In an interview last month, our executive team discussed the fundraising trends they will be watching in the year ahead. To keep the conversation going, we asked our vice presidents to share their 2021 fundraising priorities and what’s top of mind for their clients.
Keep reading for their reflections on major giving, multi-year planning, and more.
Sarah Anderson on Community-Centric Fundraising:
As we head into 2021, I am closely following the work of Community-Centric Fundraising, a group of predominantly BIPOC fundraisers who are opening up new possibilities for equity in the nonprofit sector.
Much of what they are bringing forward challenges what many of us have taken as best practice for years. It's a healthy push to reconsider the "way things have always been done," to recognize the harm a profession built on access to wealth and privilege has caused, and to look for new solutions.
I'm looking forward to continuing to explore with my clients how to put these important community-centric principles into practice.
Melissa Berliner on transformational giving, donor engagement, and more:
Right now, my clients and I are working on:
- Moving donors from transactional giving (I give and get these benefits) to transformational giving (I give to create impact).
- Honing the case for support to accurately describe the moment when the moment is so dynamic.
- Implementing creative donor engagement and stewardship strategies and involving program staff, executive staff, and others across the organization.
- Projecting to the best of our ability when sympathy giving will sunset and how that may create a new baseline.
JoAnn Mills on multi-year planning:
With all my clients, I have been emphasizing the need for a multi-year financial strategy. This strategy can be reviewed and adjusted quarterly as the economy recovers. I’ve also advised organizations to develop a “strategic framework” during this time of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty, rather than a strategic plan. A strategic framework is more practical, as it can be evaluated and adjusted every six months if need be.
Finally, I have been telling all my clients in campaign that their fundraising plan must be comprehensive even if the campaign is not. Their development staff should know how much money they need to raise over a three-year period and where it will come from.
Kelly Short on independent school trends:
Many independent schools are struggling with their annual funds, partially due to parents who are frustrated with remote/hybrid learning models. I’m working with my independent school clients to sustain annual support, build excitement for virtual galas and events (especially if they’re moving into a second year of them), and engage major donors virtually.
Sarah Wagner on arts and culture trends:
My arts and culture clients are focused on keeping donors engaged through personal contact and digital channels, and retaining the many new donors who first gave during the pandemic—all while not knowing when their venues will reopen. Arts organizations have become very adept at creating and sharing digital programming.
Individual donors to arts and culture organizations have been very generous during this time. There is concern that COVID-19 giving may taper off now that end of the pandemic is in sight—even though most performing arts organizations are still shuttered. Many organizations are exploring campaigns to bolster cash reserves, additional operating support, and endowment.
Adam Wilhelm on major giving and fundraising during the pandemic:
I’m working with my clients to meet the challenge of engaging new major gift prospects. My clients continue to close major gifts by engaging with donors via email, phone, and video. However, successfully securing and carrying out a first meeting with a new potential supporter is much more difficult without the prospect of an in-person meeting or site visit.
It has also been challenging for organizations to focus on fundraising when COVID-related issues are taking priority. For example, hospitals are dealing with the influx of COVID-19 patients while mitigating lost revenue from typical procedures.
Christina Yoon on virtual engagement:
While 2020 was a tough year, my clients and I are excited about the opportunities that video provides:
- Increased event engagement from donors and constituents representing a broader range of wealth levels and geographic locations
- Greater equity and inclusion in video meetings now that everyone occupies the same sized box on the screen
- Cost and time savings for meetings that can now be held by video efficiently and scheduled more easily
Even once in-person engagement becomes the norm, we plan to maintain some amount of virtual engagement moving forward.
I’ve also been discussing what a second wave of virtual galas will mean for organizations. Will the response be as good if their gala is virtual for the second time in a row? Many organizations are holding out hope for in-person events later in the year, but until these can be confirmed, we are engaging in scenario planning and trying to remain nimble.