At the end of October, we welcomed CCS Fundraising to our Nonprofit Thought Leadership Series for the second time to host a webinar about their firm’s latest Philanthropic Climate Survey data. Doug London and Aashika Patel, two Senior VPs at CCS Fundraising shared practical tips gleaned from the survey data and other industry research to help nonprofits create informed development strategies. This interactive conversation covered the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on fundraising outcomes, tactics and adjustments to employ to advance fundraising in challenging times, and expectations for the future of nonprofit development programs.

If you missed this webinar, you can watch the recording here or read some of the Q&A from the session with Doug and Aashika below:

 

Q: How do you see organizations shifting strategies and hiring to reflect a greater emphasis on relationship-oriented approaches vs. more transactional tactics?

A: Organizations are, in many cases, nurturing strategies that link measurable benchmarks (number and quality of cultivation touchpoints, person-to-person briefings, request meetings, etc.) with prospect engagement and hiring individuals who can best connect the interests of prospective donors with the financial needs of the organization to result in meaningful philanthropy. 

Many organizations are smartly focusing on how they can emphasize relationship building right now. Communicating urgency is important. Organizations are realizing that frequent personal touchpoints are important, whether it’s an email check-in, a personal call, or a customized stewardship report.

An increasingly virtual world in some cases provides an opportunity for more engagement—while it is still important to be cognizant of Zoom fatigue, it is interesting to see that many organizations are seeing greater attendance at events and meetings that are virtual compared to the in-person counterparts in previous years. Organizations that have successfully engaged donors through virtual events have crafted a compelling message as to how the virtual event provides unique opportunities that are different than an in-person event would have provided. For example, are there opportunities for one-on-one or small group conversations with leadership that may have been otherwise difficult to facilitate? Are there perks to a virtual gala, e.g. care package delivery, that can be utilized to make the experience feel special?

Beyond strengthening existing relationships with donors, many nonprofits at this moment are devoting attention to the initial steps of building relationships with brand new donors. Data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project shows that the number of new donors in the first half of 2020 was up 12.6% since the first half of 2019. For those organizations that are gaining brand new donors, thoughtful retention planning is essential to develop a lasting relationship. 

 

Q: As online giving becomes more and more important, how can we galvanize support in that area?

A: In 2019, it is estimated by Blackbaud that online donations made up about 8% of all charitable giving. We expect that percentage to increase for 2020 with all the increased digital engagement that nonprofits have undertaken. Branding, messaging, and communications are more important than ever. Consider clear, steady calls to action that can be linked to impact and outcomes. As a first step, if your organization doesn’t have a communications plan already, put one in place: what is the messaging you are using with prospective donors? What is the frequency of those messages? What are your calls to action? How are you guiding people to make a gift online?

Consider marketing campaigns as a tool to generate online support and plan for them accordingly. Additionally, look beyond your organization’s own digital channels and equip your network with the tools to encourage online giving—for example, if a virtual event is coming up, consider equipping your volunteers with sample social media posts to promote the event on their personal accounts. 

 

Q: What are your thoughts on participating in GivingTuesday this year, given that we already had GivingTuesdayNow in May?

A: If your organization has participated in GivingTuesday in years past, we would generally recommend participating again this year regardless of whether or not your organization participated in GivingTuesdayNow. It can be hard to regain momentum in future years once you have skipped a year.

Additionally, participating in GivingTuesday signals to your network that you are part of a larger consortium of institutions serving a collective goal. That sense of community is especially important today. Even if you do not do a hard ask on GivingTuesday, do recognize the day and direct people to an opportunity to give. CCS recently published a blog post detailing further considerations on whether or not to participate: https://ccsfundraising.com/should-i-participate-in-givingtuesday/ 

If your organization does participate in GivingTuesday, having a solid plan in place is essential. Some points to consider in planning include:

  • Can one of your donors enable a challenge or matching gift? 
  • Can you stack some gifts to count toward your GivingTuesday total? 
  • Recruiting volunteers to manage your social media around GivingTuesday can help relieve your already-busy staff.
  • Try to make your GivingTuesday communications look different from other appeals. Utilize the pre-built creative assets on GivingTuesday’s website to help with this.
  • No matter what, take some time between GivingTuesday and the holidays to thank all of your donors.

 

Q: What is the data showing about messaging that’s working for potential donors? Negative/need messaging, or hopeful/impact/positive messaging?

A: We recommend being honest and transparent in your messaging with potential donors. Everybody has been affected by the tumults and tragedies of 2020. Even organizations that are receiving an influx of donations are experiencing their own challenges. Though we do not have hard data to share, our experience advising nonprofits across the country tells us that sharing honest, candid experiences of what your organization is going through will resonate. 

Deliver these messages succinctly and directly. In addition to stories, take a look at metrics and impact—how is your organization pivoting and demonstrating impact through those pivots? It’s important to communicate what your organization is doing to foster a sense of community, and what the opportunities to participate are.