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Fundraising Trends Go Back to Basics

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Kay Todd

Product Marketing Manager

The State of Fundraising

We’ve all heard it and felt it, fundraising is a particularly challenging industry to navigate right now. A rollercoaster of trends with the pool of potential donors shrinking and the number of people making charitable donations dropping sharply between 2021 and 2022, according to Giving USA.

Chronicle Philanthropy reports even nonprofits that raised as much or more at year-end 2023 than they did the previous year say they’re likely facing a budget shortfall. Some groups that raised more money during that period saw fewer donors contribute during the full calendar year.

Staff burnout and heightened competition for skilled team members are driving higher hiring and retention costs. On top of that, the cost to acquire new donors in an increasingly fragmented digital landscape continues to increase. It’s tough to break through the noise and communicate your mission to the right audience at the right moment.

It's Time to Stick with the Tried and True

There's a bright side for organizations who refocus and prioritize tactics that work best for them. 

Consider this: The NYC LGBT Community Center increased their revenue 28% for their signature event by giving fundraisers the tools they need to raise more. Penn State THON exceeded $15 million raised in 2024, a 9% increase over the previous year. Something is working.

For the last few 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. 

From humanizing your personalized communication methods and reaching next-gen supporters, to driving conversion through flexible payment options and aligning to your Donor’s Journey every step of the way, here are the trends to keep on your radar for the year.

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.

Boost Conversion with Flexible Giving Options

Digital wallets are a way of storing payment information electronically so consumers can make transactions with a computer or smartphone — and without needing their physical credit or debit cards. Offer these popular digital wallets — Apply Pay, PayPal, and Venmo — to boost conversion, new donor acquisition, and frequency of donations

Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) are the fastest-growing giving vehicle in philanthropy. Grants from DAFs increased 9% with donors giving $52 billion in 2022, according to the 2023 DAF Report. Yet $229 billion is still held in these charitable savings accounts waiting to be donated to qualified 501 (c)(3) organizations. With DAFpay, these donors can grant directly from their DAF accounts to your giving campaigns, events, participant and team fundraising pages without leaving the donation flow.

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. You don’t need to offer every device or mobile payment option though, review your data to understand who your audience is and which devices are most relevant. 

The NYC LGBT Community Center brought on the DonorDrive Charity Fundraising mobile app for their 2023 Cycle for the Cause event, giving their fundraisers everything they needed to be successful.

Cycle for the Cause raised $2.2 million in 2023 — the largest total raised in the 29-year history of the event and a 28% increase over the previous year's total. 22% of fundraisers utilized the mobile app and raised $2,831 more on average than those fundraisers who didn’t use the mobile app.

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.

Inspire your supporters with milestones.

Breaking your fundraising goals into bite size mini goals is a great way to inspire your supporters throughout their fundraising journey. The NYC LGBT Community Center created this Fundraising Roadmap to break down their incentives and keep supporters motivated to keep raising more. 

DonorDrive’s Fundraising Milestones feature offers another opportunity. Organizations like the National MS Society can create Fundraising Milestones that showcase on the personal fundraising page thermometer. Participants can update these milestones to showcase their own creativity and motivate their networks to support them through different stages of their fundraising push. DonorDrive participants with at least one milestone raise 86% more on average than participants with no milestones.

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.

Learn more about how DonorDrive can help superpower your fundraising strategy. 

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