The pace of change in our sector has never been greater. Social and technological trends bring new opportunities and threats. What are these trends and how can we, as non-profit and fundraising organisations, adapt to the continuously and ever more quickly changing reality?
New technological opportunities are arriving at an increasing pace. This technology impacts the ways in which we communicate with our audiences, and more importantly, it changes the ways our supporters want to communicate with us, how they want to support us and what specific activities they want to support.
Of course, the same goes for a lot of brands and organisations. After all, the average lifetime of business models is decreasing — from 45 years in 1950 to 15 years in 2025. Many of the established big brands have disappeared, old roles (in the retail and banking industries, for example) are diminishing, new roles are being created. What will the impact be on the non-profit sector?
With absolute certainty, technological developments impact the way we fundraise. They change the day-to-day work of our fundraisers. They change the competencies and knowledge we need to do our jobs. These changes not only impact the fundraising departments; they turn around organisations as a whole and influence how we make decisions and how we cooperate within our organisations, defining how and with whom we cooperate — with companies, other organisations, and perhaps most importantly with our supporters.
Besides this, we face new competition. We see a growing number of private charitable initiatives. Also, social entrepreneurs are moving into the arena of “doing good.” This new competition and market demands that non-profits reinvent their roles, that they redefine and clearly communicate their missions. And most importantly, that they clearly communicate the valuable and unique way they contribute to society.
In the last weeks of 2016, numerous trends lists and forecasts have been published. (See Matthew Sherrington’s crystal-ball predictions, for example.) Trends can be categorised in different ways, of course. In my opinion, the categories below summarize those with the biggest impact on the non-profit sector:
Collaboration/sharing economy. Non-profits are joining forces with other non-profits as well as for-profits, cooperating to reach common goals and sharing resources to decrease costs. At the same time, our supporters are becoming accustomed to sharing both goods and knowledge. They are looking for new ways to contribute to a non-profit’s mission beyond merely donating money. Are we prepared to cooperate, to innovate for and with a new kind of supporter?
From supporting brands to supporting people. Person-to-person fundraising is growing exponentially: People prefer to give to people instead of to big, impersonal brands. Storytelling is becoming crucial in fundraising. Are we prepared to foster the supporters fundraising for us? To communicate with our supporters in a more personal way? To collaborate with private charity initiatives, contributing our unique capabilities, like our experience, knowledge and network?
Digital transformation. The digital transformation creates both challenges and opportunities for every organisation, like predictive marketing, enhanced customer service requirements and omnichannel coherence. For non-profits, it entails additional challenges. What specific fundraising asks can you formulate to be successful online? Will you be supporting crowdfunding? How will you keep your supporters as involved as needed with your activities and beneficiaries? Will you use blogs, videos, chat possibilities?
From raising funds to building relationships. Donor-centric fundraising, or relationship fundraising, is already top of mind for most of us. We are creating customer journeys for our donors. The challenge will be to incorporate the consequences of the other trends into these journeys. What other ways will we offer to get to know us before we ask for a donation? How will predictive marketing impact the journey?
Technological opportunities. The technological opportunities to enhance our fundraising are numerous. Experience marketing with virtual and augmented reality and mobile payments (tap to give) are already impacting the way we fundraise. Blockchain, Internet of Things and Big Data (marketing automation) will impact our fundraising in ways we are only beginning to grasp. See for example this Blockchain fundraising start-up. Are you sufficiently aware of the possible consequences and opportunities?
Are you prepared for these trends? Is your fundraising department? Is your organisation? Each and every one demands a closer cooperation between the different departments of a non-profit than we have ever seen before.
Questions that, in my opinion, are becoming more and more pressing, are:
- How will we fundraise in two to five years?
- How will we cooperate, within and outside of our organisation?
Non-profits will have to determine their way forward, and when and how they want to take full advantage of the changes ahead. It is up to you to be aware of the opportunities and make them work for your organisation.
On a more strategic note, we need our organisations to be able to adapt to the continuously growing pace of change. This requires courage, leadership and an open mind. Are you prepared?