The pandemic brought into stark relief just how fast things can change in the nonprofit world. As none of us can know what the future holds, fundraisers need to ensure they make time to keep learning and improving, particularly in those key areas of digital fundraising and supporter retention, says Ashley Gatewood of CFRE International.
Every vehicle has a blind spot.
Most fundraising professionals do, too.
This makes it difficult to see where you have gaps in your own fundraising skill set.
It is all too easy to think you have a handle on everything necessary to be a fundraising star in the workplace. However, it pays to continually broaden your expertise, even in the areas of development where you might not directly work.
Hop in the time machine
Picture it. It’s May 2020, the pandemic’s nascent days.
Your organisation has made the difficult decision to downsize your fundraising department. You have been assigned workloads previously helmed by others, including tasks you haven’t performed since early in your career (or maybe ever).
Are you confident? Ready for the challenge? Or biting your nails, worried about whether you can pull it off?
For those who stayed on the cutting edge of fundraising best practices and trends, it was time to put their knowledge to the test. Meanwhile, the fundraisers who long ago felt there wasn’t much more to learn might have found themselves overwhelmed.
As none of us know what the future holds, it is always smart to set aside time for learning and improving.
The weakest link
In June 2022, my organisation, CFRE International, conducted a poll asking “What do you believe are the biggest areas where fundraising professionals have skill gaps?”
Of the 478 participants, 45% indicated digital fundraising. Wow.
As digital natives transform into some of your most loyal supporters and grandparents are increasingly tech-savvy, getting digital fundraising right should be at the top of your organisation’s list.
Astrid Von Soosten, CFRE, a partner at Brakeley Fundraising Consultants in Germany, says, “Fundraising will become digital. Period. The traditional ways may, possibly, remain practical in the leadership gift segment, but even here an organisation’s digital messaging will be decisive in getting a ‘Yes.’”
Blackbaud’s 2021 Online Giving Trends report uncovered a 42% three-year increase in online giving, with mobile playing a growing role. While 2021 might’ve felt like a wild ride for many nonprofits, it was a banner year for mobile donations with 28% of all online donations made via a mobile device.
Take a long look at your team’s digital fundraising capabilities.
Are they up to scratch? Do your digital fundraising efforts bring in a healthy amount of revenue or is your program not living up to its potential? Do you know what percentage of donations are being made on a mobile device vs. computer? Is every single page on your website and in your donation flow optimised for mobile? If your team is short on time, ask stakeholders to engage with your mobile experience and offer feedback.
Phillip Rothwell, MBA, CFRE, a director of development at Warwick Independent Schools Foundation in the UK, weighs in, “Fundraisers should focus their efforts on learning new and emerging trends in giving, especially the giving habits of younger generations, which are changing faster than ever. These donors will be the predominant stakeholders of our organisations in the future. The earlier we adapt to new practices, the more effective we will be as fundraisers.”
A second area with room for improvement
CFRE International’s poll found donor retention to be the second most pressing area where fundraisers might be falling short.
If your charity enjoyed an influx of donations from new donors during the pandemic, did you have a plan to turn them into monthly donors? Have a proper stewardship method and first-time gift recognition strategy? Notify them of relevant volunteering opportunities?
If not, other charities in your space likely are.
According to Salesforce’s report on donor engagement and retention in Europe, one in two charities is increasing focus on supporter retention.
Do you and your team’s skills measure up?
Consider your own experience with digital fundraising and donor retention.
Are you keeping on the cutting edge by reading articles and closely watching trends in these areas? Have you attended any in-depth trainings? Now reflect on your team members’ skill sets. Are they also investing in shoring up their knowledge?
If not, it is time to allocate resources to lift your team’s know-how in these two areas. Your future success likely depends on it.
About Ashley Gatewood
Based in Tucson, Ashley Gatewood is Communciations and Marketing Director for CFRE International, where she has worked since January 2018. Previously, she was the events and marketing manager at the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand, where she helped bring world-class fundraising programming to the country. She is on a life quest to visit 100 countries.
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