We are moving into the next phase of normal. From the pandemic to politics to weather extremes and cultural shifts, our world is moving at a fast pace. It is important we all stay nimble and alert, so we can pivot and adjust as necessary.
How do you plan in a constantly changing environment? While I do not have all the answers, I want to share some ideas on how to strategically position your ministry for success moving forward.
- Embrace technology. As a result of lockdowns and regional guidelines, fundraising as we knew it transformed in 2020. It is said technology advanced 10 years in a matter of weeks. This acceptance of Zoom, digital platforms, and online giving made way for new methods of meeting, communicating, and gathering. One national aid organization reported 2020 online donations were up 97%. While lack-luster adaptations were tolerated in spring, the donor expectation is to have a quality digital giving experience in 2021. Remote work and increased online shopping and interactions necessitate that online giving is not only a function, but a feature.
- Position to pivot. Needs and service delivery models changed in the blink of an eye last year. Integrate the ability to adjust quickly not only in your programming plans but in your fundraising efforts as well. Position your organization for the future through structure and sustainability. Start a reserve fund or a quasi-endowment. The Signatry’s Charity Fund can fit this purpose, and the balance can be invested for potential growth. How many of you have a subscription to a service or product? A recent study indicated 69% of Americans have more than 4 subscriptions. Convenience and more frequent online engagement have increased donors’ subscription mentality. Amplify a monthly partner program by developing relationships with regular monthly subscribers and providing quality content and connection. A reserve revenue on a regular cadence will position you to pivot as needed when “normal” fluctuates.
- Generous people remain generous. This is especially true with people of faith. At The Signatry, we saw giving go up by nearly 30%. Nationally, the number of DAFs increased and the number of grants out of DAFs went up even more. Why the increase? The need was evident. Ministries communicated more and articulated the need. It does not require a pandemic to do this. Certainly, there was an urgency that permeated society and caused people to give more on a macro-level, but the same can be captured at a micro-level as well. Continue to communicate and share how you are operating, adjusting, and ministering. Connect donors with impact. This next normal may require more transparency and communication.
- Cultivation over acquisition. Now is not the time to expand your database in hopes of acquiring new donors. Taking in new donors is exciting, but your organization will benefit more by focusing on caring for the donors you already have. In a recent study shared by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 87% of respondents said they intended to donate this year, and 20% said they would make an even bigger gift than 2020. Donors tend to stick with “what they know” and charities to which they already give. Another study indicated only 7% of those polled either stopped giving or gave to a new group. Donors want to give to your work. Make it easy for them. Articulate the need and remind them of impact. And show gratefulness. Always.
Change is hard. I like a predictable plan. I like a to-do list. Even more, I like checking things off the to-do list, accomplishing the plan, and moving to the next thing. 2021 will not be like that.
If you are like me, we need to adjust our thinking. We need to focus more on what is happening around us and anticipate how we can adapt and adjust to continue the work and connect with donors. I encourage you to stretch yourself this year – read (unbiased) news sources, look at what businesses are doing to adjust, and seek advice of key donors and board members. Stay ahead of the curve and be poised to pivot.