Special focus: Insights on legacy giving across EuropeDecember 13, 2023
For the first edition of Fundraising Europe for 2024, we take a look at what to expect from this year in terms of challenges and opportunities. We also share top tips for fundraisers for making the most of the months ahead.
Speaking to EFA members across Europe, it’s clear that 2023 presented their country’s nonprofits with many of the same challenges, from continued difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, to national and global crises impacting costs, service demand, and giving. And of course, there were also digital and AI developments to contend with, and (for some) regulatory changes too.
What’s in store for fundraisers this year?
Looking at what 2024 may have in store, many of these challenges are expected to continue. Continuing pressure on finances, fundraising, and service delivery means nonprofits will need to work hard this year to attract and retain supporters and fundraisers alike to keep vital income coming in. At the same time, technology – and specifically AI – will offer opportunities and solutions (as well as challenges). But, our experts say, as well as investigating these, it will be just as important to focus on getting the fundraising basics right – particularly supporter stewardship.
Read on for our experts’ observations, as well as their tips for getting the most out of 2024.
Connection with supporters will be essential for weathering ongoing crises
Crises will continue to exert pressure on governments as well as individuals this year, so a challenge for nonprofits will be how to raise enough money to keep services running and meet demand, says Jeroen Brugge, treasurer at Belgian fundraising association Fundraisers Belgium and fundraising expert at 11.11.11. For this, strengthening relationships with supporters will be essential:
“We live in a society in which the social and democratic crises are becoming more and more visible and tangible. Governments will have to tackle big societal issues, discourse will harden and solidarity will come under even more pressure. We cannot predict exactly how and how fast this will impact charities and nonprofit organisations and their funding but the repercussions might be hard.
“It is in times like these that the real human connection and relationship building with our supporters and donors must be our focal point, rather than to get carried away in digital platforms which are often more socially disruptive than social.”
The importance of connection in 2024 is a point that Fernando Morón, director of Spanish fundraising association AEFr also highlights. He says that good communication will be essential for reinforcing bonds with supporters of all types:
“The great challenge for NGOs for 2024 is to achieve a greater connection with society as a whole in general and with younger audiences in particular, investigating new, more agile collaboration models. In recent years, social networks have created a new form of interrelation and it is necessary to identify what works and to discard those that do not offer anything positive for the third sector.”
“It is important to enhance the communication of organizations and the causes they defend. Raising awareness is the first step to capturing the interest of future donors, which is why it is necessary to invest efforts and resources in making NGOs relevant to the ‘conversation’. We must explore new channels, tools and languages that achieve that social connection. Organizations must recover social leadership to capture the interest of citizens and private institutions, companies, and foundations.”
Nonprofits must demonstrate worth & responsibility to win support
The good news is that there are plenty of people with the means to help, says Pia Tornikoski, secretary general of Finnish fundraising association VaLa – but in order to reach them, nonprofits will also need to ensure they demonstrate their credentials and worth:
“Increasing social inequality meaning that there will be more people in need and more beneficiaries to help. On the other hand there will be more wealthier individuals and this could be taken in consideration when planning the major gift or legacy fundraising.
“Rising prices will continue to affect organizational and fundraising costs. One way to achieve the competitive advantage cost-effectively, especially in corporate partnerships or grants, is to focus on showing organizational responsibility. As nonprofit organizations (NPOs), we basically do good. It is important to ensure that the good is done so that it respects financial, social and ecological responsibility demands. That is what potential for-profit partners and foundations expect more in the future.”
Engagement with new audiences & ideas will be crucial
Some challenges will of course be country-specific, and in Italy, fundraisers are likely to have to deal with constitutional reform, notes Michela Gaffo, board member of fundraising association ASSIF, although there will be some benefits. At the same time, she adds, they will need to work out how to engage with new audiences – something that applies to fundraisers elsewhere across Europe too.
“This year I think that Italian fundraisers may expect to have to respond to the reform, and with the further opportunities of fundraising that it implies (commercial activities will be possible and very interesting to develop, if you know how). They may also expect to face the rise of the youngest donors, their thoughts and their expanding need of participation and activism. Finally, the changes and evolution of institutional philanthropy: how to learn to talk with the new surging foundations and with the renovated old ones, will be crucial.
“I think the keyword for 2024 will be ‘fusion’: with for-profit organizations and their skills and techniques, with technology, with activism and civil society movements. So, fundraisers: stay open, stay curious, stay creative.”
Technology will provide opportunities & challenges
Technology will continue to help charities across Europe strengthen their fundraising in 2024, says Katie Docherty, CEO of the UK’s fundraising association, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising. However, she adds, as more opportunities arise nonprofits will need to work out what’s right for them, and their supporters:
“We are in one of the fastest ever periods of technology development and emerging technologies like AI and crypto are already opening up opportunities for charities to strengthen their fundraising. But to keep this moving forward charities will need to think about their approach to technology and innovation, which is not easy when finances are under pressure.
“Our one top tip is to accept the new normal. The giving landscape has fundamentally changed both how people give – although at the heart of it their reason why remains the same – and how fundraisers can connect with donors. The opportunity cost of not trying something new has never been greater, so we encourage all leaders to give the fundraisers the resources they need to innovate and reach the right donors with the right ask.”
Docherty also notes that in the UK a general election is set to take place in 2024, raising questions of what a new government could mean for the sector and if there will be more statutory funding for charities.
Time to move forward with AI
Roger Tinner, Executive Director of Switzerland’s fundraising association, Swissfundraising says 2024 could be the year a lot of nonprofits make decisions on how they want to use AI. As such, they will need to be careful to keep in mind what will work for them and their people.
“2024 will probably be the year in which many NPOs and fundraisers will have to decide how much they can and want to use artificial intelligence in their communication and fundraising – especially as there are a number of ethical questions that are much more important for NPOs than for the economy as a whole. It is important to weigh up the desired simplification of day-to-day work against the impact of AI on the people who work in NPOs and contribute their enthusiasm as well as their expertise.”
“My tip for fundraisers for the coming year is: stay calm. In other words, take a calm approach to new trends and hypes and let others – for example the business world – be first movers. After their initial experiences, you will have more clues as to whether a development is really relevant for you or not. And stay focused on the people and purposes to which your NPO is dedicated!”
Kenneth Kamp Butzbach, general secretary of Danish fundraising association ISOBRO, also singles out AI as a hot topic for the year ahead. While there will be challenges, nonprofits shouldn’t be afraid to try it and share their experiences with others, he says, but at the same time they mustn’t forget to keep their supporters front and centre:
“It is inevitable that AI will continue to be a significant topic in 2024. As I see it, this holds both obvious opportunities and perhaps a range of challenges that we have not yet fully grasped. The opportunities lie in saving money on production and optimizing processes. The challenges, on the other hand, include the risk of stepping outside ethical boundaries, and doing something where the ethical implications are not fully understood. But I also see it as a challenge for organizations to embrace AI before competitors take the lead, along with strong partnerships and skilled employees.”
“My best tip for the new year is, of course, related to AI, and it involves organizations seizing the opportunities and hopping on the AI bandwagon. Dive into it and gain valuable experiences along the way. We are all entering entirely new territory with AI, and let’s share our experiences and learn together.
“That being said, I can’t help but mentioning a classic tip: focus on your private donors. On the threshold of an AI revolution, we must not forget the classic fundraising discipline of having the right mix of revenue sources in your portfolio. Get a handle on your private donors, and you will also equip your organization to receive more complex grants, such as funds or legacies.”
The fundraising basics will remain as essential as ever
This point of not forgetting the fundraising basics amongst all these new opportunities, is one that Martin Georgi, chair of the German fundraising association, DFRV, also emphasises:
“We need to make extra efforts to attract new and younger donors and younger fundraisers, with a particular attention to diversity. In the face of the constantly increasing number of communication channels, the fickleness of donors, and new technological advances, fundraisers need to look not only to new and innovative methods, but also to make sure that the basics are functioning: a well-developed database, a consistent attention to valuable existing donors, and serious A-B tests to avoid getting carried away by bright new shiny objects.”
Learning & sharing will strengthen fundraisers, their organisations – & the sector
In addition, he says, another key tip for fundraisers in 2024 is to keep learning, sharing, and strengthening the sector both by getting out there, and by lobbying for more support. He suggests the following:
“To make the most of your year, I recommend not hiding in your fundraising office. You should:
– attend at least one or two regional or national fundraising conferences to interact with and learn from your peers
– go at least once beyond your borders and organise a work-study visit to a partner organisation if you are working in an international organisation or network, or volunteer for some days in another organisation than your own
– even if you are not an in-person fundraiser, set yourself a minimum monthly target to talk in person to X number of supporters a month, either by telephone, Zoom, or in person, to understand donor interests and sentiment
– lobby your management to invest in staff training and to pay sufficient cost-of-living increases to staff, and to provide extra resources for improving data management, for developing internal processes and digitalisation, and for improving your technical infrastructure
– play an active role in your national fundraising association to improve and develop the fundraising sector – together we can do more!”
Lobbying of course, he adds, will also be important for ensuring a better regulatory environment for civil society organisations – in Germany and in Europe.
While this year will see a continuation and in some cases a deepening of the challenges faced in 2023, it’s clear that developments in technology and AI offer opportunities that can offer assistance. At the same time, what really stands out is the importance of not forgetting those key basics of good fundraising, particularly building strong connections with supporters of all kinds. Nonprofits will need to keep their supporters close, while finding ways of attracting new ones – and all while managing the pressures of diminishing funding and increasing demand for services. Innovating, learning, and sharing experiences will help to strengthen everyone’s efforts in 2024 and beyond, benefitting individual organisations and the sector as a whole.