What’s Working in Fundraising Today?

Thanks to Lisa Sargent Communications for taking the initiative and time to survey top U.S. nonprofit executives about their challenges. The firm interviewed more than a dozen nonprofit leaders via telephone over a six-week period on topics ranging from donor acquisition to myths and realities of social media. The result is what’s working and not as well as communication strategies to keep in touch with donors. You can review the full results here. My thoughts in italics.

Key Findings:

  • Donor acquisition remains a challenge – Because acquisition is lagging, some surveyed have stopped acquisition completely! As the report states, “this will likely cause a negative “ripple effect” for years to come.”  2010 Bridge Conference was all about what to do with the donors once you have acquired them and those I heard from represented nonprofits – not vendors.
  • Competition for donors and prospects are fierce – Crowded nonprofit landscape with more sophisticated marketing efforts. I believe those nonprofits who had consistent and integrated donor cultivation and marketing plans will always survive/thrive better than those who didn’t.
  • Marked by “fragile followers”, social media proved effective for some, but not all – Those surveyed are using social media to raise profile on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, blogs – seems to be driving traffic to their websites. HOWEVER – social media efforts are siloed from other donor outreach efforts. Those surveyed, like the rest of the nonprofit sector are not translating this effort into contributions. Remember when online giving started??? Now 1% of all individual gifts are made online!
  • “The major impediment here, noted an executive at one of the largest organizations, is simply that even today, quality communications are seen as “desirable, not a necessity”… and that most still “don’t value the importance of good communication.”
  • Donors are changing – Less loyal, want concrete results – but not delivered in a transactional way, see themselves as investors, want communication preferences honored. Hmmm, I thought effective fundraising is always about donor interest, needs and wants and it is our responsibility to steward the gift appropriately?
  • Offline is a contender and will be for the long haul Despite the answer in #1 – no one surveyed is abandoning their direct mail program? A contradiction maybe?
  • Online matters, right now, including email – Increased giving, donors are responding to email and e-news appeals.  And will probably continue to do so.
  • Integrated, multi-channel marketing holds huge promiseWell that is good to hear since it is a recommendation I always give to my clients – whether we are talking marketing, staff, volunteer or Board engagement.

Lisa offers some great observations and recommendations you can view here.

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