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By Sarah C. Threnhauser

We opened The 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute this week with a keynote address from Michael G. Griffin, Chief Executive Officer, Daughters of Charity Services of New Orleans. During his session, Sustainability In A Competitive Market: The Daughters Of Charity Services Story, Mr. Griffin discussed the challenges of remaining sustainable in a market with growing consumer need, new competitors, and value-based reimbursement models. He said that the Daughters of Charity, like many other non-profit provider organizations, often uses fundraising to fill that gap.

Jim Wallis and Todd A. Landry at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute

But charitable fundraising is changing. There is new technology—the use of social media and online marketing channels. There is more competition for charitable dollars. There is changing consumer preferences in giving. There is changing consumer expectations about transparency and engagement. In fact, a recent survey from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative found that 68% of organizations reported meeting their fundraising goals in 2016—a decrease from both 2014 and 2015, when 73% of organizations reporting meeting their fundraising goals (see Nonprofit Fundraising Study). But the stakes are high. In 2016, U.S. charitable giving amounted to about $390 billion. Of that, giving for human services totaled $46.80 billion and giving to health care organizations was $33.14 billion (see Giving USA 2017: Total Charitable Donations Rise To New High Of $390.05 Billion).

We discussed both the opportunities and the challenges of fundraising later that day in the session, Fundraising In A Competitive, Social Media-Driven Environment: Strategies For Non-Profit Executives, led by OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Kristi Hamilton, and featuring Jim Wallis, Corporate Director of Business Development & Public Affairs, Chestnut Health Systems and Todd A. Landry, Chief Executive Officer, Lena Pope Home, Inc. In our current environment, the challenge of fundraising is balancing the old with the new, and reaching potential donors in new ways by focusing on consistency with donor communications, transparency, and engagement to develop and strengthen relationships. I had three key takeaways from the discussion with Mr. Wallis and Mr. Landry during the session:

Make donating convenient and accessible—You’ve made your pitch, you’ve attracted new donors, and they’re ready to give…but they can’t figure out how. Your goal in fundraising is to put up as few barriers as possible to getting people to donate, and when potential donors have to search through a cluttered website to find the “donate” button, or you are hosting an event where you can’t take credit cards, you are making donating less convenient. Your organization needs fundraising campaigns with direct, easy-to-follow instructions; a mobile-friendly website that is easy to navigate, with a clearly visible “donate” button; and an easy to use credit card form online, as well as the ability to accept more instant payment formats, like PayPal and Apple Pay.

Balance your fundraising techniques to appeal to all your target markets—Fundraising in today’s market takes a careful balance of traditional fundraising methods and new techniques. Baby boomers give more money to charities than people in any other age group, and 41.6% of all donations from individuals come from people in this generation (see Charitable Giving Report). When launching new fundraising campaigns, you need to consider channels that appeal to this large donor base (mailings, special events), while also starting to build relationships with new generations (social media, online campaigns); this requires more targeting of potential donors to ensure that you are connecting with them in their preferred platform. For example, sending out direct mail appeals via hard copy mail with a paper form to traditional donors, while also sending emails with the ability to donate instantly online. But Mr. Landry warned that while many organizations are getting wrapped up in social media for fundraising, the reality is that is one tool in your toolbox. Your organization is most likely not going to launch the next “ice bucket challenge” (Ice Bucket Challenge – The ALS Association), so you need to utilize social media to build relationships where possible, without being overly reliant on one channel.

Monitor your fundraising progress—The rules of metrics-based management apply to fundraising, and if fundraising is an important source of revenue for your organization, key performance indicators around your fundraising goals should be part of your executive team’s performance dashboard. Your organization should be tracking basic financial metrics (cost to raise a dollar, net revenue in terms of dollar raised), as well as key details about specific campaigns and potential donors (donor retention, new donors, Board participation, etc.). As we discussed in the session, while it isn’t always easy to find national or regional benchmarks for these metrics to gauge your organization’s success, it’s important to start measuring outcomes so that you can know your progress year-over-year and set realistic goals within your organization. For example, the “golden rule” in fundraising has historically been that fundraising costs should be around 20% of the cost to raise a dollar. But this is a flexible figure that won’t work for every campaign. Some campaigns may cost more in direct costs, but will have a long-term return by building new relationships or making your organization better known in the community. If you are tracking outcomes carefully, you should be able to see both the short- and long-term effects of your progress.

In the end, as our speakers pointed out, whatever the channel, whatever the campaign, fundraising all comes down to building relationships. Your goal as an organization is to develop a stable and growing base of financial support that will enable your organization to meet and (hopefully) exceed its strategic goals. For more on fundraising, check out.

  1. 2017 Charitable Giving Report Helps Organizations Benchmark Performance & Strategies
  2. Average U.S. Donor Believes 19% Is A Reasonable Overhead Percentage For Non-Profits
  3. Human Service Non-Profit Organizations Received $89 Million In Donations In 2017 Through Online Platform, Network For Good
  4. If 1 In 8 Community-Based Organizations Are Insolvent, The Answer Is?
  5. The 2017 Tax Bill & Its Effects On Non-Profits, Children, & Families
  6. Your 21st Century Fund Development Toolkit
  7. 21st Century Fund Development – Changing Expectations Of Private Donors & Foundations
  8. Allocating Your Resources: Governance Issues For Non-Profits
  9. Your Consumers (And Your Donors) Have Mobile Wallets – Are You Ready?
  10. Getting Donations From The Next Generation

For more, join us on Friday, August 17, 2018 at The OPEN MINDS Children’s Services Summit, in Long Beach, California where OPEN MINDS Senior Associate, Howard Shiffman will lead the discussion session, “Town Hall Discussion: Building An Organization That Can Compete: Bringing Together Strategy, Finance, Marketing, & An Effective Workforce” – featuring Karen O. Yarberry, MA, LPC, Executive Director, Jefferson Hills; Joseph M. Costa, MSW, President & Chief Executive Officer, HillSides; Todd A. Landry, Chief Executive Officer, Lena Pope; Kristyn Peck, MSW, Chief Executive Officer, West Michigan Partnership for Children; and Nancy Rostoni, Manager, Performance Based Child Welfare, Child Welfare Services and Support, Michigan Department of Human Services.

And for more on navigating a changing market, join us in Gettysburg for The 2018 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat, where William Lopez, M.D., CPE, Senior Medical Director-Behavioral Health, Cigna Behavioral Health, will discuss, “Key Issues Shaping The Market: What Executives Need To Know To Succeed,” in his keynote session on September 18.

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