Key Trends in Philanthropy That Fundraisers Should Be Watching 


Fundraising is at a crossroads. We face a generosity crisis, with many organizations down on donors and wondering how they will meet their future goals. All of our budgets are tight, and economic uncertainty means wary donors.

Today’s donor is much more concerned about impact and the “why” of giving over supporting a long-standing charity logo just because it is expected. This, combined with acute economic stress, caused the biggest decline in traditional charitable giving in decades last year.

We’re watching the changes to the world of philanthropy closely here at RNL. Here are some key trends that you should consider critically as you craft your fundraising plan.

Sustainable fundraising means reaching out inclusively and in new, connected ways

You have a defined fundraising budget. And your strategy for engaging donors has to focus on meeting this year’s revenue goals within that budget while investing for the future. That’s what sustainable fundraising strategy is all about.

It starts with being truly inclusive in your outreach at scale. That means spending resources on engaging with donors of all generations and backgrounds. It’s also crucial to use data to focus on the donors who are telling you they are ready to step up to bigger giving, right now. That’s a big part of our strategy with RNL Donor Pipeline. The power of truly inclusive, predictive analytics is incredible.

Image: Giving engagement through multiple coordinated channels makes a difference.

A key component of this is omnichannel engagement, which is a nerdy way of saying: contacting donors across numerous channels, in an integrated way. When it’s done right, we’ve seen 25x response by donors engaged by three channels or more. And a second big component is personalization at scale, which can more than double your response to any communication. Across the board, using data, listening more, and targeting goals with careful resources is a new way of fundraising thinking.

Fundraisers have moved on from “where do I spend my money?” to “what will have the greatest impact, short, mid, and long-term, based on the data?” That’s the core trend in the sustainable fundraising revolution.

The impact investment donor mindset means more donor involvement, and showing results

The term “impact investing” is becoming more and more common in today’s financial world. Many people want to do social good along with make some money, and this mentality has transformed the way that we think about giving as well.Donors want to be involved, and see impact for their giving.

One great way to do this is cause-driven crowdfunding campaigns. With a good platform, you can accept gifts with low friction, and also actively engage supporters with updates, share video on the impact the campaign has had, and further the message on social media.

Today’s donors are more cause-driven, social, and more involved after the gift in some way. The world of accepting a check and sending a thank you note are over. The impact investment mentality and cause-driven giving trend means we all need to focus more on sharing what giving actually accomplishes and cultivate a lifetime, relationship based on the “why” with our donors.

Millennials and Gen Z give differently, and we need to adapt as fundraisers

Young Americans are incredibly generous. Unfortunately, higher education fundraising currently converts on young alumni donors at about 1/10 of their giving to other charities. That’s right, over three quarters of young alumni say they give to charity every year, but less than 8% give to their alma mater.

Image: Alumni giving results from the CASE VSE Survey, 2022

Those kids glued to their smartphones in the backseat of your mini-van are now actively engaged philanthropists who give to multiple causes. Butyou better have a strategy that includes them, and the way they communicate, or you’ll miss out on the next big wave of giving that will change the world.

Giving has changed, and fundraisers need to change or donors will leave us behind

We’ll explore these key trends and more with Nathan Chappell, co-author of The Generosity Crisis, RNL’s Greta Daniels, and Bob DiMeo from Fiducent in an upcoming webinar, and I’ll hope you’ll join. This crew will offer great insights from their unique perspectives.

It’s time for us to think critically about how we engage donors. Sustainable, inclusive and impact-driven strategy fundraising means better engagement, better listening, and tech that’s optimized for all donors. That’s a tall order, and you might want a little help to get there with your program. That’s no problem: just get in touch, because we’re watching these trends every day, and we’re ready to talk.


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