Stephen Ferrando, SVP Strategy and Analytics  ●  12/14/2018

2018 Fundraising Wrap Up: What’s New Under the Tree?

For fundraisers, things begin to get exciting around the middle of October. (Some folks might even say stressful!)

I am certain you can relate.

With #GivingTuesday on November 27 this year, the holiday giving season is at its maximum length (35 days!). This means you have extra time to solicit holiday gifts.

And, waiting under the tree for fundraisers this year is a slew of new industry trends and technologies that are likely to impact your success now and into 2019. As you buckle down heading into the homestretch of this holiday season and year-end giving, here are several gifts that await fundraisers under the tree.


Under the tree this year, you’ll find 5 gifts that will change the way you fundraise: 


1. GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday exceeded $1 billion for the first time this year. That’s big news! (Check out our 3 Trends from GivingTuesday 2018.) But perhaps more newsworthy is that nonprofits were far more effective at leveraging their technology and digital assets this year than in years past. The sophistication of nonprofit organizations, not just on GivingTuesday but throughout the year so far, shows that nonprofits continue to evolve their fundraising programs, regardless of size.

With a gift like this, it’s tempting to just dive right in. But before you do, ask yourself these important questions:

Is your organization doing everything it can to leverage digital channels? More important, is your organization focusing on the right things to succeed? It’s not just about cool ideas. Nonprofits need to make operations, technology, and the flow of data a priority for future success.


2. Facebook’s $7 million match

The match gave nonprofits a unique and exciting opportunity on #GivingTuesday to have the donations made by their donors matched dollar for dollar.

However, the opportunity only lasted a few seconds before match funds were depleted. This was due to massive traffic spikes to Facebook, caused by significant increases in paid search this year.

Opportunities like these are amazing, especially for those charities that did get in first this year. Overall, donors raised $125 million related to the Facebook match. That said, cashing in on the matching funds is competitive. So if future opportunities of this nature present themselves, nonprofits may need to carefully weigh their odds of realizing revenue gains versus spending a lot only to find themselves at the back of the line.


3. Paid search and search engine marketing (SEM)

Paid search experienced a huge surge recently, due in part to Google Ad Grants, a $10,000 in-kind advertising credit on a nonprofit’s SEM platform. While this is a great opportunity for nonprofits seeking donations, it comes at a price, as increased advertising spend has driven (and will continue to drive) pricing way up. And keep in mind that it’s not just nonprofits driving these prices up. Commercial businesses are using SEM to their advantage, which also adds to the increasing expenses associated with paid searches. But, search typically has a strong return on investment (ROI) — even in higher-cost, competitive environments — so it’s a worthwhile investment. 

The digital fundraising experts at TrueSense recently wrote a white paper to explain how to maximize your Google Ad Grant without the stress. You can get your free copy here.


4. Donations through Amazon Pay

“Alexa, make a donation to …” was all the rage on #GivingTuesday. And now Amazon Pay appears to be attempting to position itself as a holiday season go-to.

Or so Amazon’s slick marketing would have you believe:

alexa donation picture

While Alexa has an undeniable “cool” factor, nonprofits should pause before going all-in on this new technology. Nonprofits that decide to leverage this emerging technology trend should consider what it will mean when a large bucket of gifts and revenue show up in their data marked only as “Amazon Pay.” That gift data will have no clear way of marrying up to donor records that may potentially already be on their file. And it will come with a wide array of other data quality concerns.


5. PayPal gift processing

Increase in PayPal usage is becoming noteworthy. In two years, gifts made via PayPal have surged from nearly nonexistent to significant. It’s time to think about leveraging this “old” platform in a new way.

Leveraging PayPal is not a decision that can be made exclusively by development and fundraising teams. It needs coordination among finance, IT, and operations teams to answer questions that need to be asked. Questions like:

  • Who are we using as a payment processor and payment gateway?
  • Do we have PayPal enabled with them?
  • What fees, contracts, web development, etc., need to be reviewed to make that happen?

Given the rapid gains this payment type has seen over the last 24 months, it may be time for fundraising teams (traditional and digital channels alike) to start that internal conversation. Staying abreast of the latest payment processing trends is an important behind-the-scenes task.


Of course, not all gifts are a blessing. Some gifts make you wonder if you’re on the naughty list:

  • Changes in tax laws remain complete guesswork. The Giving Institute and others have tried to provide some early assessments, but until we see how people react to their tax filings next spring, we’re probably not going to have a crystal clear view of what the impact is on nonprofits.
  • With GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act, fundraisers can expect tighter laws regarding consumer rights of personal data. At minimum, these changes mean increased cost as charities and the companies that serve them will be forced to enact changes in data collection and storage policies. Since the federal government has yet to weigh in on this issue, individual states are filling the gap, which could create a patchwork of privacy regulations and make the current state-level charity registration laws look like child’s play. 


Hopefully, one of these noteworthy trends and innovations will turn out to be your favorite gift this year — and not a stocking full of coal.



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