Although the beloved groundhog might be the nation’s best-known soothsayer for predicting when spring will arrive, Punxsutawney Phil makes no such predictions for what will happen in the nonprofit world each year. So, I did a little research on what trends experts expect to impact nonprofits in 2019. Several nonprofit thought leaders are calling 2019 the year of innovation – here’s why.
The emphasis on storytelling seems to be a trend. That means nonprofits need to find compelling ways to tell what they do, how they do it, and how their work impacts the community. The way to develop a storytelling culture is to create a way to methodically and intentionally gather client stories, organize a library of the stories, then find a way to disseminate the stories. Having video clips of clients telling their own stories on your website or in social media posts is a captivating way to share your stories with the community. And don’t just stop with client stories to use video — find ways to use video to engage donors and community partners. Since every smartphone is a video camera and online editing tools abound, telling your story via quality video has never been easier. And note that online messages that include video content are remembered by 95 percent of viewers, as opposed to 10 percent for text-based messages.
Another trend is to personalize all of your communications. Don’t send the same e-newsletter to everyone – customize it for the audience. Major donors should get emailed correspondence that’s different from what you send to volunteers who help with food distribution to homeless community members or mentor at-risk youth. According to Hubspot, emails that are tailored to the audience get a 10 percent higher open rate and a smaller unsubscribe rate.
Expand your use of email for fundraising. Current research reports that email has a return on investment of 122 percent. That’s over four times higher than direct mail, social media, and paid search. In 2012, only 6 percent of donors were willing to donate online. In 2018, that number rose to 28 percent. Be sure all emails have an interesting subject line, a clear call to action, and quality visuals. Keep them simple and be strategic as to when you send them. Let your donors know that there’s a problem in the community that needs to be solved right now and that they have the capacity to solve it if they respond to your email by making a contribution today.
Monthly giving seems to be on the rise. People have become accustomed to monthly subscription services, like Netflix, and smaller, monthly payments that automatically renew tend to be a manageable way to give for many donors. In the past two years, monthly giving has increased by over 40 percent. The latest research indicates that monthly donors give more money over time than those who give once a year, with the annual value of those contributions being almost three times more than what one-time donors give.
The need to be adaptable is another trend that experts are predicting. Several individuals point to the fact that the recent government shutdown and the uncertainty in our political landscape are forcing nonprofits to become more flexible. Another trend to watch for is the rise in political donations and the increase in donations to nonprofits that can influence voting outcomes.
There seems to be an emphasis on engaging Generation Z—that’s the group between ages 3 and 23 that comprises 27 percent of the U.S. population. About 30 percent of Gen Zers have already donated to charity and 10 percent of them want to start their own nonprofit. Since 70 percent of Gen Z high schoolers state that they are interested in volunteering for a nonprofit, getting them involved with your organization can be a great way to expand your volunteer base. Along with that, though, comes the needs for Gen Z-centered volunteer positions, with orientation and ongoing communication that appeals to high school students. This generation is the first mobile-only generation, meaning that they prefer to conduct all of their online activity through mobile devices. Without mobile optimized giving pages and forms, nonprofits will have a difficult time engaging these individuals as donors.
Finally, the three words I keep seeing among 2019 nonprofit predictions are accountability, transparency, and authenticity. Nonprofits need to increase their level of accountability and transparency if they want to earn the public’s trust. That means making sure the public can view your financial statements online and being proactive in reporting to funders about how you are investing their philanthropic dollars. And being authentic means bringing increased value to donors and volunteers by creating genuine partner-based relationships.
Cheers to all my nonprofit colleagues for a successful 2019!