Home – 5 Nonprofit Fundraising Challenges and Trends in 2017

5 Nonprofit Fundraising Challenges and Trends in 2017

Posted on 01-17-2017 by Kari Abitbol

 On the heels of a generous 2015, charitable giving grew another 4.1 percent in 2016—and those in the know predict 4.3 percent growth in 2017. How can you ensure that your university or nonprofit organization gets a piece of the projected pie? Staying engaged with your current donors and identifying potential donors sooner always play a significant role, but understanding growing trends and challenges allows you to respond with greater agility throughout the year.


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Fundraising


You might think that a classic spaghetti western and raising money for your university or nonprofit don’t have much in common, but as Blondie said during his own quest for treasure, “I have a feeling it’s really gonna be a good, long battle.” While giving is expected to climb, the number of organizations competing for those dollars are also on the rise. As a result, you’ll have to work harder to capture the attention of your donors. We’ve compiled a list of what you should stay alert to in the coming months.


The Good—More Ways to Connect and Collect

Email is back. According to a post by Nonprofit Tech for Good, the focus on social media pulled attention away from email, but that’s going to change for several reasons.

  • The top smartphone activity is reading email with 56 percent of emails opened on mobile devices.
  • Email revenue grew by 25 percent in 2015, out-performing overall online growth by 6 percent.
  • Email connects with individuals; social media is hit or miss given the volume of new posts flowing in.

The post notes, “In truth, email is resulting in more online donations than ever – definitely more than social media – and by 2019 the total number of email accounts worldwide will grow from 4.35 billion to 5.59 billion.”


Digital and mobile payment systems are getting better. Of course, you still need to cultivate wealthy individual and philanthropically-minded corporate donors. But donations through burgeoning digital payment systems on sites like Facebook and Twitter or text to donate platforms like Mobile Giving allow millions of small donors to act in the moment. It’s fast, easy and well-suited to a wide, impulsive audience. Nonprofit Tech for Good also predicts, “Currently, the technology is not being used for nonprofit fundraising – only for consumer purchases – but it’s just a matter of time until nonprofit technologists and social entrepreneurs come together to create mobile fundraising apps empowered by mobile wallets.” You need to be prepared to leverage Apple Pay, Google Wallet and other services that will lend their platforms to charitable giving in the near future.


The Bad—Uncertainty and Social Slow-Down

With a new administration moving into the White House, organizations across the country wonder how the change will impact them. Liz Knuppel, president and CEO of a Cincinnati-based consulting firm for nonprofits told the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), “Whether related to shifts in the tax law or budgeting decisions, there is no track-record of policy decisions upon which an organization may predict the future with any real degree of certainty.  Naturally, nonprofit organizations feel unsettled and limited by their abilities to plan beyond the next week or month.” What is clear, however, is that many of the anticipated changes related to election season talking points—on public health, immigration, education and more—will require universities and nonprofits to pivot quickly to meet new needs.


Political change isn’t the only unsettling fundraisers face. Social media engagement has declined of late. As Facebook, Twitter and Instagram work to monetize their platforms, new algorithms reward brand advertisers, making it more difficult for small and medium-sized organizations that rely on free social media to reach their audiences.  Nonprofit Tech for Good warns, “To continue to have positive results on the Big Three, your nonprofit will need to make financial investments in staff, advertising, and premium tools.”


The Ugly—Sagging Public Trust

Trust in nonprofits has eroded in recent years. Just two years ago, a poll conducted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that one in three people express distrust in charities and four in 10 believe nonprofits do not spend their money wisely. With the spotlights placed on both the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Foundation this past election season, it’s safe to say that earning public confidence will be an on-going challenge in 2017. You can make a start by:

  • Improving transparency—you must do more than deliver on your promises; you need to show current and prospective donors HOW you get there.
  • Proving you value your relationships with donors—by acknowledging the critical role each donor plays in achieving your mission, you encourage a more positive outlook.
  • Seeking endorsements from trusted sources—while trust in American institutions has declined, there are influencers out there that still hold the public’s confidence. Engage with these individuals and organizations to boost your own reliability quotient.


What trends and challenges are on your radar? Let us know!


3 Ways to Apply This Information Now

  1. Listen to our webinar recording featuring prospect research and fundraising insights from The Helen Brown Group.
  2. Check out other higher education posts here on the blog.
  3. Share this blog to keep the dialogue going with your colleagues and contacts. 

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