I spy 5 fundraising trends in 2016

  1. Growth-oriented nonprofits will “discover” donor-centricity.

In the quest for improved revenues, charities will switch from so-called “corporate” communications (where the organization is the hero; it’s how you raise the least amount of money) in favor of donor-centered communications, where the focus is on the donor’s emotional gratification (it’s how you raise far more money from the very same people).

The commercial world made this switch back in the 1950s, by the way; nonprofits tend to be a few decades behind in their business practices, as Adrian Sergeant has noted.

Today, the websites of fast-growing innovators like charity: water are as much about the donor experience as they are about the mission … as it should be. To quote Mark Phillips, “The only thing that matters a damn is the donor experience.”

  1. Facebook will continue to mature as a fundraising platform.

There is exactly one charity on the face of the earth I’m aware of that makes significant, steady revenue from Facebook: Soi Dog, an animal welfare charity in Bangkok, Thailand.

It took them and Pareto in Australia years of research and development (proving once again that there is no easy money). But Soi Dog now brings in US$300,000-400,000 every month in giving, mostly from women 45 and older in the US and UK.

Among the advantages of Facebook fundraising: you can raise money globally for your local cause … if it’s the right cause (animal welfare is a clear winner).

What’s worth noting is that the advertising associated with Soi Dog’s success could have been written in the 1940s. The tried and true methods of conventional response advertising are essential in Facebook fundraising, according to Pareto co-founder, Sean Triner. So, yeah, social media is a shiny new thing … but you better know something about the shiny old thing, too, if you want to make Facebook fundraising work for you.


  1. There will be a new kind of fundraiser in town.

One cohort of fundraisers is leaving the stage (the baby boomers) and another cohort is coming on stage (some in their twenties).

The baby boomers often came into their positions without much or any formal training in fundraising. They learned as they went, through experience, reading, conferences, mentoring and such.

The new cohort will be different … in grounding, if nothing else. Nonprofit management programs have popped up everywhere in higher ed., as our massive industry attracts the career-minded. Fundraising degree and masters-level programs (such as the new AFP International Advanced Diploma in Fundraising [IADF], developed by Drs. Adrian Sergeant and Jen Shang) will turn out far more rigorously prepared professionals.

We’re even seeing hugely successful 2nd-generation fundraisers like Rory Green and Jen Love, both with distinguished fundraising dads. One observer stated, “Fundraising is the biggest profession on earth run on war stories and conventional wisdom.” I see those days starting to pass. Tomorrow’s top fundraisers will guess less and know more.


  1. Direct mail will not die … again.

Forbes, the business magazine, writes about this non-obituary pretty much every year … because every year direct mail advertising way outperforms digital advertising. Now even science has chimed in, as Gina Danner wrote in Next Page:

“Direct Mail is alive and kicking even if your original cell phone is not.

“Despite the attraction toward digital marketing, direct mail is far from extinct. According to a study conducted by Millward Brown, Using Neuroscience to Understand the Role of Direct Mail, physical marketing materials vs. virtual marketing materials engage customers far better and trigger more emotional responses deepening brand engagement.”

“But we’re not in sales!” fundraisers will scream. And I scream back: “Yes, you are!” And it’s about time you recognized that you have a customer … and that customer is your donor.

Food for thought: according to Jeff Brooks, baby boomers will represent the bulk of your donors until about 2035. Baby boomers use technology heavily, but they are not digital natives. They grew up with paper. They have an enduring romance with paper.


  1. Charity rating services will become obsolete (except in their own minds)

The charity ratings watchdogs have never exposed a real fraud, far as I know. Yet they’ve made life miserable for good charities forced to forgo investment in staff and growth, in fear of a downgrade to three or fewer stars.

The charity industry is growing madly for one reason: there are more problems than ever to address … and government doesn’t want to be in that particular business.

The charity ratings services aren’t watchdogs, they’re obstacles. They prevent nonprofits from behaving in a business-like manner, as Dan Pallotta has said so often. Please just go away. Your time has come and gone.

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