Editor's Note: For 2023 trends, check out "8 Major Nonprofit Trends for 2023."
Nonprofit organizations continue to battle the effects from last year as they begin planning for the year ahead. 2021 presents a new era of new possibilities and new opportunities for nonprofits. And now is the time to look toward the future and decide how to structure strategies that will lead organizations toward fundraising success.
Each year, NonProfit PRO releases its annual 40 trends, and this year is no different. While 2020 brought on unforeseen circumstances, many of last year’s trend predictions still held true — technology and innovative tools and tactics were things that helped nonprofits continue to connect with their supporters and continue fundraising. And this year, all of that still holds true; nonprofits have to look toward technology and digital strategies to grow their brands, but they also have to put more efforts into building stronger relationships and finding more authentic ways to connect with donors.
This year, our thought leaders include
- Sue Citro, Chief Experience Officer, Best Friends Animal Hospital
- Micah Fink, CEO & Founder, Heroes and Horses
- Josh Hirsch, Social Content Marketing Manager, Susan G. Komen
- Alicia Lifrak, EVP, Gabriel Group
- Lindrea Reynolds, Founder & Chief Brand Builder, LR Brand Consulting
- Shari Rudolph, CDO & CMO, Good360
- Kelley Hecht Stewart, EVP, Pursuant
- Erica Waasdorp, President, A Direct Solution
1. Continued Shift to Direct Marketing Channels
A continued shift to direct marketing channels to meet donors where they are (at home) will be necessary in 2021. Pivoting to digital, direct mail and virtual events will be the keys to reaching your key audiences but having messaging and content that lets you stand out will be the key to driving results. Americans will continue to be generous with their philanthropic support, but the long-term economic impact of COVID-19 will make the need for services even greater in 2021. As the economy begins to recover, some things will not necessarily go back to the way they were as many people will continue to work from home, and companies will create more flexible working environments to accommodate that shift. Nonprofits that are not developing multichannel campaigns to reach their donors and members will have a harder time getting on the radar for those who might be willing to support their mission. — Alicia Lifrak
2. Personalization and Intentionality
Personalization and intentionality will be key in 2021. Email audience segmentation will need to be more intentional, as every key stakeholder has experienced the economic and social crises differently. Organizations will need to connect with audiences in a more relevant and relational way. Narrative strategies are important. Due to our current crises, a brand voice of compassion and empathy will need to be shared in all forms of communications, from beneficiaries to potential donors. With the rise of Tik Tok and Clubhouse, and the continued growth of Instagram, organizations will need to reimagine their social media strategies to engage Generation Z and millennials. Video marketing and data-driven video ad campaigns will need to be a part of your content marketing strategies. — Lindrea Reynolds
3. Donor Stewardship Videos
A technique that I love and started using probably about two or so years ago, which is starting to come more and more to the forefront, is personalized donor stewardship videos. There are a lot of different companies out there that do it. But the whole point of a personalized thank-you is that it’s personalized. The subject line personalized — and the call to action, the salutation and the greeting. You have this much higher personalized experience. I used a similar campaign for a birthday fundraiser I did last year, and I was being thanked for sending people thank-yous. I was having a 90% email open rate from this campaign, from me just sending a simple thank-you. It’s amazing that at the heart of it, we’re all great fundraisers, and we know that digital communications allow us to create no barriers to stewardship and no barriers to heightened storytelling. — Josh Hirsch
4. Goodbye to Transactional Relationships
The rise of kindness and caring witnessed during 2020 marches on and has shaped everyone’s 2021 expectations. No one wants to be viewed as an ATM that dispenses money upon request; we all crave authentic conversations and real relationships. So see past transactional relationships, and connect with your supporters directly to help unleash their passion for your mission in 2021. — Sue Citro
Detachment is one of the most powerful tools a leader can have when it comes to the emotions in leadership problems. So the question is: How do you do it? And for me, the answer is practice and confidence. And both of those things, they’re a choice. In times like this, leaders have a tendency to want to overlead, and that takes them from being a leader to this managerial role, and you stop innovation, and you stop thought, because you’re overmanaging and overleading in a time when people need the left and right lateral limits to be creative, have responsibility and take ownership of their departments. I think this is the time to empower people, this is the time to give people the room to be creative, and I think that right there, that detachment, like I said, is the most powerful tool that you can have as a leader when it comes to growing, managing, leading through difficult times and problems. — Micah Fink
If you’re interested in your own copy of “40 Nonprofit Trends for 2021,” download your free copy here.