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5 Fundraising Learnings from Nonprofit Summit

By Guest Author May 7, 2021

By: Laura Croft, VP for Advancement at the CDC Foundation

I recently had the chance to participate and present at’s Nonprofit Summit, a virtual gathering that brought nearly 8,000 changemakers from over 90 countries to discuss the future of the nonprofit sector. Attendees and speakers spanned early careers to executives, representing organizations big and small. Despite not being able to gather in person, the excitement for our future was palpable.

Across the keynotes, breakouts, and roundtables, the conversation focused on where we all stand with moving our organizations to a more agile, efficient, and impactful future. In the past year especially, mission-driven organizations have accelerated their use of technology to pivot just about everything about their organizations online — from program operations, to marketing communications, fundraising, reporting, and forecasting.

Truth is, our sector has been behind on adopting leading digital trends even before the pandemic. It will take all of us sharing our challenges and successes to develop best practices and achieve the needed impact for our communities. In that spirit, I am pleased to share a few of my top takeaways from the Summit, in hopes you might share some of the learning with your organization and team.

Laura Croft, chief development officer at CDC Foundation discusses their transition off of Raiser’s Edge and to Salesforce to modernize their technology stack ahead of COVID-19

  1. A personalized supporter journey requires a full view of data.

    In a session from Sri Mishra, chief technology officer (CTO) at Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Rosa Maria Cortada, chief information officer (CIO) at Oxfam Intermon, shared how their teams focused on enhancing their supporters’ experiences across all of the ways an individual interacts with their mission and team — from volunteering to donating, email communications, and events.

    I enjoyed that they shared the importance of partnering fundraising and marketing leaders to ground their strategy. In Sri’s case, this meant consolidating 10 million records into a single view, enabling personalized messaging that doubled their click-through rates. The outcome was 100% of funding retained during COVID-19. Watch the session here.

  2. Small and federated teams can achieve big results with the use of technology.

    Today’s technology makes it possible for all nonprofits — regardless of size or budget — to access and leverage technology to raise more funds with less effort. Austin Gallagher, CEO at Beneath the Waves, shares how through The Power of Us program, his team was able get started on Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) at no cost to his organization working with Salesforce’s Pro Bono team. The result was an increase in their Giving Tuesday campaign by 900% year over year.

    In the same session, Jarrod Bell, CIO at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America shared how his organization, consisting of 235 individually operated agencies, was able to transition from disjointed systems to a common infrastructure. What resulted was meaningful data sharing and learning across the organization, resulting in new fundraising predictions and programs. Watch the session here.

    Austin Gallagher, Chief Scientist at Beneath The Waves

    Austin Gallagher, chief scientist at Beneath The Waves discusses how his organization leveraged Salesforce to drive 900% YoY increase in their Giving Tuesday Campaign

  3. If you’re digitally prepared, important (and unexpected) pivots are much easier.

    The COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to make fast decisions and profound shifts to our fundraising strategy — and a year in, we are still facing challenges with how constituents are able to engage with the causes they care about. Two sessions at Nonprofit Summit spoke to this especially well to the ability to pivot fast.

    David Monllau, fundraising director at Medecins Sans Frontieres Spain, discussed how a shift to NPSP and Marketing Cloud has enabled his organization to better engage with 500,000 donors in a digital environment. Watch the session here.

    Andrew Caswel, Salesforce implementation lead at Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), along with Catherine Moore from Heller Consulting, discussed how despite reductions in staff and funding, they made a quick pivot to spin up a Salesforce instance in just two weeks. This temporary instance allowed CCS to steward thousands of contacts by phone with a single cross-Canada team working remotely in the midst of a pandemic. Watch the session here.

  4. Technology can help you convert an influx of one-time donors into recurring donors.

    For us at the CDC Foundation, the COVID-19 pandemic created an unplanned swell of funding, where we gained 115,000 new donors in just a few months. Without the right technology to support us, our operations would have been hard pressed to keep up and effectively steward this influx of contributions.

    Luckily, we were prepared having just gone through a technology transformation of our systems. Not only were we able to rapidly process thousands of gifts from multiple funding streams and platforms at scale, we were able to easily visualize our data and better understand our donors’ interests and motivations. Our technology also enabled us to engage personally with our new supporters to share the impact of their generosity on the communities we serve. Had we not invested in our technology, we would not have been able to meet the moment and manage a nearly 4,000% increase in donations. I spoke at Summit on this topic with our partner Benjamin Washam from Cloud for Good. Watch our session here.

  5. The future is unknown, but research and tech trends can indicate what might come next.

    Trying to predict how nonprofit fundraising will look even just a few years out is a daunting task with so many unknowns. But with the help of technology and research trends, we can be prepared for just about any scenario. Professors Dr. Una Osili, from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University, and Dr. Nicolas Duquette, associate professor from USC, along with Krista Berry Ortega from Candid, discussed three important trends for the nonprofit sector: donor concentration, workplace giving, and relationship management. They also expanded on the implications of these trends for the next few years. Watch the session here.

In the spirit of ensuring our collective success, I’d like to share another meaningful resource: an e-book called 7 Digital-First Recipes for Fundraising Success, which details familiar scenarios where nonprofits have pivoted and grown their impact. My hope is that you and your teams access the network and content you need as you build your resilience for whatever comes next. Together we’ll grow our impact and achieve greater results for our missions.

About the Author

Laura Croft headshot

Laura Croft
VP for Advancement for CDC Foundation

As vice president for advancement, Laura Croft is responsible for leading organizational efforts in developing, building and implementing public-private partner strategies with national and international partners, philanthropy and individuals. She helps guide all key fundraising and stewardship activities to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s critical health protection work.