Fundraising Advice and Predictions for 2010
Last month, our friends at FundRaising Success Magazine ran a column chock full of advice about what nonprofit fundraisers can expect in 2010. It’s got some great ideas and predictions from a range of folks — including a few names you might recognize. Here’s a few excerpts from these pros. Notice how many of them swirl around the theme of being smart and consistent with how you communicate with and engage donors.
- Some organizations will continue to prosper while many will struggle to meet last year’s results. The groups most likely to prosper are those that provide basic services like food and shelter; have kept their cause top-of-mind with donors and the public with smart, consistent marketing efforts; and have maintained or expanded their acquisition and lapsed reactivation programs. … In 2010, nonprofit fundraisers should build on their wins from 2009 and find new ways to tell their donors how important they are. — Lynn Edmonds, president, L.W. Robbins Associates
- The balance between acquisition focus versus retention focus is a major challenge or opportunity for nonprofits. If your organization was too acquisition-focused, then you likely were hit harder by the economy. If your organization was retention-focused, then you were probably less impacted. Our research and customer feedback has indicated that organizations leveraging their CRM tools are seeing donor retention holding steady, but with lower gift amounts than in previous years. — Steve MacLaughlin, director of Internet solutions, Blackbaud
- Savvy special-event planners are finding they have to work much harder to find sponsors and must plan to replace those that either reduce their level of giving or don’t give at all. However, as a possible indicator of an improved economy, those individuals who attend events seem to be spending more freely. — Alexander “Sandy” Macnab, president, Alexander Macnab & Co.
- Fundraisers that have been successful have increased communication with their donors and continued to tell their positive and inspirational stories. The opportunity today is to lift donors up with the news of the wonderful things that nonprofits do to change lives, as everyone surely needs a bit of good news these days. … Finally, one must communicate by phone, mail and Web to your donors as never before — passionately, positively and personally — so that you inspire them in these very challenging times to allow you to continue doing your mission. — John Braune, president and CEO, The Heritage Co.
- Even in good times, an organization’s e-mail list experiences a natural “churn rate” of about 30 percent, meaning that about a third of the list turns inactive (with or without the users unsubscribing) every year. So just to offset this natural churn, you need to attract an additional 30 percent to your e-mail list every year — and more if you want to grow the list. — Clinton O’Brien, vice president of business development, Care2
- Nonprofits will not see a rapid recovery in giving to previous levels and will continue to need to work harder to acquire new donors and retain those they have. My first piece of advice is to focus on excelling at the basics. A lot of organizations are attracted to the cool, new thing, e.g., social media, before they’ve done the basics correctly, like optimizing their Web site for conversion, sending e-mails that people want and crafting compelling, multistep appeals. — Vinay Bhagat, founder and chief strategy officer, Convio
- Charities need to brace themselves for the next 18 months, as things won’t be getting any better despite media coverage saying the recession is coming to an end! 2010 will be a year of stewardship and focusing on your existing donors. — Tony Elischer, managing director, Think Consulting Solutions
- In 2009, the fundraisers I spoke with seemed to struggle with variations of the same issues. First, how to distinguish their organizations in an increasingly competitive giving climate. The ones that managed their communications proactively and with agility seemed to fare better than the ones that maintained business as usual, from what I’ve seen — and this is what prompted me to write “Brandraising,” a book about the importance of effective communications on fundraising. As we move into 2010, nonprofits seem to be optimistic that there’s a turnaround happening that will positively impact donations. — Sarah Durham, founder and principal, Big Duck
- As we get into 2010, I think integration is still the name of the game. All the new channels and tools that nonprofits have for communicating their great work — and asking for money — are exciting. But, it is important that nonprofits remember not to abandon old tricks in favor of new ones. Raising money via Twitter or texting might work for some, but sending out a series of messages via e-mail/direct mail with a consistent and compelling theme still brings in the bucks. Connect those messages to your Web site, your donation landing pages, your Facebook status updates, etc. The point is: Don’t think in a vacuum. Donors are looking to hear about you in many places — some may just want to communicate in one channel; others will connect with you in several. The messaging and visual story of all these channels should reflect one another, while also taking into account the unique aspects of that channel and how people use it. — Farra Trompeter, vice president, client relations and strategy, Big Duck
- Another great challenge I see for nonprofits is the temptation to cut their fundraising efforts or staff. While a downturn can be a convenient time, a handy excuse, to make cuts that are long overdue, marketing and fundraising efforts still need to be robust. The return will come. The ROI will be there, although it might not be in the fiscal year. — Marc A. Pitman, founder and principal, fundraisingcoach.com
- The charities that are growing in today’s environment are those that are positioned well and clearly defined in their category. They have continued to strengthen their relevancy with donors by providing timely information about themselves in relation to current events. These organizations are harnessing the power of donor behavior to acquire and inspire them to do more and be more through a brand experience. They consistently communicate a vision of the donor standing side by side with the organization, which positions the donor as part of the solution, and by doing so, the donor finds meaning and purpose — for few things in life are more important, or more powerful, than leading people to such remarkable moments of self-discovery. — Todd Baker, vice president and senior strategist, Grizzard
- Mobile technology is the next frontier in nonprofit communications. Those that have built communities on social-networking sites over the last few years will reap the most benefits initially because social media is leading the way on the mobile Web. … This year will be the fundraising season where we will start to see whether building communities on social-networking sites produces results in terms of dollars raised. I know my  end-of-year donations are allotted for those nonprofits that engaged me best on Twitter and Facebook throughout 2009. — Heather Mansfield, owner, DIOSA|Communications
Got any predictions of your own? Please share them here.