Fundraising themes for 2019

At this time of year, I’m often asked what I think the New Year has in store for charities and their fundraising.  Sometimes it can feel that not much is really changing from year to year and so it’s often necessary to take a longer-term view on what’s ahead in order to drive the best decision making in the shorter term.  Whilst there are obvious differences between the Canadian and UK fundraising sectors, here are four longer term trends which I believe fundraisers on both sides of the Atlantic should keep front of mind when making decisions in 2019.


Data, data, data


We are entering a period where the volume of data being collected about all aspects of our lives, including our giving habits and preferences, will explode exponentially. Successful charities will be those who are able to harness the power of data and resulting insights and turn those insights in to actions which aim to provide tailored and personalised relationships. 


But data is the commodity many charities struggle with – both in terms of quality of data captured and held accessibly, and in terms of exploiting data and analytics, by choosing and manage data from multiple sources, building models that turn the data into insights, and translating the insights into effective action. All this requires deep analytical skills, or clever computing algorithms, that predominantly need to be brought in from outside of a charity.  


So now is the time to really focus on instilling a data culture across your fundraising team and prioritise investment in both the systems and skills required to deliver value from data.  


Supporters rule!


Fundraisers often talk about the importance of taking a truly supporter centric approach, however the detail of a program often focuses too heavily on acquisition and not enough on stewarding and retaining supporters at every stage of their life cycle. Supporters are increasingly demanding greater flexibility in how they give financial or other support and how we communicate with them; and expecting high degrees of personalisation and relevance in those communications.

2019 should see supporter stewardship in the spotlight, with an emphasis on building supporter journeys which engage and inspire and allow supporters to move beyond the method of their first engagement.  Understanding supporter desires and preferences should underpin decision making.

So now is the time to really focus on instilling a data culture across your fundraising team and prioritise investment in both the systems and skills required to deliver value from data.  

Once upon a time


Fundraisers need to be brilliant at storytelling and developing a strong, transparent and authentic case for support which is critical to success and to build trust.  Charities need to become more transparent and show supporters what makes them distinctive, why the charity is best placed to solve the problems it is focusing on, and why supporters should choose to support the charity.  They will also need to offer supporters greater control of how their money is used - being able to clearly demonstrate impact and value for money will be key.  Showing evidence of what is working - sharing plans, sharing successes, and sharing failures - will be the quickest way to achieve support and generate buy-in both internally and externally. 


With this in mind, think about both the skills of you and your team in this area, as well as the information flow you need from the delivery parts of your charities.  Then plan to make necessary interventions during 2019 to get yourselves into the strongest position possible to inspire and engage supporters.  


Shifting population demographics


Charities increasingly have a wider range of “generations” represented amongst their employees, supporter base and prospect pipelines.  

An ageing population, the position of millennials as the main segment of the workforce and the coming of age of Generation Z will bring a new set of challenges in many aspects of life.  New ways of utilising the skills and expertise of mature workers as well as understanding the differing approaches to career and working life of millennials and Generation Z and giving managers the skills, they need to get the best out of these individuals will be key.

A “one size fits all” approach to brand and messaging will become increasingly out dated, and the ability to tailor marketing campaigns across audiences within one overall campaign will become an imperative.  Fundraisers will need to draw on the right expertise in the marketing team and be supported to develop the skills needed to manage a multiplicity of demographics within both supporter audiences and staff teams.


During 2019, make it a priority to find out from your teams and colleagues what motivates and drives them and figure out how you can manage and work with individuals to get the best out of them.  And make sure your communications use appropriate language and channels for the intended audience.