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Nonprofit fundraising changing orbit but an old priority remains

Just how different do you feel that nonprofit fundraising is today compared with five or ten years ago? On the other hand do you envision wholesale and dramatic changes yet to come over the next five to ten years? Although it’s a broad question I mean it in terms of looking at the fundraising sector as a whole even though that’s of course a very difficult thing to do. From how the public perceives nonprofits in terms of effectiveness all the way through to how new strategies are integrated by charities, not just on the fundraising side but in modifying their overall mission to best allocate funding and meet needs. I don’t think we’re currently anywhere near operating in an environment that reflects all of the major changes that the industry still faces. I was sparked to ask those questions of myself based upon a new article just published in the Huffington Post that looks at where the industry currently is and some of the transformations that are currently ongoing.

William Brindley, the author of the piece, draws a number of interesting parallels to where nonprofits specifically and the very mechanization of philanthropy in general are moving rapidly into a whole new approach and way of thinking. Just as corporations have learned that decades old methods of getting things done may no longer be sufficient in the new global economy the same need for change may well be in line for nonprofits although in differing ways. It’s a really good article and definitely worth a read to which I’ve linked here. There is a one particular phrase that I felt really captures the challenges that lay ahead, don’t get me wrong these are good challenges which will improve the industry and strengthen the bond between donor and nonprofits. He cites that each of the various different new approaches that could or should be adopted will be vital for a nonprofit that seeks to ‘win the competition for philanthropic investment’.

Those six words perhaps best illustrate what professional fundraising services should be looking to accomplish. Donations from corporations and the public in essence really are their investments in what your nonprofit is hoping to accomplish. Providing a stronger bridge between donors who are prepared to make the investment with access to the results of your nonprofit is something that I see to be of ever-increasing importance. Operating as efficiently and transparently as possible while providing your donor base with information that demonstrates proven and prudent results will be the key to donor retention and continued support. What I find exciting is that there is perhaps more than ever lots of room for creativity and new approaches from nonprofits, those who are best able to blend the skill of new ideas with tangible results will be best positioned to grow over the coming years. More than anything else donors want to know that the most responsible stewardship of that investment has been practiced at all times.

There are going to be enormous changes that continue in the short to midterm within the industry, new and more enhanced public-private partnerships, technology that is reinventing itself every few years, refinements of competition and specialization plus a social network that means the potential for expansion and progress is more open than ever before. Then again on the other hand the level of competition within the industry stands to accelerate just as dramatically. While many of the challenges seem to be from the high-tech future I think the reality is success will be linked to one of the oldest standards of them all; the ability of build relationships; proper two-way relationships will be at the heart of success or failure.

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2 Responses to Nonprofit fundraising changing orbit but an old priority remains

  1. Jason Saul’s book The End of Fundraising is a must read. Fundraising as we have known it will never return, and this is a very good thing. What also must evolve is how the charities are evaluated. Moving away from program and organization efficacy to impact measurement is essential. As Jason points out, it must pass the, “So what?” test. A program must have true social impact. Its efficiency and activities are irrelevant if there is not significant impact. Once program impact is measured, the economic impact of the outcomes can be discovered. That is what transforms fundraising. Discover who is impacted by your program outcomes and you can discover your funders, and then you can create a true partnership from shared value propositions.

  2. Thanks for reading Tom. I think you’re right – if a true and fair assessment of what a charity is accomplishing can be measured it will make a huge impact. Such tools already exist to a certain extent and a continued evolution of that process can only be a good thing.

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