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Are Marketing and Fundraising Changing Permanently?

By Jane Trenaman April 6, 2022

Fundraising teams at the eye of the pandemic storm have experienced an eye-watering pace of change the past two years. Major donor and corporate engagements turned virtual overnight. Community fundraising and events were abruptly redirected online. Individual giving demonstrated resilience and growth. Many organizations typically inexperienced in emergency appeals saw huge success with their appeals.

But perhaps the most understated revolution of all was that of nonprofits’ mindset. The stark impossibility of maintaining the status quo, and the limitations of clunky manual processes were harshly brought to light. Many tried new things….but is this energy waning?

The 4th edition of the Nonprofit Trends Report highlighted the positive impact nonprofits have experienced from investment in new payment methods, technologies, and skills. Through CRM platforms, data provided a means to channel donor generosity, drive journeys, and manage the influx of donations to empower scale and growth of nonprofit income. Nonprofits can’t take their foot off the pedal, and must continue to diversify income streams to meet donors where they are.

Infographic showing different donor payment methods over time
Of nonprofits who added payment methods and donation options, the majority saw a positive impact.

Fundraising Requirements and Donor Needs: Revolution or Evolution

The pandemic changed how nonprofits fundraised from various income streams and channels they deployed. But arguably, this was an acceleration of existing digitization. Over the past two decades, how nonprofits initially understood ‘digital fundraising’ as email and social channels to supplement direct mail has come a long way.

This journey has continued: The initial pandemic scramble of moving offline events online evolved into recognizing data and digital as central to fundraising strategy and success. Individual giving in particular has become more sophisticated and complex as teams manage an ever-growing range of platforms and channels, while driving net donor base growth. To optimize donor experience, nonprofits must challenge clunky manual processes that can be replaced with integrated payments and platforms and donor-centric, cross-functional collaboration.

In parallel with the growth of scale and complexity, donor expectations are rising, as explored by Mark Phillips at Bluefrog Fundraising. Moved by empathy, people want to find meaning and give back to have a sense of agency, rather than helplessness. Donor messaging and communication in this era is pivotal — delivering the right message at the right time to the right audience, through the right channel is imperative. This makes it critical for nonprofits to explore the potential to move from segmented multichannel journeys, to AI-predictive omnichannel presence. No nonprofit should embark on donor acquisition without considering what happens next.

Infographic showing effective fundraising techniques
Effective digital fundraising requires tech support to drive income growth, insights, and retention.

Evolution or Revolution?

The weighting and perception of ‘digital fundraising’ has evolved considerably across all income streams. But are emerging digital income streams viewed as separate, or even a challenge to traditional ones, or merely an evolution of the traditional? An organization’s perspective on this question is significant, with major implications for the fundraising teams of the future.

Local community fundraising has extended to incorporate online influencer communities of gamers. Major donor prospects have expanded to include beneficiaries of shrewd NFT investment. Digital fundraising encompasses cryptocurrencies for an increasing number of organizations. Corporate staff fundraising has evolved to meet an essential human need for connection and purpose during the pandemic.

Future-Proofing People & Teams

As fundraising programmes continue to become inherently digital, roles, skills, and ways of working are rapidly changing. This is already apparent in the recent emergence of a plethora of new roles in the sector, such as digital community managers, data strategists, supporter experience roles, digital fundraising and marketing, and even cryptocurrency fundraising specialists.

Infographic showing how nonprofits are changing their use of technology

Silos within fundraising teams and collaboration with other internal teams — already under increasing tension — must ultimately be challenged and reset. Nonprofits will need to give dedicated focus to professional development, as organizational structure has to evolve to support new fundraising paradigms.

No New Normal Means More Innovation is Needed

For those disappointed by the undeliverable promise of a ‘new normal’, perhaps the root of this challenge is a misguided desire to reach a destination. What if we’re just witnessing an acceleration of existing change, driven by a black swan event, as described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb? If the impact of the highly improbable shows us anything, it’s how to stop trying to predict everything and take advantage of uncertainty.

Continued changes to fundraising and marketing, as in so many other spheres, is set to continue. The only ‘choice’ remaining is whether to facilitate agility, or to stand back and let opportunity pass us by. Rather than seeking a return to comfort, nonprofit leaders must set the tone and the pace and further their organizations’ innovation mindset. In parallel, this will usually warrant an honest appraisal of an organization’s investment mindset, taking a view on return that extends beyond an annual budget horizon to drive scale in program reach.

Perhaps necessity was the mother of invention, but the impact of the future is an exciting reason to continue.

For more nonprofit trends and insights, download the 4th edition of the Nonprofit Trends Report.

About the Author

Jane Trenaman headshot
Jane Trenaman
EMEA Nonprofit Advocacy & Fundraising CXO Strategic Industry Advisor at

Jane has had the good fortune to work with a range of nonprofit organizations, driving data driven fundraising through board, senior leadership and consultancy roles. She has a passion for supporter centricity and change management to create cultures of insight-led decision making and excellence in supporter experience.