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October 26, 2017

13 Fundraising Trends and Best Practices You Need to Know in 2018


A new year is just a short time away. Is your organization ready for 2018? Even while in the midst of preparing for GivingTuesday, holiday pushes, and year-end goals, you know that there won’t be a break come January!

To help you prioritize, we asked our fundraising professionals to share the trends and best practices they think you’ll need to know in 2018. Use them to acquire even more donors and move them from a transactional to a transformational commitment to your mission.

The Top 13 Fundraising Best Practices and New Trends in 2018

  1. As email open rates decline and email service providers (ESPs) update their algorithms that impact your message’s ability to hit the inbox, look at engaging your donors with email less as a direct response strategy and more as a long-tail relationship building and content strategy. If you were the donor and engaging with your nonprofit, what would make you want to consistently open your emails? Hint: It’s not by asking for money in every email.
    — Jeremy Haselwood, Senior Director of Digital Strategy
  2. You know who doesn’t care about the giving pyramid? The donor. “If I make this additional gift before year end, I move up the pyramid!” is not the way donors think.
    — Jay Finney, Vice President
  3. Figure out where you want to be in terms of measurable development objectives five years from now (i.e., 2023), and let those KPIs drive the objectives for 2018.
    — Jeff Nickel, Senior Vice President Client Development
  4. The fundraisers having the most success today are those who can — in the midst of many loud voices — focus on the quiet truth that donors want to experience the joy of giving. The shorter the emotional distance from the donor’s hand to the hand in need, the greater the joy. Use all the means you have available to make the impact feel that close!
    — Marcy Auman, Senior Vice President
  5. Video is clearly the future of content marketing, accounting for 69% of all consumer internet traffic this year alone with impressive growth predicted over the next few years. According to Cisco, by 2019 video content will be responsible for 85% of ALL U.S. internet traffic. To put that in perspective, “monthly internet traffic in North America will generate 11 billion DVDs’ worth of traffic.” Video marketing is a way to create content that is personal with a human touch, simple to digest with a true impact on the audience, and easy to promote across multiple digital channels.
    — Natasha Cygnarowicz, Vice President of Digital Operations
  6. Set aside time to interview program staff to learn more about your organization’s programs. A deeper knowledge of your charity’s impact can align your donor communication with the direct impact of their giving. For example, some services might be seasonal, and fundraising appeals can be scheduled to align with the actual needs on the ground. You can also compare your program notes against campaign reports and donor survey results to identify the best alignment with different audiences and fundraising methods. Your time learning about and supporting your programs will also bring a greater authenticity and passion to your interactions with donors.
    — Paul Hebblethwaite, Senior Director
  7. Resolve to call a donor every day of the week, just to say “thank you” for their support.
    — Jeff Nickel, Senior Vice President Client Development
  8. Make messaging to your donors conversational and authentic. Write how you speak. Which is sometimes in short or one-word sentences. Like this one. See?
    — Jennifer Miller, Creative Director
  9. There is always an ongoing need to look at an organization’s data-hygiene rules. A nonprofit should be reviewing their data business rules at least once a year, preferably twice a year or more. They should look at their rules for No Mail, Deceased, and Inactive donors, comparing counts for each of these groups every six months. If these numbers increase significantly from the previous six months, was there an error in a large number of donors being flagged inadvertently? The database is the brain of direct marketing. Your direct marketing program will most oftentimes be successful if your data is clean and current, and your segmentation is accurate.
    — Kerri O’Neill, Senior Director
  10. Motion and video has been a powerful asset for several years in nonprofit online content. Fundraisers should be more aggressively testing the role it plays in their “pushed” digital appeals, as they continue to strengthen the impact of storytelling in their campaigns.
    — John Thompson, Chief Creative Officer
  11. In everything you do, put on your “donor hat.” Are you looking at things from your perspective as a professional fundraiser/marketer? Or as someone who gives to your organization? Remember — they’re two different people!
    — Claire Waiksnoris, Business Development Executive
  12. Look at your internal audiences to identify potential direct mail and telephone fundraising donor-conversion test opportunities. People who already know about and have a positive experience with your organization are prime candidates to convert into donors. We find success in mailing and/or phoning audiences such as past patients, pet adopters, and event participants. Sometimes we can successfully accomplish this through regular mailing or phone calls. At other times, additional modeling is required. In all cases, though, once we figure out a strategy that works, the warm prospect pipeline of new donors is a valuable one.
    — Jamie Veltri, Vice President of Acquisition and Media
  13. Identify one outrageous goal that can only be achieved when all the stars align correctly. Tell two of your colleagues about it, and enlist their support to help you achieve it!
    — Jeff Nickel, Senior Vice President Client Development


New! Check out the fundraising trends and best practices for 2019.

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