5 Fundraising Paradigm Shifts in 2015
Everybody knows fundraising has gotten tougher over the last decade. But something tells me this year could be some kind of turning point — if for no other reason than the current course of things is unsustainable. Call me the crazy optimist, but here are five big changes I see on the horizon:
1. People will stop talking about innovation and start innovating. In 2014, there was a lot of talk about the need for new ideas in the fundraising world. And we weren't the only ones talking about it. Innovation was one the 10 most-searches words of the year.
The problem with innovation is that it's risky. In these nervous times, when risk and reward bump up against what's tested and proven, the latter often prevails. You can't blame organizations. There's a lot at stake, and the cost of failure can be high, especially in the short run.
But as postage and production costs leapfrog, a few bold organizations will dare to explore strange new worlds. You can already see it in those nonprofits that are transitioning from traditional, incremental tests to "testing big," and pitting outside-the-box ideas against proven, but fatiguing, controls.
One challenge for innovators will be not to throw out the baby with the wash water. Even revolutionary creative still needs to understand basic principles of prospect and donor motivation. Smart organizations will get very creative, but they won't let the creative get in the way of their message.
The future will belong to those who understand that innovation includes failure, but take the risk anyway. One result is that ...
2. This will thin the herd. A new Darwinism is afoot in fundraising, and those who don't adapt won't survive the evolving environment.
People launch organizations for all kinds of reasons. And with 1.4 million nonprofits out there, it's inevitable that there'll be a lot of duplication. Back when making money was as easy as dropping a letter in the mail, it worked out, for most of them.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.