Effective fundraising is key to the stability of any nonprofit. But it's far from a singular task. Fundraising includes staying on top of major trends in giving, attracting and retaining donors, knowing the right strategies, and using all the tools at your disposal to their highest potential.
There's no "one way" to raise money, either. How you go about securing the funds needed for your nonprofit to do its work should be unique to your organization and attentive to the audience you are trying to reach. What follows is a resource guide intended to help you in your nonprofit fundraising efforts so that you can ultimately focus more on what matters most at your organization: serving your community.
The last decade has brought generally good news for nonprofits raising money, but we're starting to see a decline in certain areas.
From 2009 to 2018, charitable giving in the U.S. grew 33 percent, according to the Giving USA Foundation. In fact, 2017 was the highest year of giving ever. However, as predicted, the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act seemed to set the clock back a bit, as fewer people are taking itemized deductions on their tax returns (more on that below).
But let's start with the good news. According to Giving USA 2019: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018, individuals, bequests, foundations, and corporations gave $427 billion to U.S. charities. The bad news? It marked a 1.7 percent downturn from the previous year.
Here's a closer look at some of the details around this decline.
But it's not all doom and gloom. Both international affairs and environmental welfare organizations received a boost in giving (7 and 1.2 percent, respectively).
Increasing your digital fundraising efforts is a good place to start. This may require finding money for additional staff to do it right — but this sort of investment can really pay off. It can take an experienced professional to set up effective mid-level giving programs and optimize your donor management software or at least require some professional development to empower existing staff members to do so.
But there are plenty of other measures you can take as well, from reducing your general overhead to learning more about how much the new tax laws are affecting your existing donors and their willingness to donate to your organization. A simple survey in a newsletter could give you a snapshot of this new landscape.
Also, think about diversifying the ways that donors can give, such as sustaining gifts on a monthly or quarterly basis or legacy giving (in which your organization is included in a living will or trust). And don't forget to remain actively engaged with those who have continued to support your cause through the overall decline in individual donations.
Lastly, as the new tax season approaches, craft messaging around the importance of individual donations in light of the recent changes to the tax code, framing long-term, individual giving as inextricably important to the pursuit of your nonprofit's mission.
Not all recent trends in nonprofit fundraising are related to the decline seen in overall giving. In fact, several notable nonprofit fundraising trends have emerged in recent years. For example, mobile fundraising is on the rise. According to the 2019 M+R Benchmarks Study, in 2018, mobile users accounted for 21 percent of donations — a 15 percent increase from 2017.
The same report found that one-time gifts decreased by 2 percent, while monthly giving increased by 17 percent. This is all the more reason to go after those sustaining supporters in a more targeted way. For a more in-depth look at the 2019 findings, be sure to check out the report on your own — or take a look at some 2018 nonprofit fundraising trends to understand some of the key findings.
How well your nonprofit can attract and retain its donors is central to your ability to fundraise. That's because all your fundraising strategies, communications, and outreach are ultimately hinged upon finding new supporters for your cause — and keeping the ones you have. Here are a few things that every nonprofit should consider, including monthly giving programs, donor engagement, and inspiring millennials to give to your cause.
A monthly giving program is a great way to encourage people to donate money to your nonprofit year-round. And with digital fundraising becoming the norm, it's clear that more people are signing on to this method of supporting their favorite causes. The option to donate smaller amounts throughout the year is a more accessible entry point for prospective donors, and it often results in larger gifts in the long run — resulting in a win/win situation for both you and your supporters. Below are a few tips to help get you started.
While the period of time between Giving Tuesday and New Year's Day is traditionally the biggest fundraising period of the year, it's important for nonprofits to have a solid, year-round fundraising strategy in place at all times. In fact, January is a good time to take stock of what worked, what didn't, and what's next in terms of raising money at your nonprofit. You can start the new year off right by thanking all those who supported you in the giving season, and, internally, you can begin developing a 12-month donor retention strategy.
Regardless of the time of year, there are some important things to consider when developing a coordinated plan of action for fundraising. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Remember that donor engagement is a marathon not a sprint, and in order to retain donors, you need to communicate with them as genuinely and effectively as possible. Always thank your donors after each gift. Don't communicate too little or too often, and let donors decide if they'd like to be contacted by email, telephone, mail — or not at all. Craft emails and communications that speak directly to new donors and get them excited about being a part of your cause. On that note, make sure that you are using your newsletter as an effective tool for reaching existing donors. All of this takes a certain amount of finesse, but when it is executed properly, you'll see positive results at your organization.
Millennials, defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, comprise a pool of 80 million potential donors to your cause. In many ways, millennials represent the future of fundraising, and it's key that you spend time getting to know what makes this group tick when it comes to giving — even if you are one yourself.
There are a number of things to keep in mind in your approach to fundraising that targets this group. First, millennials are largely a tech-savvy group that values speed and ease of transaction when it comes to donating. That said, millennials at large believe that they can make a difference in this world and are inclined to give to causes they believe in. In fact, the Millennial Impact Report showed that more than one-third of millennials surveyed had donated to a charity within the past year.
Furthermore, in the past year, 43 percent had volunteered for a cause and more than half had signed a petition for a cause. All this adds up to a motivated demographic of people who are willing to stand by a cause they believe in. Be sure that your fundraising plan is doing what it can to authentically reach them. Here are a few tips.
Learning to meet millennials where they are in their world doesn't just translate to more donations. It's truly important that your cause stays relevant to the next generation of philanthropists so that your organization can continue to make a difference well into the future.
A strong fundraising strategy will look different for every nonprofit, and there are many factors to take into account when developing a plan to secure precious donations. For one, social media is now a must-use tool when it comes to reaching your community, and crowdfunding has also emerged as an alternative way to raise money for your cause. It's also crucial to take people's use of mobile devices into consideration — and let's not forget about Giving Tuesday.
But direct emails and newsletters remain an extremely effective way to encourage people to donate money to your nonprofit. However, the success of your email campaign is, in some ways, dependent upon the strength of your email list. Before getting into some of the topics above, here are five ways to grow your email list at your nonprofit.
A solid social media fundraising campaign can deliver great results. But it's key to understand some best practices before you execute your plan.
For one, you need to know your audience and which platforms they are more likely to use. Studies have shown that younger audiences gravitate more toward Instagram and YouTube than Facebook, so if you are targeting a younger demographic (such as millennials), keep this in mind.
It's also crucial to first develop a campaign plan. Your plan should identify a catchy name for your campaign, the team members responsible for its delivery, a content overview and schedule, and the metrics you'll use for tracking its success. You should also consider creating a landing page specific to the campaign and some memorable hashtags (for example, #PuppyAdoptionBonanza) to generate a buzz online.
If you choose to use various platforms, be sure to tailor your message to each. Instagram posts should feel different than Facebook appeals and vice versa. Also, try to identify influencers with many followers who might be able to amplify your message to their community. And don't forget to thank your donors and keep people updated on the progress of your campaign.
Facebook and Instagram also have different fundraising tools available to nonprofits. But before you use them on either platform, you'll need to sign up for Charitable Giving Tools. However, be aware that when using these tools, it's not always easy to collect donor information — such as email addresses — with each gift.
On Facebook, you can include a donation button directly on your page, in your header, or within a post. This is a great way to give your audience a direct call to action associated with specific messaging. You can also create Facebook fundraisers directly in the platform, complete with their own, unique landing page. To get started, click on Fundraisers on the left side of your newsfeed.
You can add a donation sticker to your Instagram Stories. It works just like any other sticker (such as a location or @mention) and allows donors give between $5 and $2,500 to your nonprofit.
Mobile fundraising is on the rise, and nonprofits need to keep pace with this trend. Statistics vary, but M+R found that 21 percent of donations in 2018 we made on mobile devices — a 15 percent increase from the previous year*. And as this figure grows, here are a few things to keep in mind.
*Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact's Charitable Giving Report: How Nonprofit Fundraising Performed in 2017 found that mobile fundraising accounted for 21 percent of online giving, up 17 percent from 2016.
Crowdfunding is an alternative way to get your community involved in fundraising for your organization. With this tactic, a landing page is set up on a site such as GoFundMe.com or Fundly.com (which also offers a CRM available through TechSoup) and people donate money directly to your nonprofit.
When organizing your crowdfunding campaign, be sure to clearly highlight your brand on your landing page, create a compelling story or appeal using photos and video, and offer different levels of giving options. With each tier of giving option, consider offering a gift to show your appreciation for your donors' support.
Don't forget to send your donors a follow-up "thank you" email and encourage them to share your cause on their own social media channels. Your crowdfunding efforts should already include a social media distribution component, but a compelling campaign has the potential to take on a life of its own once others begin to share it independently.
Since its 2012 inception, Giving Tuesday has exploded into an international philanthropic phenomenon. 2018 was its most successful year yet, raising over $380 million online — a 38 percent increase from the year before.
Designed as an antidote to the rampant consumerism and commercialism that defines the post-Thanksgiving season, Giving Tuesday has an enormous amount of built-in energy surrounding it, and it serves as a great opportunity for your organization to raise a significant amount of money heading into the holidays.
Your Giving Tuesday plan should be approached the same way as your other fundraising campaigns and should be developed well beforehand. You may want to create a fundraising kit to provide to businesses and other community members to encourage them to help fundraise for your cause. You should also create a distinct set of goals for your campaign and, as always, determine how you will measure the success of your efforts. Leverage social media heavily with the #GivingTuesday hashtag and try to connect with other Giving Tuesday–related events to amplify your message.
During the week leading up to Giving Tuesday, consider sending a series of emails priming your community to donate to your organization. These should fall in line with major milestones such as Thanksgiving and Black Friday. For example, on Black Friday, you can send an email reminding folks that Giving Tuesday is just around the corner, and if they can, they should save some of their money for charity.
Here are a few more tips to help make your Giving Tuesday a success.
With the right amount of effort and attention to your audience, Giving Tuesday can provide a windfall of donations to your organization. Start planning early — September is a good place to start — and be sure to learn from past mistakes. You can also check out the official Giving Tuesday website for additional resources to help you make your campaign shine.
In addition to staying on top of current trends, attracting and retaining donors, and developing a winning fundraising strategy, you also need to be aware of the tools available to you. In terms of selecting the right fundraising software, it's important to assemble the right team at your nonprofit that can make budgetary decisions and to be aware of the vendor landscape. TechSoup offers a variety of donated and discounted fundraising products through our marketplace, and through our Consultant Connection, you can find someone to help you choose the right software.
Not every tool is right for your organization, so take the time to assess your individual needs before investing time and money in fundraising software. That said, the proper use of these solutions can translate into more donations — and ultimately, an increased capacity to execute your mission.
Fundraising is a challenge that's unique to the nonprofit sector. Even if your organization has a business model that brings in sustaining revenue, you will always be tasked with raising money in one form or another.
The keys to your success are getting a clear view of the larger forces behind trends in giving and sticking to best practices in your approach for engaging new and existing donors. Employing effective fundraising strategies with the best tools available is as important to the health of your organization as selecting the right people to sit on your board of directors. Fundraising is a constantly evolving endeavor, and we hope this guide has provided some valuable resources to help you along the way.