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Fundraising Trends in 2020

Storytelling, the Election Effect, and the Climate Crisis

Love it or hate it, fundraising sits at the heart of nonprofit organizations. There is an entire industry occupied with encouraging people to part with their money, and that project gets even harder when those people aren't directly getting anything in return. Even so, the passion and generosity of millions of people has kept nonprofits and charities alive for centuries, through countless changing economies and political landscapes.

Fundraising is a difficult but essential part of nonprofit life, and it will continue to evolve in this new decade. Read on to find out how we think nonprofit fundraising will be changing in 2020 — and some tips for how to keep up.

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Tell Great Stories to the Right People

In order to move people along from awareness of the issue a nonprofit addresses to involvement with an organization, emotional engagement is absolutely key. One great way of getting people invested in your cause is to tell your stories well. This is essential in an environment where thousands of outlets and organizations are constantly fighting for consumers' attention.

As we go into 2020, it's already clear that we're all overloaded with information when deciding what is worth our time. To truly engage those who care about your cause, you need to tell your stories in a concise manner, one that puts faces and names to your work and shows supporters how their money will make a real difference.

This applies to telling your supporters how you have impacted the community but also to telling the story of how your organization came to be and how it's grown to be where it is today. If your followers and supporters can feel like they are building a personal relationship with your organization, it will encourage them to volunteer and give. If those relationships are maintained over time, then you will find yourself with loyal supporters who sing the praises of your nonprofit. That honest, person-to-person marketing is one of the best fundraising tools you could wish for!

On the note of making things personal, targeting your emails and social media ads towards certain groups can help to get your content in front of the right people. You don't need every single person to donate to your nonprofit, but engaging the select few who will invest and remain loyal to your organization is absolutely invaluable. Analyze the performance of your communication strategies and adjust them accordingly. The sea of voices vying for the attention of every consumer is only going to grow this year: Make yours a voice worth listening to.

Volunteers Are Committed, but Donations Are Declining

Volunteering and donations go hand-in-hand: Volunteers tend to be invested in the cause and therefore become unofficial spokespeople for your organization. Furthermore, volunteers are twice as likely to donate! Overall, hours spent volunteering per year seems to be on the rise while the number of people volunteering is in decline (PDF). This is a strange statistic, but it suggests that those who do volunteer are willing to give more of their time than they might have done in previous years.

Donations will probably continue to slightly decrease, when adjusted for inflation. That said, it is likely that there will be a flood of donations in certain cause sectors in the U.S. similar to that in 2016, dubbed the Election Effect. Civil rights organizations specifically experienced a spike in people signing up to be recurring donors during election week in 2016, and those donors were more likely to keep donating for the next 18 months than those that signed up during a typical week.

One thing we might recommend to better cultivate donors this year is to "go small." Meredith Kavanagh of Classy explains this as helping people "see their donation as a minor gift as opposed to a major sacrifice." In your messaging this year, demonstrate that even a small amount makes a difference to your organization.

Another great way to respond to the drop in donations is to organize member events (if you're not already doing that). Also, we recently published some new fundraising tools and techniques in our Nonprofit Tech Trends for 2020. These include the new free GoFundMe Charity crowdfunding service, getting started with Alexa smart speaker donations, trying Facebook's digital payment system, and starting a podcast to engage your supporters. You might also show your volunteers some extra appreciation, since their time in itself is hugely valuable, and they can be your best and most loyal ambassadors.

The Climate Crisis

The climate crisis has been increasingly weighing on the public mind over recent years. The increase in disasters like Hurricane Irma, the East African drought, and the ongoing bushfires across the whole of Australia are starting to breed a sense of urgency in many people. In turn, this has led to action in various forms from Extinction Rebellion's occupations in London, to children striking from school, to thousands of people committing to a flight-free 2020. However, action can also look like making donations, eating local, and buying clothes second-hand. All of these are alternative ways to address at least some of the effects of the climate crisis or to directly demand change from governments and corporations.

Many organizations and individuals have adapted to offer supporters creative ways of giving funds. This artist in the U.K., for example, has created a t-shirt design in order to raise money to donate to WWF in Australia. Carbon offsetting is another method that has been around for a while that encourages everyone, but especially those who partake in carbon-heavy practices like flying, to donate to various projects. Projects like tree planting, clean water programs, and building and maintaining wind farms aim to neutralize the effects of these practices.. This year, you may want to consider a similar approach at your nonprofit when an appropriate opportunity presents itself.

Project-Based Giving

A technique often used by climate change and environmental organizations is project-based giving. This is simply engaging people in the actual work of your organization with simple one-day events like stream cleanups or community garden events. This is perhaps not applicable to all charities, but one similar service that quite possibly can be very useful to you is Airbnb Social Impact Experiences. This free service invites Airbnb guests to explore new communities by signing up for neighborhood explorations, workshops, or other activities sponsored by local nonprofits. These experiences serve to expand the visibility of your organization and awareness for your cause — and just maybe additional funds.

The Fight for Political Neutrality

One prediction warns nonprofits that it will become harder this year to appear politically neutral. Between the election and the increasing prevalence of polarizing issues like the climate crisis and immigration, it has become extremely difficult to express some opinions without appearing "overly political." Different nonprofits will choose to address this differently, perhaps by embracing the inherently political nature of their work or by becoming more careful in their wording to maintain neutrality. Both are legitimate responses. That said, it is essential that the nonprofit sector continue to lead the way in demanding justice in our communities and wider society.

In 2020, Our Fundraising Needs to Adapt

The fundraising landscape is changing constantly. As your nonprofit progresses into this new decade, it's never been more vital to see your organization in its cultural and political context, to really understand your donors, and to build personal, lasting relationships with those who choose to invest in your cause.

More Resources to Keep Your Fundraising On Track