By the FundRazr Team
If there’s anything 2020 showed us, it’s to expect the unexpected. Before last year, many professional fundraisers considered event-based fundraising like galas and marathons to be a tried-and-true method they could always rely on. For the fundraising community, COVID-19 provided quite the rude awakening — but really, these exceptional circumstances only exposed the inherent risks of this technique.
Event-based fundraising creates a high-risk, unpredictable revenue stream with peaks and valleys in funding that cause stress and make long-term planning a challenge. When the majority of your donations are dependent on just a few events throughout the year, anything that interferes with those events puts your organization into a state of emergency.
This year will see many professional fundraisers looking for alternative fundraising models. One of the best that’s emerged is sustainable, year-round giving. In this style of fundraising, donors pledge smaller, recurring donations that create a reliable, ongoing stream of funding to keep your nonprofit organization afloat. The effect is a baseline level of funding that can then be augmented by special events and one-off campaigns when possible.
The result? A closer relationship with donors, less dependency on grants, and a nonprofit that feels stable and predictable — say goodbye to the funding rollercoaster.
1. Start Building a Repeated, Sustainable Giving Model
Two strong alternatives to event-based fundraising are campaigns with Perks and Wishlists, as these are optimized for communicating impact so your donors can really understand how their donations are helping change the world. You could also consider DIY-fundraising as another great way to engage your community without giving up too much oversight or control.
Microprojects are another way to fundraise that works great online; these are repeating beneficiary-centric campaigns that all share similar structure and have a high degree of personalization. Think 10 campaigns to put 10 girls through school, rather than one, generalized project. Usually, microprojects don’t depend on external factors like the time of year, you can reliably raise money throughout the year. In fact, they’re designed to be repeated.
Fundraisers today are lucky in that there’s more helpful technology out there before. Make the most of it: platforms like FundRazr go beyond event-based fundraising and are optimized for running multiple types of campaigns. They also remove the pressure of managing multiple campaigns simultaneously and automate most of admin tasks that eat up staff time.
2. Expert Advice is Important for Fundraising Strategy in 2021
It’s not just about the knowledge. Sometimes you need a fresh perspective, from someone who can really step back and see the forest, not the trees. That’s why bringing in an external advisor, consultant or coach will be one of the smartest things that professional fundraisers can do in 2021.
When you’re deep in day-to-day execution, not to mention burnt out on the intense demands of last year, it can be difficult to identify blind spots and areas that could use improvement. We’re all going to need to adjust our strategies this year, and seeking external help is the most efficient — and likely, the most cost-effective — way to do that, especially if everyone at your nonprofit is already stretched to their limit.
Whatever the area you’d like to invest in — social media, crowdfunding, marketing, story telling — you can find a talented advisor to help you up your game in 2021. To get the most out of your session, get specific. What exactly do you need help with, and how do you want to improve? Are you looking for a complete overhaul, or just some tips to adjust what you’re already doing? How much time will you need from your consultant?
Then, put the word out to your network and community to find a partner who understands your brand, values, and mission. With some fresh perspective, you’ll come away with a better understanding of your organization’s strengths and blind spots, a defined strategy for the coming year, and a crystal-clear plan of action.
3. Fundraising Will Require More Creativity from You
Innovation takes risk. To bring in new ideas, you’ll need to test them out and refine them with your real audience in real time. Trying new things can be scary, especially if your organization has a large audience, or a very established brand voice and processes. But to move forward, you’ll need to get over that fear; the results of what you’re already doing will decline over time, due to increased competition and lack of novelty.
2021 is going to require us to test out more new ideas than ever and be ready to take big risks. Build a culture of experimentation at your organization. Make sure your team understands that you’re game to hear their ideas and try things out, and there’s no expectation that every new idea will be a winner. With an atmosphere of free creativity, you’ll always be able to come up with something fresh.
Start by identifying areas where you’d like to experiment, like fundraising, promotions, places to find new donors, ways to engage with existing donors, and more. Narrow in on up to three areas and start brainstorming.
Make sure there’s a specific member of your team in charge of every experiment, and that all their outcomes are properly measured. Remember, results aren’t always the point; failure and iteration are in the heart of experimentation. A good experiment shouldn’t require a lot of resources, will bring your team interesting insights, and helps you move forward in distilling your strategy. Think of it like this; if you get one strong idea out of several tests, that’s a great result.
When you decide to bravely explore uncharted waters and try out new ideas at work, you can get ahead of the competition, bring an exciting, creative energy to your programs and campaigns, incite donor interest, and establish yourself as a thought leader.
4. Swap Photos for Short-Form Video
In 2021, we saw the rise of bite-size video content. Accelerated by the popularity of TikTok, audiences showed a strong and growing preference for interesting, entertaining short-form videos. As fundraisers and nonprofits, we need to keep up with their expectations. There’s more online content than ever, so keeping up with the trends isn’t optional — it’s a must if you want to capture attention.
Set an organization-wide goal in 2021 to prioritize video content and keep audience engagement high. Try expanding this outside of your creative and marketing teams — with a little guidance and the right tools, everyone at your nonprofit can create awesome videos that give your supporters a look inside your work and see the difference you make every day.
To put it into practice, keep an eye out for special moments behind the scenes, especially if they show off the real-world impact your work is having. For example, try filming the moment an abandoned dog gets picked up by its new family, or your team’s celebration when you finally reach a big fundraising goal.
Finally, don’t overthink it. Authenticity and immediacy is more important than a video that feels polished, fancy or professional. Your audience wants to connect, and this is their way to do it.
FundRazr is an award-winning best fundraising site and platform that has helped thousands of people and organizations raise money for causes they care about. Located in Vancouver, Canada, FundRazr is at the hub of all things entrepreneurial. Our story starts in 2009 with an enthusiastic team led by CEO and crowdfunding pioneer, Daryl Hatton.