Looking Ahead to 2015 and Beyond
The speed with which trends are introduced and take hold can be dizzying! This is of course true in technology, but it’s also true in fundraising, where some blindly chase The Next Big Thing, and others plan and execute as if we are immune from the need to adapt.
In the nonprofit world, here are some of the trends we’ll be watching for and responding to in 2015:
Investigations by the Senate Finance Committee and various state attorneys general have led to record fines and sanctions for deception in charitable fundraising this year. And while some of the high-profile cases represent clear violations of law and ethics, states are increasingly ready to make headlines by sniffing out any suspected lack of transparency with renewed vigor. Nonprofits must ensure appropriate internal controls and pay unprecedented attention to issues of integrity, disclosure and transparency.
‘We’re here from the government to help you’
Too often, some of us in the nonprofit community observe government doings with the notion that we’re powerless to influence them. Now, more than ever, we need a clear, powerful voice to impact policy. Here are just some issues we need to address to stay viable: The USPS has been mismanaged to the brink of bankruptcy; privacy zealots threaten our ability to target the right people with the right message; certain tax-reform schemes would take away charitable tax deductibility from the most generous donors — costing nonprofits billions in lost revenue. In 2015, we need to unite and raise our voices to be heard by our government representatives.
Where the idea of multichannel used to be novel, it is now non-negotiable. Fundraisers, even those who initially resisted the necessity of intentionally integrated targeting of donors in every conceivable channel, will increasingly recognize we’re in new territory. We need to meet donors where they are (via online, DRTV, mail, phone, radio, special events, face-to-face, mobile). Effective multichannel communication increases results dramatically; we can no longer simply pay lip service to the concept or else we will find ourselves left behind in the marketplace.
It’s been a sluggish recovery with employment, housing, manufacturing and retail all struggling to get back into pre-2008 growth mode. But somewhat healthier numbers in consumer confidence and a still surging stock market point to the reopening of fundraising doors. Look for growing optimism on the economy to encourage aggressive new acquisition efforts as donors feel ready to take on new responsibility. Major gifts are due for a long-awaited surge as well, which not only adds to the net revenue but also improves ratios.
Put a brand-aid on it
In 2015, successful nonprofits will no longer accept brand and social-media campaigns that generate buzz but no bucks. Without the economy to blame for soft revenue, nonprofits will insist that all communications campaigns work together to generate net revenue. Branding will remain vital to nonprofits — as long as it supports fundraising as well as program goals.
In the nonprofit world, 2014 will be known as the year of the Ice Bucket Challenge. In a remarkable public relations coup, one organization both learned and demonstrated how social media can be marshaled to combine the raising of both awareness and revenue. Expect to see lots of imitators in 2015. The true test of a trend’s long-term worthiness will be in whether it can combine awareness and fundraising to create measurable growth and increased revenue. Watch for answers to the question that will turn a trend into a tradition: How well do efforts like these translate to
We don’t build marketing plans by looking at today’s trends. We don’t raise donor funds year over year by watching Twitter hashtags. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the obvious. Being alert for what’s “trending” — on social media, in the mail, in boardrooms and seminars, even in government — will keep us on top of the changes shaping the landscape and enable us to reach donors with streamlined and high-octane efficiency.
Tom Harrison is chair of Russ Reid and Omnicom's Nonprofit Group of Agencies. He is also chair of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @THarrison53