How to approach fundraising in this new economic environment


The past year has been difficult. In a time of so much uncertainty and competing priorities, nonprofits have struggled to fundraise effectively while maintaining their vital work. The good news is that many nonprofits have learned to adapt, moving from traditional fundraising events and initiatives to digital and virtual formats, creatively allowing donors to continue to engage. And in light of the extreme economic hardships many face, we’ve also seen donors step up their efforts.


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According to recent research from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, more donors are planning to give this year than ever before. Total charitable giving is expected to increase 5.1% in 2021. At the start of this year, here are some tips on how to approach fundraising in this new economic environment and global pandemic.

Be flexible and adapt as circumstances change

The nonprofits that performed best in 2020 were able to adapt and scale quickly, remaining nimble as plans were constantly evolving. The past year has presented many challenges, so flexibility was crucial. Take this opportunity to take a look at how you operate as an organization, how your plan is working, and if not, what needs to change. Listen to your donors to find out what they think, how the pandemic has affected them, and work to build an authentic relationship.

Add a personal touch to communication

Personalized communication and outreach is essential in 2021. It will set your organization apart. We are seeing more and more broadcasting going digital, making personalization even more important as messages flood email inboxes. By making a personal connection, you can show why and how your donors’ donations matter and the impact their contributions will have on your organization. Without that personal touch, donors are more likely to walk away and find another cause. In your outreach strategy, be sure to use the donor’s preferred name and know their donation history, events they’ve attended, and past campaigns they’ve supported so you can target specific messages. Focus on donor culture and empower your supporters to help you by presenting a strong case for charitable giving, then follow up with a thank you message and results.

Get creative with virtual events

Virtual events are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. We’ve seen organizations succeed in hosting virtual dinners by sending a meal kit to donors, virtual events with surprise celebrity guest appearances, as well as raffles and interactive online auctions. Before organizing an event, consider increasing communication with the community and your donors to gauge interest. It is important that the event aligns with your charitable mission and that you have the resources you need to make the event a success.

Know your donor base

Many donors budget for charitable giving. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your donor base and ask if a donation is still viable. Examine your area of ​​expertise and think of ways to better serve your people or better mobilize your supporters. The better you know who your donors are, the better you can reach them and get them to invest in these uncertain times.

While 2020 has been a whirlwind, it’s important that agencies and nonprofits look back to recognize what worked and what didn’t and continue to adapt. Learn from this past year and apply them to fundraising efforts this year and beyond. While we hope to return to a more normal environment soon, now is the time to continue to be creative and deepen these relationships for short and long term success.

Brande Anderson is responsible for institutional investment management relations and Alicia Beck is vice president and director of philanthropy at UMB Bank.


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