The Future of Fundraising: 5 Marketing Trends for the New Year

Around this time last year, I blogged about the likely marketing trends of 2021. The opening line to that entry was, “Nobody has ever had to plan for a year like this.”

That still feels true, doesn’t it?

In 2021, we’ve seen COVID variants, economic shifts, record charitable giving and social justice efforts. We’ve turned events hybrid and suffered Zoom fatigue. Some businesses are back in person; some may never return to a building.

Our Stelter team predicted the following five trends for 2021; I lead with them today because they all still feel relevant:

  1. Continuing creative remote engagement
  2. Stewardship
  3. Authenticity
  4. Framing transformational giving in a new way (this is about the shift to “major gifts of assets”)
  5. Remembering the “why”

We still haven’t landed on “the next normal.” I think authenticity is going to continue to be critical. I also think that we’re at the point in our industry that stewardship needs to be more of an investment, less of an afterthought. It’s becoming harder and harder to retain donors and the cost to acquire a new donor is so much more than the cost to keep one. Stewardship is a critical aspect of that, especially in deferred gifts.

With that in mind, here are five additional trends we see on the horizon.

Looking Ahead to 2022

Trend 1: Retain “One-Time” Donors from the Pandemic

This should be part of your overall marketing strategy. You need to make the case for support in a post-pandemic world: What needs remain? What new ones arose? What did you learn (and what will you do differently)?

Action ideas:
  • Show them their power. Steward these donors by communicating the impact their gifts made last year. Let them in on your 2022 plans and provide a long-term look at your organization’s goals.
  • Engage from the heart. Be real and talk from a place of sincerity. Donors can recognize a sales call, which could result in a move from feeling neutral to feeling negative about your organization.
  • Provide small, genuine gestures of gratitude. A simple thank-you can have a powerful domino effect.

Trend 2: Host Events in New Ways

This may be all virtual or amix of online and in-person engagement. People still have the desire to gather but, now that they have experienced the ease of live events from their own homes, many are happy to remain virtual. In-person events will need a strong digital component to cater to both audiences.

According to Culture Track, a national online survey that’s been conducted since 2001, respondents were split on their event preference going forward:

  • 65% of expect to prefer in-person
  • 26% will make their decision based on either the content or don’t have a preference between online and in-person
  • 9% expect to prefer online experiences

Other benefits of virtual events are more opportunities for those with disabilities and a win for the environment.

Action ideas:
  • Become part of a donor’s day-to-day life at home. Try virtual coffee breaks or hosting a Zoom event, like a concert, game night or viewing party of a video showing your mission.
  • Keep them informed. Set up in-person “town halls” featuring essential administrators that you also live stream.
  • Be a trusted advisor, wherever they prefer. Let the donor decide if in-person or virtual is their preference for follow-up on their essential planning questions.

Trend 3: Diversify Your Communications

The changing makeup of the country is creating a more diverse, dynamic audience. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, shifting demographics are “changing the face of communities, donors and the issues they aim to address. Traditional philanthropy—white, male, and older (oftentimes even dead)—is giving way to a far more diverse group poised to take up the mantle of community change.”

A study published in August by the Lilly School of Philanthropy, shared that about two-thirds of Black and Hispanic households and nearly one half of Asian households gave to charity in a given year. The study controlled for factors that impact giving, such as education and income, and found that there is no statistically significant difference in giving rates across racial and ethnic groups.

You have an opportunity to talk to more people about the work you do.

Action ideas:
  • The work begins with you. Is your institution seeking a range of voices and backgrounds? Do your Board and staff look like your community?
  • Highlight gifts from minority populations. A few weeks ago we shared the power of social proof in convincing others.Testimonials can help build a sense of community and belonging among donors. They create a powerful social-emotional connection.
  • Tell a range of stories. Focus on how your institution is prioritizing funding to support underserved populations in response to racial injustice movements, for example. How are you actively involved in making the world more inclusive? 

Trend 4: Partner with Non-Nonprofits

Has any retailer come knocking, asking to bring your brand into their marketing? Here’s what Inc. recently predicted, “More and more, consumers are looking to support companies that have a mission or give back in some way. This trend is only going to increase, and a well-rounded marketing plan should take part in this development by partnering with nonprofits. This partnership opportunity has the potential to not only grow your business, but also align you with philanthropic missions that are important to you.”

We’ve known for a while that Millennials and Gen Z are purpose-driven when they decide how to spend their money. Though they’re not on traditional planned giving fundraising lists, they are influencers in their parents’ decisions…and eventually they’ll be your audience, too.

There are no clear action ideas for this trend, other than to be open to partnerships. Remember: You don’t have to market alone. Vet businesses and business owners for their alignment with your nonprofit’s mission. Be selective, but be open.

Trend 5: Tell Stories Through Video

Short, educational, entertaining, organic videos are winning the internet. Video is an incredibly rich storytelling medium. 

A 2020 study by Wyzowl reported that people share videos at twice the rate of any other form of content. It also found that 84% of people were convinced to buy a product or service based on the brand’s video.

Video offers authenticity in a way images don’t.

Need more convincing? Check out these stats and links from Wordstream on the power and influence of video marketing.

Action ideas:
  • Look to Facebook. Share one of your brand’s impact videos on social media in conjunction with a link to your planned giving wills page to introduce followers to the most common legacy gift.
  • Shoot videos of your donors. Have the opportunity to interview a legacy donor in person? Ask to capture quick video footage (your cell phone is fine; we’re going for authenticity here) where they answer a single question, “why should others consider a gift to [your nonprofit]?” Share the resulting video in an upcoming email to prospects.

Bonus Trends

To get the list to five, we left a few important trends behind. Here are three additional items we’ve been thinking about :

  • We’ll see more qualified charitable distributions, especially with Baby Boomers.
  • QR codes to direct donors to a landing page, video or digital offer will change the print-to-digital connection.
  • Gifts on noncash assets, such as real estate, cryptocurrency and business interests, will be a meaningful way for donors to make a difference in 2022.

P.S. Looking for a blast from the past? Try (re)visiting planned giving marketing trends of 202120202019 and 2018.

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