What Is the Future of Fundraising?
I was recently consulting with a charity and talked to several fundraising professionals about their careers. They were young and had limited fundraising experience. Ironically, at least three of the five individuals I was talking to were quitting their jobs. After several years in their first fundraising role, they said they were burned out. They were leaving their nonprofit jobs for sales positions in private industry.
The other two young professionals, who were close friends of the exiting employees, were also thinking about leaving. Based on what they told me, it was not about their boss but was about the nonprofit fundraising profession.
According to a study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, 51% of development professionals do not expect to be in their current job two years from now, and 30% believe they would be leaving the profession. How can you build relationships, the essence of fundraising, if you have short tenured staff? Some reasons given for the staff tenure issues were unrealistic expectations, under-staffing and low compensation. It normally takes a fundraising staff member 18 months to hit optimal performance if they can stay in the position that long.
If all of us in this field didn’t have enough to worry about, here comes fundraising in the new age of the coronavirus. A recent Fundraising Coach article on this subject asks what fundraising professionals are going to do to mitigate the impact on fundraising. Two ways the coronavirus could impact fundraising is by jeopardizing your public fundraising events. Prospects may decide not to attend future public events until the all clear signal is given.
A larger issue is the economy itself. If the stock market continues to tumble, and we slide into a worldwide recession, prospects will have less money to give and may experience “psychic poverty.” They may feel very economically vulnerable. This may cause the death or reductions of campaigns already slowing down. Prospects must feel good and have a positive attitude toward giving. A millionaire prospect would not give to my capital campaign late last year because she was scared about giving anything out of her vastly increasing portfolio.
When looking at the future of fundraising, the NFP IVE Group discussed this issue with key professionals. These professionals feel the keys to the future of fundraising are to:
- Maintain trust and build relationships with prospects and donors
- Use data, but use it ethically, confidentially and privately
- Develop the necessary skills and tools to adapt, plus utilize data
In an article by The Future of Everything, different experts in the social media field were asked about the future of fundraising.
Key findings from these interviews include the following responses:
- In 10 to 15 years, gifts will be made using blockchain technology that makes contributing through Bitcoin quick and easy.
- Technology experts will dazzle the field with new platforms to reach donors.
- Organizations that invest in smart usage of their data will improve donor retention.
- Technology will provide better ways for organizations to tell their stories to donors.
- Mid-level fundraising will be an accepted practice.
- Direct mail, digital, events and databases will be fully integrated — seamless CRM solutions.
- Mobile marketing will become more important in use.
- Individual donors will be more engaged with the charities they serve.
- Making people feel they are part of your organization will be a key focus.
- The use of video will be even greater in the future.
An article by Third Sector believes the future will bring about the end of the fundraising department as we know it. Data will increasingly inform donors’ decisions in the future. Charities will need to reboot and rethink their relationships with donors. They will need to embrace new opportunities afforded by digital technology.
In the future, there will be more value placed upon engagements and relationships with donors for life. There is a shift toward using development team titles like the term “supporter engagement” instead of standard fundraising titles, like “director of development.” The growth of data and the predictive power of artificial intelligence will enable donors to make more effective donor decisions in the future. Fundraising areas within organizations in the future will work more closely with finance, communications and service provisions.
The future of fundraising is now. All of us must realize we need to think out of the box and be proactive in a reactive world. Our jobs are very difficult at best, and we should determine better ways to do our jobs. It concerns me when young professionals sample the nonprofit fundraising job world and leave quickly, suffering from burnout. That tells me they have only been taught to be transactional and not transformational.
The essence of fundraising is to change lives, make a difference and promote what is good for others. It is certainly not just a sales ask with nothing to be given in return. Focus on doing a better job of recruiting, educating and orienting new fundraising professionals. If we suffer major fundraiser shortages now, especially with the youngest professionals, the future for our profession and long-term philanthropic revenue will be at significant risk.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.