In 2019, fundraising saw a number of trends that should make us both optimistic about the future and skeptical that not all are not focused on the right challenges. Perhaps most promising is that many nonprofit organizations began to emerge as leaders in philanthropy by indicating that they are eager to transform both the way fundraising works and the results it can produce. As we look ahead to 2020, here are some top predictions for the future of the industry.
A More Challenging Business Environment
Every year in advancement, we see goals increase. However, when is the last time you saw that coincide with additional funding, staff, and other resources? In our current business environment, we’re met with the age-old directive to “do more with less.” This environment, coupled with the reality that we’re seeing decreased giving numbers or more competition for donor dollars means that organizations have no choice but to innovate. Those that began taking action in this area prior to the new year will emerge as leaders in 2020.
A Critical Need to Deepen Relationships with More Donors and Prospects
Statistical evidence backs up what we already know to be true: while individual giving is up, a deeper dive into these numbers show that it has actually decreased when accounting for inflation and the drop in the total number of individual donors. This trend will carry into 2020, leaving organizations to call on fewer donors to supply a larger portion of their funding. This increasing competition for donor dollars puts more pressure on gift officers to reinforce and cultivate relationships with existing donors.
Scaling the Workforce Without Making New Hires
Many nonprofits have the goal of growing their fundraising team for the same simple reason: more fundraisers equal more donors and prospects engaged in relationships and more revenue closed. But, as already outlined, hiring a new fundraiser -- or a team of fundraisers to suddenly scale operations -- is often not in the cards. Teams will continue to be tasked with reaching larger goals with generally the same staff already employed.
More organizations will look to technology like artificial intelligence (AI) expand their workforces by increasing fundraiser capacity, like The College of Charleston (CofC). Without making any additional hires, CofC fundraisers acted as a team of roughly 2.5x its size to manage more donors with closed more gifts in 2019.
For nonprofits to set themselves up for success, not just in 2020 but in years beyond, fundraisers will need to start finding the next generation of donors now. The Discovery, or Rated But Unassigned pool, is always the best place to start. Typically, fundraisers do not have the capacity to do any meaningful work with these pools because they’re (rightfully) too busy doing the full-time work of managing their own assigned portfolios. However, when we’re constantly reminded that giving from individual donors is down, ignoring these pools seems a sure-fire way to dry up the pipeline for future giving. This year, more and more organizations will look to increase fundraiser efficiencies so they can focus on the donors and prospects who simply haven’t been given personal attention, yet. And, organizations will inevitably look to AI to develop these efficiencies and empower fundraisers to engage these folks in meaningful ways.
Fundraising leaders have the chance in 2020 to redefine how they approach fundraising. How will you combat falling levels of philanthropy? Can you do more with less? Does your portfolio set you up for success not only this year, but the next three, or even five?
With the new year beginning, nonprofit organizations must continue to offset declining giving by transforming the way in which we inspire donors to fund the cures, causes, and missions that will truly change the world.