The unprecedented changes brought by COVID have forced all of us to think outside the box – communicators, fundraisers, and strategists.
Every fundraising manager has faced serious hurdles in the last year and a half… and if we’re honest, a few of those hurdles are still lying on the floor behind us!
It’s put our systems to the test, made us re-think our fundraising strategies (especially those leaning heavily on in-person events), and left us all wondering what else is going to change in the medium to long term.
Truth is, we can’t sit on our hands and expect what worked in 2019 to keep working in the next ten years, even if changing and adapting might feel difficult, time-consuming, and stressful. We need to turn our challenges into new possibilities.
Here are three challenges you may well have faced (and will continue to face) – and how you can turn them into new possibilities for your organisation:
Challenge 1: It’s hard to see trends in our donor base
When it comes down to it, your supporters are a bunch of amazing people with one thing in common: they’ve got the same dreams you have for a better world.
But there’s so much more to learn about your supporter base than that one ambition. As you grow and acquire more donors, what are their ages, life stages, giving capacities, giving routines, and so on?
Just latching onto one trend can inform a whole strategy… but seeing these trends is a big challenge.
Possibility 1: Imagine donor lifecycles
Noticing the problem is the start of a (potentially) very exciting solution.
Understanding AI-driven donor lifecycles gives you the most important information when it comes to the trends in your new donors.
You can use any data available to you, dependent on what you’re collecting.
With donor lifecycles, you’ll be able to home in on the audiences most receptive to your mission and your messaging.
Plus, a deeper understanding of your donors gives you the ability to connect with them in more meaningful ways, start conversations on the issues they care most about, and deliver relevant messages at the best possible time.
Challenge 2: Sending out communications regularly is too much work
We talk about donor relationships – a lot.
But sometimes, it can feel like maintaining anything you’d call a ‘relationship’, especially with your larger audiences and lower-value donors, is an unrealistic goal.
Finding the time – and the resources – to communicate regularly and personally with your donors isn’t easy at the best of times.
In periods of change (like the last 18 months), your increased busy-ness can make this task even more difficult, and other ‘urgent’ needs often drown out the arguably greater priority of relationship building.
Possibility 2: Automation can raise your quality and lower your efforts
We’ve reached the stage where automated messages don’t feel robotic, strange, or ‘wrong’. They can be personal, engaging, and well-designed.
And you already have the tools you need: a clear message, and writers with the capacity to communicate it.
Automation is only a few steps away for any organisation. With the right AI-based tools, you’ll be helping your donors and supporters feel more connected than ever… all while decreasing the amount of writing and planning at your end.
Challenge 3: We’re struggling to engage and acquire new donors
It’s the hardest part of the job.
Your existing donor base is loyal, committed, and regular. But if you’re going to grow as an organisation you need to be acquiring new donors.
The collective nut that we’re all working on cracking, of course, is how to build younger donor bases and reach younger audiences.
Most charities rely on loyal older donors for the bulk of their fundraising, and while younger generations are definitely willing to give (and volunteer) when asked, they are less likely to commit to a specific organisation over the long-term like their parents or grandparents did before them.
Working out how to attract younger donors, engage them in the cause, and encourage them to become regular givers might be the single biggest challenge over the next decade or so for ensuring an organisation’s long-term sustainability.
Possibility 3: There are new audiences out there, and new ways to find them
McLuhan famously said it best… “the medium is the message”.
Young donors aren’t waiting by their mailbox to hear from you. They’re in online spaces, engaging with new content – and they’re passionate about causes close to them.
Turn your challenge of acquiring new audiences into a possibility: where are you not communicating, and who’s there ready to hear your message?
With the right tools, you’ll be able to reach new potential donors through social media and begin building relationships with new demographics.
It’s important not to spread your efforts too thin by trying to be on all social media platforms all the time. Every platform attracts different age groups and interests. So take the time to choose one or two key platforms based on the audience you are hoping to engage with.
Once you are on the platform, spend time focusing on giving value to your audience rather than asking for donations or advocacy too early.
As you post, track your engagement metrics to see what is working best. Over time, you will build an audience that you can eventually invite to engage with your organisation in deeper and more meaningful ways such as a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
You may also want to consider looking for ways to re-engage lapsed donors through your email management software, sending them relevant messages that reconnect them with your mission (without asking for a donation).
Eventually, you’ll see your audience growing in number and generational diversity, which will help set your whole organisation up for success for the very long term!
There’s lots to learn, still
Nobody is the definitive expert on these concepts.
As fundraisers, we’re still all figuring out the best ways to communicate, grow, and consolidate in new digital spaces.
But we have reached the point where the right tools under your fingertips make a measurable difference in your capacity as a fundraiser and communicator.