The Next Big Things in Fundraising

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What are the “next big things” in fundraising? With charitable giving expected to fall, demand for services rising, and “donor inequality” increasing, many nonprofits are looking for something new. Crowdfunding has been around for a while, as has peer-to-peer fundraising (“P2P”). Examples of P2P fundraising include run-a-thons, bike-a-thons, swim-a-thons, play-canasta-thons…which can be fun, but also can take a lot of work and aren’t as unusual as they once were. But wait! Forbes magazine points out that smaller nonprofits are finding success with peer-to-peer fundraising by taking advantage of social media and supporting smaller-scale, “more nimble programs.” Innovations include personalizing campaigns to match the interests of new donors (such as video gamers) and moving what used to be highly-physical fundraising activities into an online space. One very successful example encouraged donors to contribute whenever a college basketball team made a 3-point shot. An online leaderboard tracked the successful shots and donations, replicating the competitive spirit of the basketball league to motivate donors. These types of innovations are keeping the P2P fundraising landscape fresh. 


Are Facebook’s new fundraising tools the Next Big Thing? The jury is still out. While Facebook’s crowdfunding engine has its critics, it definitely holds promise to power fundraising for less well-known nonprofits. A fundraiser created on Facebook in June 2018 attracted more than 500,000 donors to give to RAICES to reunite immigrant children with their families. In the context of fundraising trends, it is interesting to note that – as with the super-successful ALS ice-bucket challenge – a nonprofit did not initiate that fundraiser: individuals did. A California couple took advantage of the Facebook Fundraisers function that individuals or “Pages” can use to raise money for causes. With Facebook Fundraisers, a donor never has to leave Facebook because the donation function is integrated into Facebook. This also means that a fundraiser you “Like” is visible to all your Facebook friends and can very easily be spread to their friends, and so on. The real trend to notice is how integrated fundraising has become with all our digital toys and tools, whether phone, tablet, or personal computer, and how important it is for charitable nonprofits to have mobile-friendly websites and donation portals, as well as to highlight their mission and impact.


  • For fundraisers on behalf of nonprofits that are registered for Facebook’s Charitable Giving Tools, Facebook waives the fees otherwise paid to Network for Good, which is the donor advised fund that handles Facebook’s donation process. But in order to be eligible for no fees, you’ll have to register your nonprofit with Facebook and then turn it on in your Page settings.
  • Some nonprofits are reporting frustration in nonprofit Facebook groups that Facebook takes a long time to transmit donations to nonprofits. In addition, the nonprofit is not always given the email address of the donors, so it may not be possible to cultivate those donors in the future or even thank them for their gift (unless they check a box allowing Facebook to release their contact information). In other words, it’s more challenging to steward relationships with Facebook Fundraiser donors.


Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (“VR”) and augmented reality, using “360” or “spherical” video, may indeed be the Next Big Things as the technology is now more affordable and VR is becoming common in other aspects of daily life, especially video games. UNICEF has demonstrated that VR can be a compelling tool for immersive storytelling because VR helps donors empathize with a cause. For example, the VR app, A walk through dementia, developed by Alzheimer’s Research UK, helps deepen people’s understanding of the complexities of dementia. For nonprofits with a mission that is geographically remote, or simply hard to relate to, video and VR can literally bring the mission home to a potential donor. A successful example is the Charity Water VR film, The Source, that allows viewers to see the impact on a 13-year old girl when her family has access to clean water for the first time. The film has been viewed millions of times on Facebook and YouTube and raised over $2.4 million the first time it was shown to 400 people wearing VR headsets at a black-tie gala in New York City. How could VR or augmented reality transform your #nonprofit’s fundraising?


Recurring Gifts

Recurring gifts will continue to be an important strategy for individual giving. Given the changes in the tax law that will remove the financial incentive for many mid-income donors to make charitable gifts before year’s end, the Next Big Thing could be an increased focus on monthly giving programs. How easy is it for donors to set up recurring giving on your nonprofit’s website? Does the website help donors understand the benefits of participating in a monthly giving program? Here’s an idea: The first time your nonprofit thanks a new donor for a contribution, share information about how to make recurring gifts. See what happens. Recurring donors give 42 percent more over the year, on average, than one-time donors, according to Network for Good. Plus, steady donors are the ones who are most invested in the nonprofit’s cause, and therefore are ideal candidates for a for a planned giving conversation. (See the next “Big Thing,” below!)


Planned Giving

Planned giving is not just for large nonprofits and/or wealthy people! Even though planned giving is as old as the hills, it’s new to the majority of charitable nonprofits. In one survey, only 17 percent of donors who were open to a conversation about planned giving had been invited to have such a conversation by their favorite charity. Small and midsized nonprofits can no longer afford to ignore planned giving, and many don’t know how simple it can be to get started. According to a recent study, nearly $9 trillion dollars will be inherited over the next decade; if only five percent of that is donated, it would mean nearly half a trillion dollars for charitable nonprofit missions. Even if your nonprofit is small and your donors are of modest means, your loyal supporters and board members are good planned giving prospects. Sit down with them and have a conversation that strengthens their relationship with your organization and includes the possibility of their leaving a legacy through their will, retirement account, or life insurance policy. This type of gift can have a lasting impact on your nonprofit’s sustainability and ability to advance its mission – and help your donors feel that they have made a true difference. If you’re a funder, you might consider investing in your grantees’ planned giving capacity. The Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s “Life & Legacy” project is an enormously successful example of such a project, helping Jewish organizations and communities across the county secure more than $500 million in legacy commitments – and more than $54 million in cash gifts as well – through modest matching grants and a training program. Below are some resources and tips to get you started with planned giving.


Rapid Response

It’s July, so many regions of the country are preparing for “natural disaster season,” with hurricanes, floods, and wild fires occurring with increased frequency and ferocity as weather-related events intensify. To address these and human-made disasters, if you’re a funder, you may already be aware of the growth in “rapid response philanthropy.” If you’re a nonprofit and your mission includes disaster response, make sure you focus on cultivating strong, authentic relationships with funders (as well as government officials and community leaders) year-round, so that when they’re looking for trusted partners in a crisis, they turn to you. Of course, you should always make sure your nonprofit shows up as effective and trustworthy via its website and social media, and don’t neglect search engine optimization so that when individuals are looking to donate after a disaster, they find your organization.

Tips and Resources

Just for fun, the Next Big Thing in fundraising could be socks!

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