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The Elephant In the Room

July 25, 2023, David Miller

Giving USA report underscores need for change in fundraising approaches

Fundraising is getting harder. RKD’s David Miller shares 4 ways to address this.

Let’s address the elephant in the room…. Fundraising is getting harder. Inflation continues to increase the cost of doing business, and the recent Giving USA report was less than favorable.

According to preliminary findings in this comprehensive annual study on philanthropy in America, individual giving declined by 6.4%—down 13.4% when adjusted for inflation. Giving to environmental and animal organizations is also down, by 1.6%—8.9% when adjusted for inflation.

All of this has left many animal welfare folks with a feeling of trepidation when it comes to the future.

I see you. I recognize your concerns. And here’s how to help us all adapt.

The current fundraising landscape is calling for us to shift our mindset when it comes to fundraising. Because the reality is, we can’t rely on transactional relationships anymore.

To put it bluntly, we can’t look at donors as ATMs. We must start building more meaningful connections with the donors who choose to support us.

Alright, that’s enough doom and gloom. How can we achieve this? A few strategies and tactics stand out as areas of focus over the next year.

Put an even stronger emphasis on stewardship and retention

If we’re making a pledge to move away from transactional relationships, then stewardship and retention become even more critical.

Plus, it costs more to acquire a new donor than to keep a current one, so why wouldn’t we want to refocus our stewardship efforts?

Despite rising costs, it’s time to go the extra mile when it comes to thanking and stewarding donors—getting more personalized in our approach with thank-you letters, handwritten notes, phone calls and the use of videos. We have to move past direct revenue attribution and toward building better connections with our constituents.

Think beyond a single channel

No longer can we think of donors as just direct mail, digital or event donors. The reality is, today’s donors build relationships with organizations across a variety of channels.

We must shift our mindset from attributing success to a single channel. Instead, we need to examine how we can craft compelling donor experiences across a variety of touchpoints.

Success in this area also includes helping your board shift their thinking away from siloed expenses and toward omnichannel revenue. An omnichannel program can’t be successful if one or two channels are being called into question.

Refine major donor pipeline development

Major donor pipeline development will continue to help support growth despite fundraising challenges. And the easiest way to ensure you’re reaching and cultivating the right relationships is through your data.

Using advanced modeling, organizations can understand which donors have the capacity, affluence and potential to give major gifts to your cause, helping you streamline your limited internal resources by speaking to the right people at the right time.

Build strategies around foundations and corporations

Individual giving may have been in decline, but giving from foundations and corporations was on the rise last year, up 1.2% and 8.1% respectively.

Knowing this, organizations should add strategies for communicating with foundations and corporations. We should be stewarding and cultivating relationships with them, just like we would a major donor—as many of them have the potential to give large gifts in support of your cause.  Don’t forget to include those foundations and groups that provide donor advised funds.

It may be intimidating to reach out to them at first, but just remember, they’re still people too! Just like a major donor, they want to see the big-picture impact a partnership with your cause could have.

You might feel that, given the results of the Giving USA report and the current economic landscape, it’s time to decrease your investment in your fundraising program. Instead, we’re working with our partners to rethink how and where they invest their budget to adapt to a fundraising strategy that relies less on transactions and more on connections.

Learn More

Don’t Let Inflation Slow You Down
Animal Welfare Benchmarks: Donor value reaches new heights
It’s Time to Shift the Mindset

About David Miller
David Miller is Senior Vice President at RKD Group, a leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations. He brings more than two decades of animal welfare experience to help organizations craft their fundraising strategies for success. Prior to joining RKD in 2011, David spent 14 years working at animal welfare organizations, including serving as the CEO of three organizations in Florida and North Carolina.

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