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Copley Raff’s 13 Fund Raising Trends to Watch in 2013, Part 1

larry the Karnac

The best way to predict the future is to create it.” — Peter Drucker
As everyone in the advancement business knows, it is becoming increasingly challenging to raise funds. Organizations need to invest more and more in advancement operations and personnel to grow… or just stay even.

2013 promises to be even more challenging for fund raising than any time in recent memory. This is amplified given the political stalemate in Washington and the resultant changes in the tax code that could negatively affect the amount of disposable income for many Americans.

Given these facts on the ground, and many more, astute advancement professionals must be aware of emerging or maturing trends that will in part drive giving for the next 12 months. It is important to view your planning and thinking through the lens of these realities to maximize your ROI on your fundraising efforts in 2013. CRI is pleased to present 13 important trends for your consideration – in two parts. We’ll review trend 1 – 7 right here and now. Trend 8 – 13 come next week, so check back soon!

1. Mobile Giving
With smart phones becoming a de facto technology accessory for most people, text-to-give applications and drives will become a dominant form of philanthropy. This is especially true for disaster relief efforts as well as outdoor events where a text-to-give number can be projected onto a building or wall to encourage instant and easy giving.

To consider in 2013: If your organization has a large Millennial and Gen X funders base, and the internal resources to manage additional technology and mobile vendors, look into the possibility of adding a mobile giving component to your fundraising program.

2. Mail and Email
Email fund raising continues to evolve and is increasingly paired to direct (snail) mail efforts. This multi-channel pairing helps to improve conversation rates (getting the second gift), renewal rates (getting the third gift and beyond), overall donor retention, and average gift size. The most effective campaigns have carefully targeted messages to each donor segment. Direct mail is on track to becoming a niche-oriented channel, and as a result, must be extensively integrated with social media, your website and/or blog, and other digital channels. For deeper consideration on this subject, see The REAL Value of Direct Mail.

To consider in 2013: Make sure your email and direct mail programs are in tandem and complementary to each other to optimize EACH channel.

3. File Segmentation Sophistication
Data driven direct market fundraising is increasingly the norm. Your donor file holds a vast amount of useful information that can be utilized to optimize your multi-channel efforts; depending on your system, this can be gleaned by yourself or by specialized vendors. It is true that the number of important data points can seem overwhelming. However, it is key to consider donor giving recency and frequency; preferred giving vehicles, including mail, email, web, and events; donor age and gender; range of giving over time; and motivation for past giving. This granular information should be used to personalize newsletters, email, and direct mail appeals in ways that show your donors that they are individuals and valued stakeholders. For deeper consideration on this subject, see It’s the DEMOGRAPHICS, Stupid!

To consider in 2013: Keep your communications as personal as possible for the greatest return on your fundraising investment.

4. Social Media The verdict is still out on the long range direct impact of social media on fund raising results. What is clear is that social media is an important aspect of a well rounded fundraising strategy, but not a replacement for more traditional channels, including face to face meetings, direct mail, and events. Online resources are a great way to promote your mission, increase your visibility, and attract new prospects, donors, and volunteers. These are all elements of an effective fundraising strategy but hard to directly link to incoming dollars. Currently, there is very little available data that demonstrates a favorable return on investment for nonprofit social media efforts. This is separate and distinct from multi-channel solicitation efforts where there is data. Social media channels continue to evolve, however, and it is wise to keep abreast of how your organization may benefit from them. For deeper consideration on this subject, see Not Another Social Media Commercial.

To consider in 2013: Include a social media component in all of your communications, and create measurement and performance metrics for it – distinct from dollars raised – that are applicable to your unique situation.

5. Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding, a relatively new phenomenon, is the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via social and digital channels, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. While this fund raising method places most of the risk on the nonprofit, crowdfunding enables donors to contribute to a project, and ensures that their dollars will only be used if the fund raising goal is reached. This adds a vitality and sense of urgency to the project, and ensures donors that they are investing in a fully funded endeavor. Some US based crowdfunding sites include:

To consider in 2013:
Look into this option if you have a time sensitive project and a core donor base comfortable with spreading the word – and giving – online.

6. Transparency
As donors have more and more viable – and highly visible – options for their gifts, NPOs will need to redouble their efforts to assure donors and stakeholders about the integrity of their operations and how funds are used. The unfortunate truth is that the public’s faith in nonprofits’ operating ability has declined over the years. The more your organization can distinguish itself through communications and transparency, the greater your fund raising potential is likely to be.

To consider in 2013: Keep your communications frequent, upbeat, and relevant to your donor’s needs and expectations. Make sure to include a soft ask, and a not so soft thank you, in every outreach.

7. Board Retooling
It has been increasingly the norm over the past ten years that NPO leaders recognize the importance of their board of directors as key for fund raising and planning success. However, from our experience in the field, this is not happening often enough at ground level. The truth is that many nonprofit boards do not have personal involvement in advancement as a priority. Rapid movement in this direction is needed by many organizations in order to keep up with the fiscal realities of 2013. For deeper consideration on this subject see The Value of Diversity and Survey Results: How Boards Feel About Fundraising.

To consider in 2013: Move fundraising skills to the top of your board recruitment priorities, and actively seek out potential board volunteers with proven track records in advancement.

Trends 8 through 13 will be revealed in next week’s blog post. Stay tuned!

For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of not for profit consulting services, please see

Have a development, executive recruitment, or campaign strategy or management challenge? Let’s talk! Click here to connect with Rebekah Kaufman, Director of Consulting Services at CRI.