Fundraising, like so many other aspects of life, adapted quickly over the past year. We tried new strategies and reinforced old strategies that worked best. Below I explore six fundraising trends that will continue to inform as we continue to navigate this year, and strategies to assess how well we are adapting these trends to our work.

Trend 1: Stronger connection between donor strategy, engagement, and relations. Perhaps the most important development over the last year was the greater understanding that the longest, most generous relationships require a holistic approach to creating a meaningful donor experience.

Assessment 1:

  • How is your team formalizing this approach?
  • Do you have regular, cross-department strategy sessions?
  • Do your written strategy templates require input from multiple functions?
  • How are multiple teams or functions credited for gifts secured?
  • Are you discussing donor nuances/likes/dislikes/interests in addition to strategy (and incorporating this information into your database)?

Trend 2: Virtual events are here to stay, despite the increasing return of in-person opportunities.

Assessment 2: We’ve now had a year or more of testing these events, providing enough experience to evaluate and build for the future.

  • Are your virtual and in-person audiences different or the same? How does that change your approach going forward?
  • What types of virtual events were most successful? Which were least?
  • Have you surveyed your constituents for their preferences moving forward — and how might you meet the needs of those on both sides of the virtual/in-person divide?

Trend 3: Giving days keep getting stronger. To be most effective, giving days must be integrated into your larger fundraising and donor engagement program.

Assessment 3:

  • How does your giving day fit into individual donor strategies and support the larger movement toward greater donor engagement?
  • How do you build on the momentum of giving days through individual donor follow up?
  • Does your giving day fit into your ongoing donor strategies? If not, what steps need to be taken to use these more effectively?
  • How do you continue to build meaningful touchpoints for new donors? Continuing donors? Loyal donors?

Trend 4: Artificial intelligence. While some of these tools used to be niche, they are now becoming more and more common — and more and more accessible. Whether in-house or outsourced, there are more resources available now than ever.

Assessment 4:

  • How can you use donor propensity scores to prioritize your outreach?
  • Has your institution explored the development of donor personas, allowing you to create more effective communication and outreach tools?
  • How does data support your trends? How are you discussing these trends in every part of your advancement shop?

Trend 5: Diversifying portfolios. We all know the stereotypical image of a donor, but it’s time to move beyond this. Individuals of color, women, and younger audiences all represent critical voices for a seat at the philanthropic table.

Assessment 5:

  • Are you using all available social media platforms? Facebook is now commonly used by institutions; but less commonly used by younger and more diverse audiences. Are you on Instagram? Tik Tok? Others?
  • How are you engaging key ambassadors to a variety of communities who can inform your strategies?
  • While artificial intelligence is an exceptional tool, it can also represent human bias. Does your team understand the factors this technology takes into account, and whether those exclude non-traditional prospective donor audiences?

Trend 6: Nimbleness. If this last year has taught us anything, it’s the need to adapt quickly; to innovate. The programs that did so have seen fundraising gains to match. And while necessity is the mother of invention, we can’t allow our transition to a more “normal” time to slow this trend.

Assessment 6:

  • Write down any new approaches you tried over the last year, and assess what worked and what didn’t. What themes exist in each category? How can you learn from those and carry those lessons forward in your work?
  • What internal/team dynamics, if any, contributed to a spirit of trying new things, and how can those factors be repeated in the “new normal?”

Fundraising, just like the world, is undergoing tremendous change. By staying informed and engaged with its evolution, we can continue to inspire generosity and generate tremendous good. And, let’s continue to inspire each other: share the trends you and your teams are building on in the comments here.

To take a deeper dive into the state of philanthropy today and explore tools for success in its future, check out KDD Philanthropy’s series of three webinars, Philanthropy’s Thought Leaders.

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