and Optimization at NextAfter

I think (and hope) organizations will continue to see the value of digital and use it as an essential way to reach all donors, not just younger or smaller ones, in all ways, not just as a way to ask for or collect money online. 

The organizations that we saw succeed in COVID times were the ones that we’ve been seeing succeed in digital for the past 10 years in that they weren’t afraid of fundraising, were able to respond and make decisions quickly, and actually had the capacity to implement ideas and strategies. 

This may sound simple but it requires strong leadership, a positive view of fundraising, an understanding of how marketing and fundraising are related and work together, an investment in people, and the tools and technology you use. 

If those things weren’t in place before COVID, at least some or in part, then it was really difficult to do so during COVID so I think (and hope) that the pain felt will spur on much-needed changes and progress in these areas to make sure the gains made aren’t just a bump but a spark point that leads to more lasting growth.

Karen Hopper

Senior Data Strategist at M+R

We’re at a turning point – not just in terms of before and after the pandemic – but also in terms of race relations and understanding what equality really means. I think we’ll start seeing a lot more nonprofits really taking a hard look at how they center the communities they serve in their fundraising and marketing materials, and hopefully begin to see the end of white supremacy culture in nonprofits. The nonprofit industry is so white – it’s just a fact – and we need to own that and understand our role in making the world a truly better place. 

George Weiner

Chief Whaler at WholeWhale

We are seeing incredible consolidation in 2020 giving around two major tentpole themes COVID and the BLM movement, leaving arts and many other nonprofits underfunded. 

AFP Fundraising Project reported a 6% decline in giving in Q1 and we expect this trend to extend through the year. The silver lining is the increase and willingness of donors to join online galas and fundraising efforts that require less overhead while still raising funds when done right.

More COVID Nonprofit Trends and Opportunities 

Ryan Woroniecki

Vice President of Strategic Partnership at DonorSearch

In an increasingly digital world, major gifts fundraising has not followed that trend. 

Phone calls and emails facilitate meetings but the cultivation and solicitation process is largely in-person. 

Meetings with donors often include a meal that has an underlying psychological effect to make us feel safer around that person like animals at a watering hole. Virtual lunches with donors may not take off, but virtual solicitations will. 

People are now more comfortable with video calls because they conduct business and see family on Zoom. This level of comfort is leading to virtual meetings with donors. Prior to COVID, some organizations hired digital gift officers for mid-level gifts including The University of Wisconsin. My friends at The Giving Institute have a slew of COVID resources. One of those companies Campbell & Company has helped a few clients secure 5-figure gifts via video conference. 

As time goes on, I predict we will see many more major gift solicitations performed virtually. This will happen once we are on the other side of COVID because donors want to save travel time, save organizational resources, and in many cases convenience. It’s going to be neat to see how this shakes out over time.

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