Fundraising best practices have rapidly evolved over this past year. As we move forward into the second half of 2021, some trends are likely to fade in importance, but many have the potential to stick around far into the future. Determining which trends are here to stay is vital for nonprofits to effectively fundraise, train their staff, and grow throughout the year.
Many core principles of fundraising remain the same, no matter what year it is. Your nonprofit will always benefit from building relationships with supporters and creating engaging events and content. When examining fundraising trends, look for strategies that help make accomplishing these tasks easier, faster, and with greater cost-effectiveness.
Our team at Handbid specializes in online auction software and other fundraising tools that keep nonprofits at the forefront of their field. To help your nonprofit look to the future and a year of successful fundraising, this article will explore four fundraising trends that have great promise for 2021 and beyond:
Now is the time for nonprofits to take what they’ve learned over the past year and use that knowledge to spearhead their growth. With the right technology and focus on supporter convenience, today’s nonprofits have the potential to increase their fundraising strategically and sustainably.
1. Hybrid Events
2020 was the year of virtual events, and nonprofits were able to explore the pros and cons of operating online. While many are eager to get back to in-person gatherings, others are hesitant to leave behind the numerous advantages that came with virtual meet-ups.
The solution? Hybrid events! These types of gatherings have the potential to please everyone by combining the best aspects of virtual and in-person events. Here are just a few reasons why your nonprofit should consider penciling in a few hybrid gatherings on your event calendar:
- Accommodate all audiences. Virtual events allow everyone to attend, regardless of physical location. This is true of both your donors and your volunteers, enabling your nonprofit to eliminate geographical barriers and expand your overall support base. Hybrid events let your nonprofit continue to cater to remote supporters while appealing to local donors and volunteers.
- Give supporters options. Even supporters who are physically close to your nonprofit might prefer to attend events remotely. Hybrid events give supporters options for how to engage, giving them the ability to attend in-person for some events and remotely for others. This can be especially helpful for supporters with busy schedules who may not be able to physically make it to all of your events.
- Lower event costs. Hybrid events allow your nonprofit to return to hosting popular events like galas, 5Ks, and other types that benefit from having an in-person component. The hybrid event model can lower your overall spending for these events as your nonprofit will rent smaller venues and purchase catering in smaller amounts as compared to in-person-only events.
Hybrid events can get a little complicated, so make sure your nonprofit has as smooth of a registration process as possible. Doing so will provide your supporters with information on how to attend your event and give your team reliable data about how many guests are attending and in which format.
2. Hybrid Workplaces
Just as your supporters have grown accustomed to remote events, your team has likely gotten used to working from home. While some of them may be eager to return to an in-person office, others may be content to continue working remotely.
Fortunately, meeting and nonprofit internal management software have seen major advancements over the past year, making a hybrid workplace entirely possible. To help your nonprofit establish an effective hybrid workplace, here are a few best practices to implement:
- Find the right software. Conferencing and video meeting software are a necessity for hybrid workplaces, and so are remote management tools such as scheduling, document sharing, and collaborative software solutions. Your tech that enabled your nonprofit to go remote can likely support your organization’s transition to hybrid, but you may encounter a few rough patches in the move that need a hybrid-specific software solution.
- Set up flexible workspaces. If you’re planning to have employees rotate when they work from home and when they come into the office, set up shareable workstations. Consider what tech each of your employees needs to get their work done and how you can ensure everyone is equipped with the right tools, no matter where they are working.
- Take steps to improve engagement. As Boardable’s guide to hybrid board meetings points out, one of the drawbacks to hybrid meetings is lowered participation levels for remote employees as compared to those coming into the office. This can be especially true at meetings where it’s easy to forget to check in on employees attending virtually. Knowing this going into meetings can remind your team to regularly pause discussion amongst themselves and turn to remote employees to ensure every voice is heard.
Before deciding whether to go in-person or hybrid (or stay fully virtual), survey your employees. While it’s unlikely everyone will have the same opinion, understanding where your team as a whole stands on a hybrid workspace can answer basic questions like how much office space you should reserve for in-person workers.
3. Software Development
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to hear that nonprofit technology made rapid advances during 2020. Now, we are well into 2021, and these developments haven’t slowed down. This means your nonprofit can stand to benefit from taking the time to assess your current tech stack and take advantage of the numerous nonprofit software solutions available.
While each nonprofit’s exact technical needs will vary, a few software solutions to look into adding to your nonprofit’s tech stack are:
- Text-to-give. Intuitive text-to-give tools allow your supporters to make donations quickly, making this one of the most convenient ways to give. Text-to-give also pairs well with both in-person and online events. Display your text-to-give number prominently during your hybrid event’s livestream or announce your text-to-give information at a live event to encourage everyone to pull out their phones and give.
- Wealth analytics platforms. Wealth analytics help your nonprofit make more informed decisions about individual supporters, which can lead to new relationships with major donor candidates.
- Matching gift tools. When a donor makes a gift to your organization, their employers may offer to match their donations to your nonprofit, usually at a dollar-for-dollar rate. The right software can help pinpoint these opportunities. This guide is a helpful starting point for nonprofits new to matching gifts, explaining how to get started and promote this often underutilized donation method that can effectively double your nonprofit’s donation revenue.
Review your current tech stack to determine what’s missing and what can be improved. It takes time to learn how to effectively leverage new software, but it can radically improve your nonprofit’s ability to fundraise and reach new donors. All software solutions are an investment, so be sure to thoroughly research your options, ask questions, and try out demos before making a purchase.
4. Focus on Moderate Donors
While it’s well known that a small number of major donors often make up the bulk of a nonprofit’s annual revenue, many nonprofits have found recent success by taking a closer look at their mid-level donors. Those who give regularly in reasonable amounts are invested in your nonprofit, and forging connections with this group of supporters can help your nonprofit secure and grow a source of reliable funding.
Mid-level donors have the potential to give in substantial quantities over the course of their involvement with your nonprofit. Here are a few ways these donors can end up contributing even more to your nonprofit with the right encouragement:
- Monthly donations. Mid-level donors can grow their recurring gifts in small amounts that fit within their capacity to give and add up to be meaningful at the year’s end. For example, a moderate donor who gives $100 annually can easily become a recurring monthly donor who gives $10 per month, earning your nonprofit an extra $20 while adding convenience for your donor.
- Planned gifts. Most mid-level donors can’t give in large quantities during their lives, but planned gifts provide an opportunity to make a substantial one-time gift. Some nonprofits may feel uncomfortable discussing planned gifts with donors, but research shows 1 in 3 Americans are open to making a planned gift.
- Long-term investment. Major donors are small in number, meaning that your long-term mid-level donors will make up the bulk of your supporters who come to events, engage with your posts on social media, and volunteer to help fulfill your mission and run fundraisers. After each fundraiser, make sure to thank your mid-level donors for their continued support over the years.
You can start building relationships with mid-level donors by connecting with them at events, running peer-to-peer campaigns, and encouraging them to become recurring donors. These relationships benefit your nonprofit in the long run as some mid-level donors can reliably give to your nonprofit for decades with the right encouragement.
Predicting the future of nonprofit fundraising isn’t easy, but you can look to the past, see what worked, and figure out how it applies to the direction you want to take your nonprofit in during 2021 and beyond. Consider your growth goals as you consider how hybrid gatherings, improvements in software, and shifting donor trends apply to your nonprofit.
Meet the Authors:
Josh Thurmond has over 15 years of nonprofit and government management experience including a Masters in Public Administration. Before he entered the not-for-profit sector, he worked as a professional chef. Be sure to ask him for a recipe!
Jeff Porter, Founder & CEO of Handbid, has spent 18 years in the non-profit industry. In 2004 he founded the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association of Colorado where he still resides as board chair. Jeff learned early on that non-profits desperately needed better and more affordable fundraising solutions. Leveraging his software background, he built most of the tools his charities used, and in 2011 he launched Handbid at his own fundraising event. The goal was to improve the guest experience, reduce administration and increase revenue. Handbid accomplished all of those goals, effectively doubling revenue in its debut. Nine years later, Handbid's suite of tools has delighted over a half-million guests, generated millions of bids, and helped thousands of charities raise well over $100 million.