Charities had, it’s fair to say, a fairly torrid 2018 and fundraisers might be forgiven for facing the new year with something less than happy anticipation.
If there’s one thing that we can sure about in 2019 it’s uncertainty. The world feels like a pretty chaotic place at the moment and trying to make any kind of prediction is probably a mug’s game.
But there are some things we can be fairly confident about, at least in our little world. There are I think some pretty clear drivers that are affecting fundraising for nonprofits and I expect these to continue in the new year.
The most important trends in the fundraising market in 2019 I think will be;
- Trust and transparency. Nonprofits will continue to be under intense scrutiny and maintaining donors’ trust will be a huge priority. We can expect the most progressive charities to embrace transparency in increasingly radical ways. This is much more than just providing financial and salary information on a website. We should expect more organisations to follow leaders like Charity:water and watsi in providing direct feedback to supporters showing exactly what has been accomplished with their specific gift. Watsi even provide a copy of invoices from doctors who have provided surgeries a donor has funded.
- Localisation. In the UK at least there’s been a clear move in donor support towards causes that have an impact at local level. Hospices and air ambulances are significantly over-performing national charities. We will see more larger charities embrace localisation by working to make their propositions more relevant to specific communities. This is an opportunity for national charities to re-invent how they approach community fundraising in 2019.
- Focus on constituency. Many nonprofits have achieved significant growth by appealing to broad audiences. Using mass market channels to attract support from the generally philanthropic. But what charities are increasingly realising is that their core support is the people who really care about their issue. They might be donors but are also volunteers, service users, friends and relatives of beneficiaries. Many of them are already engaged with the organisation. Often they haven’t been asked for money. Charities like Macmillan have understood for a while that their income comes largely from people who have had experience of their services. We can expect more nonprofits to focus more effort on engaging their core constituencies.
- Donors from digital. Until really quite recently, many capable and experienced individual giving fundraisers have been sceptical that digital channels would ever produce new supporters in any volume. (This is despite the fact that the likes of WWF have seen huge donor volumes from digital for over a decade). With many more charities now seeing significant results from Facebook and (increasingly) YouTube, this skepticism is reducing. But for the doubters, if you are not using digital to generate a significant proportion of new supporters, this isn’t the channel’s fault, it’s yours.
- Digital driving integration. It has been obvious for some considerable time that the traditional charity division between “fundraising” and “communications” isn’t working. Operating these activities in separate compartments was never a good idea but it’s digital that is really forcing change. It’s simply impossible to succeed in digital channels without managing them in a holistic way and with a complete overview of the process from first visit to donation. We will see more nonprofits changing structures and working methods to achieve an integrated marketing approach in 2019.
- Frictionless payments. Of all the technological developments that are changing fundraising, I think one click payments will have the biggest impact in 2019. New payment systems are making the process of making donations significantly quicker and these can be expected to be introduced across the whole spectrum of giving. For example, a volunteer with a smartphone can now collect a new direct debit in under a minute, potentially revolutionising face to face fundraising.
- Integrated appeals. Part of the move towards greater integration across nonprofit marketing will involve more charities running integrated appeals across all fundraising streams towards a single shared goal. Until now, integrated appeals with specific, time-limited targets such as Sightsavers “Million Miracles” campaign have been the exception with most individual giving programmes run as year round general fund activities. With the explosion of Crowdfunding, charities are realising that general, unspecific individual fundraising campaigns are decreasingly effective. Expect more, big aspirational campaigns from large charities next year.
- Remembering the basics. While we all tend to look out for the new and shiny, in fundraising as in many things, a key trend in 2019 might actually be recalling what we already know. While lots of thing are changing within and outside our world, the basics of how you effectively fundraise haven’t changed at all. With everything that has been happening there’s a danger that some charities have taken their eye off the ball. Many programmes next year will be improved simply by an injection of evidence based fundraising good practice. And that’s probably as important as any of the other trends.
I have no idea what will happen in the world in 2019 or what state it will be in by the end of it.
Assuming we still have a world though, I think we’ll see nonprofits continue to adapt to a rapidly changing environment with fundraising as always vital to achieve that. Nonprofits will continue to innovate and develop in how they raise that money while maintaining the trust of their supporters.
Happy (and successful) new year.