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Eight Fundraising Trends For 2020

Career Development: Your Fundraising Career
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Eight is the luckiest number in Chinese culture symbolizing prosperity, and Linda Wise McNay of Our Fundraising Search is covering the top eight fundraising trends for 2020.

  1. Storytelling will grow in importance. Storytelling has been a fad, a popular word in the past few years in nonprofits. This year, storytelling will become more mainstream. We all know how important it is to provide donors and prospects with a compelling case for support. Nothing could be more compelling than an intimate personal story of a beneficiary of the work of your nonprofit. Collect stories from your board members and volunteers and from those you serve. Share those stories in print, online, on the phone and in person. Donors with an emotional connection to your organization will dig deeper and stay longer in support of the great work you do.
  2. Development turnover will continue to escalate. The average nonprofit development officer has a 14-month tenure. That is not healthy for the organization or the individual’s career. Our own searches at Our Fundraising Search are taking twice as long to complete. There are just not enough qualified development candidates to go around to all the nonprofits desperately needing this type leadership. Plan ahead for staffing at your nonprofit. Have succession plans in place, provide professional development opportunities to your current employees, and budget to pay salaries appropriate for the level of expertise required. As we counsel our search clients, hire the most qualified development candidates you can afford, and then be nice to them.
  3. More nonprofits will migrate toward an emphasis on major gifts. While all of us must remember the fundraising basics of annual giving, successful nonprofits will place more emphasis on major gifts in 2020. It is the fastest way to raise more money. And keep in mind that major gift prospects each deserve their own strategy. Define a value for a major gift for your institution and set a goal for dollars raised and number of major donors. Major gifts should be a focus of the CEO and the top development officers and most skilled volunteers. Choose prospects wisely, provide training to all solicitors, and make them accountable for best results.  Evaluate your progress and repeat. That is the recipe for major gifting.
  4. Accurate donor research will be even more critical to nonprofits in 2020. If you intend to launch or advance your nonprofit major gifts program in 2020, you will need access to high quality donor data at your fingertips. This is the same public information that I used to have to troop down to the courthouse to look up individually and should be nonthreatening to your organization leaders. If you do not already subscribe to an online service, check out DonorSearch. Imagine unlimited access to reliable information on your donors and prospects. Happy prospecting!
  5. Nonprofits will appear more political—whether they intend to or not. 2020 is an election year. Our conversations public and private are filled with comments and opinions on candidates and issues. Be wary of saying anything too controversial to your constituents that may be considered taking a position on one side or the other. Double up your efforts to fulfill the mission and goals of your organization being careful not to take any political stance that might offend your donors and prospects and thwart your fundraising efforts. Your goal is to be still operating after the election, no matter which side wins the election in November.
  6. Volunteering will be up, giving may not be. Nonprofits should continue to be creative in finding more ways for corporations and individuals to be involved in the organization. Donating hours of time is much easier to do and especially appealing to young people. So, do not forget to collect volunteer information, thank them for their time and then ASK at the appropriate time. We are constantly looking to identify the right person to ask the right prospect for the right gift for the right project at just the right time. This is the development cycle. If we do not ask, we are less likely to receive future gifts. The volunteers will move along with their friends to the next volunteer opportunity. Offer gratitude for gifts of time and treasure. Steward your volunteers into donors.
  7. Partnering is a great strategy for 2020. I am of the opinion that there may be too many nonprofits. Some will and should go out of business if they are not providing quality resources for the community or if there is redundancy in services. When someone I meet wants to start a new nonprofit, I usually try to discourage them and instead help them identify other organizations with whom they might partner to meet their mutual goals. You do not have to limit your partnerships with like or competing organizations. Think outside the box. Can a school partner with a museum? Can a faith-based organization partner with a health-care organization? Funders love this model. There are 1.2 million nonprofits in the U.S. Who can you partner with this year?
  8. A cross cultural perspective will be in high demand in the corporate world as well as in nonprofits. The world is changing. Your nonprofit supporters want to see board members and staff members who look like themselves. Your organizational leadership should be aware of, adapt to, and make a conscious effort to provide that diversity. At least some of your team members should be able to speak another language and understand donor motivations of varying cultures. Make your compelling case for funding, but express it in different ways. Offer training to staff and volunteers, nurture and mentor. Some cultures do not understand professional compensation, the relevance of prospect research and planned giving may not be a focus.

Know your audience. Be specific about who you are trying to reach. They want to be involved, they want to be asked, they want to be informed and engaged. They want to be thanked and recognized appropriately. Relationship building is key. You might try focus groups and listening sessions. Offer travel opportunities, study the history and culture of other places as it relates to your nonprofit mission and goals and your target audience.

We have to transform ourselves first. Our granters will request it and our donors will require it.

Linda Wise McNay is founder, owner and fundraising consultant with Our Fundraising Search in Atlanta. She has completed more than 14 years of consulting and has served more than 175 clients. Linda’s nonprofit background includes work with both higher and secondary education, the arts, human services and faith-based organizations; and has included work in capital campaigns, annual fund, planned giving, membership, and development and executive search.

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