Discover 5 of the Latest Trends Affecting Your Fundraising

Leading up to the 2015 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, a number of my readers contacted me to request that I gather information about emerging fundraising trends. (Yes, I take requests, so feel free to make one.)

It’s not surprising that development professionals understand the need to stay on top of the evolution that takes place in the world of philanthropy. After all, as Benjamin Disraeli has said:

Change is inevitable. Change is constant.”

Recognizing that ongoing change is part of our life is one thing. Understanding what that change means and how to capitalize on it can help even good fundraisers become stars. As John F. Kennedy has stated:

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

None of us wants to miss the future.

So, with that thought in mind, I attended the session “Latest Trends in Giving and What They Mean for Your Organization” with presenters Stacy Palmer, Editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Jeff Wilklow, Vice President of Campbell & Company. Here are five of the key trends they cited:


Among very wealthy, very generous philanthropists, much of their giving does not go directly to existing charitable organizations. While their philanthropy will eventually find its way to charitable purposes, it will first be funneled through special funds or foundations that the mega-donors create or contribute to.

Money by 401(K) 2012 via FlickrMany of those who earned their fortunes through entrepreneurialism will gravitate toward entrepreneurial philanthropy. This is particularly true with younger technology entrepreneurs. With a do-it-yourself attitude, these individuals may choose to create a charity or socially-responsible business rather than donate to an existing, mainstream nonprofit organization.

In any case, big donors are interested in funding big ideas. They’re interested in big solutions to big problems. To attract the support of mega-donors, your charity will need to focus on creative solutions for large challenges.

Legacy Donors:

Many charitable organizations embrace the idea that planned giving equals endowment building. For example, many charities have adopted policies that direct bequest revenue into the organization’s endowment fund unless otherwise designated by donors.

While your organization might have a bias in favor of building endowment revenue, donors have a keen interest in their own legacy. Donors want to make a lasting difference. So, they will likely be more interested in funding your programs and initiatives that help establish their legacy than they will in simply having their money deposited into your organization’s investment pool.

Just as we see that current donors have a growing interest in gift designations rather than unrestricted giving, we see a similar interest among planned giving donors who want to ensure their legacies. Some donors want to be assured of having a long-term, definable impact while other might be content with having their name, or the name of a loved one, on an endowment fund. The key is to understand what motivates the individual.

Social Donors:

Donors communicate with your organization in a variety of ways thanks to new technologies. They also communicate with each other like never before.

Donors are online. And it’s not just young donors. They view your website, they engage in crowd funding, they give online, they take surveys, etc. Here are a few simple things you need to do to make sure those experiences inspire support:

• You need to optimize your website for viewing on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Sadly, 84 percent of nonprofit donation landing pages are not optimized for mobile, according to the Online Fundraising Scorecard.

• Change your “Submit” button to an action-oriented, more emotional word or phrase. For example, changing the “Submit” button to “Help Now” can increase response rates by 10 to 30 percent!

• Use more videos because they are more effective than photos.

• Use more cute images rather than sad. Cute is more effective.

• Allow donors, particularly important for younger donors, to design their own campaign through crowd funding.

Big Data:

This is the Electronic Age. We can either swim or drown in the flood of information that surrounds us. Smart fundraisers will use data to learn more about their supporters and treat them more like individuals in an effort to build a long-term relationship.

As we gather and use more and more data, we must be increasingly careful to protect the privacy of supporters. There will always be a tension between our desire to know and the donor’s right to privacy. We need to make sure that policies and safeguards are in place to protect both supporters and the organization.

Professional Development:

Today, there are more professional development opportunities for fundraisers than ever before. Whether through conferences, webinars, certificate offerings, or college degree programs, fundraisers can expand their knowledge. However, as our field has professionalized, overall giving as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product has remained stagnant at roughly two percent. Something is missing.

We need to examine our profession and learn what it will take to truly boost philanthropy rates relative to GDP. For example, we need to address our profession’s high turnover rates, high career abandonment rates, low salaries, etc.

There are certainly other emerging trends affecting the fundraising world. What are some of the important trends that you’ve noticed? How have you been able to capitalize on them?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

3 Responses to “Discover 5 of the Latest Trends Affecting Your Fundraising”

  1. Really good roundup, Michael. I wonder about the big ideas, though. There’s also a lot of regular hard work that needs doing in the world. Hopefully, enough donors are attracted to helping there as well!

    • Mary, thank you for sharing your thoughts. While the five trends I featured, as presented at the AFP Conference, are certainly valid, the list is certainly not exhaustive. I’m not even sure they represent the most important trends. In the coming months, I’ll be reporting on additional trends that I see. As for the “big ideas,” they will always be important and will always be the ideas that are more likely to attract support. However, that’s not to say that smaller, less glamorous “regular” ideas cannot attract support; it will just be a bit more challenging to demonstrate impact. Nevertheless, incrementalism can indeed have a profound impact.


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