Even if they had a crystal ball, it’s hard to say that nonprofit professionals could have predicted how much recent events such as the pandemic and rise of technology would impact nonprofit activities. As the past year and a half shows, circumstances can change dramatically and without warning. But as a nonprofit professional, it’s not your job to be a seer, knowing the exact challenges and opportunities that the future will bring. It is your job to position yourself and your team so that you can approach any fundraising, marketing and donor stewardship obstacles with flexibility and grace.
With that said, how well is your team prepared to take on the future? If you’re looking for guidance on how you can strategically plan for the upcoming year, you’re in the right place! Here’s what your nonprofit should know when preparing for 2022:
- Diversifying your fundraising sources is key.
- Donor relationships must remain at the forefront.
- Donors want opportunities to connect more deeply with your cause.
- Virtual operations are here to stay.
- Failing to plan is planning to fail.
By incorporating these insights into your nonprofit’s strategic plan, you can give your organization the foundation it needs to tackle any issues with a unified mindset. You don’t have to have all the answers—just the right tools and strategies in place to find the right answers when necessary.
Diversifying your fundraising sources is key.
Traditionally, nonprofits rely on major fundraising pushes like an annual gala or the year-end giving season to fulfill the bulk of their fundraising for the year. But, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, events can be canceled without warning. In addition, your donors’ economic situations can change just as quickly.
As you’re preparing for 2022, don’t put all your fundraising eggs in one basket. Don’t just rely on the generosity of individual major donors or the effectiveness of your year-end event. Branch out to diversify sources in your fundraising repertoire, including:
- Grants: Depending on your strategy, grants might be central to your fundraising model. Grants are an excellent way to supplement your other fundraising initiatives, so devote some attention to seeking out new opportunities. Search for grants available in your geographic location or those offered by relevant foundations.
- Corporate sponsorships: As Aly Sterling’s corporate philanthropy guide explains, businesses can support your organization in a variety of ways, from contributing monetarily to offering in-kind donations and volunteer support.
- Major gifts: Major gifts from individual donors are always an important stream of nonprofit funding. That being said, it’s important to approach major gift cultivation in the right way. Keep your focus on building relationships with donors through intentional stewardship and recognition efforts.
- Donor-advised funds (DAFs): A DAF is a charitable bank account donors can use to support your organization continuously over time. Use your marketing channels to raise awareness of these opportunities. Encourage audience members to create an account to help raise support.
Diversifying your revenue sources ensures that your organization can stay afloat. Even if a certain stream starts lagging, you’ll still be covered. For instance, if you receive less grant money next year than in previous years, you can supplement the lack of revenue with other fundraising sources.
Donor relationships must remain at the forefront when preparing for 2022.
Amid all of the hubbub about new fundraising technologies and best practices, don’t lose sight of the importance of donor stewardship. Your donors have demonstrated their commitment to your cause time and again. They deserve recognition and appreciation for their efforts. Even if a certain donor starts contributing less or pauses their support, continue expressing your appreciation for giving what they can. You never know when one of your lapsed donors might decide to start donating again, so it’s important to maintain relationships.
You can do this by showing donors how their contributions make a real difference for your cause. Parse through your data to find hard facts about how donations power your nonprofit’s activities and programs. For example, tell donors that a $1,000 donation can help fund tutoring for youths experiencing homelessness. Or perhaps a $5,000 donation can purchase materials needed to rebuild a community center after a storm.
These real stories show donors that their continued support is vital and much appreciated by your organization. While you’re preparing for 2022, take this opportunity to refresh your donor stewardship strategy. Figure out how to best maintain relationships with your valued supporters.
Donors want opportunities to connect more deeply with your cause.
Your donors don’t only want to hear from you when you’re looking for donations. They’ll start to feel more like an ATM rather than a valued part of your organization. They’re interested in what your organization offers, and they appreciate being informed of your current projects and programs.
Therefore, when preparing for 2022, remember to maintain communication with donors year-round. Share multiple opportunities for them to engage with your organization beyond just donating. Promote an array of involvement opportunities, such as:
- Volunteer opportunities: Donors will appreciate having the ability to engage with your mission in a hands-on capacity. This way, they’ll be able to learn more about your cause firsthand. Be sure to incorporate proper volunteer management techniques such as offering a thorough orientation process and clearly communicating expectations.
- Peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives: By participating in a peer-to-peer campaign, donors can become fundraisers themselves. Each participant creates their own fundraising page to share with their network and fundraises on behalf of your organization. This is a great way for donors to help support your nonprofit financially without reaching back into their own wallets.
- Advocacy opportunities: Donors can advocate for your cause and help promote your mission to their family, friends and colleagues, as well as communication platforms such as social media. Ask them to promote your organization to a wider audience. Encourage them to share your social media campaigns to help gain more traction.
Your donors aren’t just interested in donating. Similarly, your volunteers may not only be interested in volunteering, or your advocates in just promoting your cause. All of your nonprofit’s supporters would appreciate the opportunity to engage with different aspects of your work and learn more about how they can advance your mission.
Virtual operations are here to stay in 2022.
Over the past year and a half, your nonprofit has probably spent some or most of the time working remotely or in a hybrid situation. You’ve also probably expanded your virtual fundraising and marketing efforts to appeal to donors’ desires to connect online. When preparing for 2022, keep in mind that these virtual and hybrid operations are here to stay. In addition to being safer options for the pandemic era, they also are convenient for supporters. This way, they can connect with your organization from anywhere in the world.
As you craft your strategic plan, think about how to continue incorporating virtual elements into the following areas:
- Fundraising: Conduct virtual or hybrid fundraising events to engage donors safely and remotely. Ensure you have a quality event management system, proper livestreaming tools and a streamlined online giving platform for donors to access on any device. If you need a refresher on hybrid-style fundraising events, review Re:Charity’s guide for a rundown of tools and planning tips.
- Marketing: A strong digital marketing approach is crucial as mobile fundraising grows in popularity. Use SEO strategies, social media, your email platform and your website to promote your cause and meet supporters where they are.
- Donor stewardship: Just because virtual meetings replaced in-person ones doesn’t mean your donor stewardship activities should be any less impactful. Connect with donors in meaningful ways using text, emails, phone calls and video chats. With these communication platforms, you can keep your organization (and its fundraising efforts) front of mind for your supporters, even if they aren’t interacting with you in person.
Don’t get left behind when it comes to technology use. Your supporters will expect to be able to connect with you online, and having a robust virtual presence helps you exceed their expectations.
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
We’ve all seen how situations can change in a flash, so it’s more important than ever to have a strong fundraising plan in place when preparing for 2022. Sit down with your team to form a strategic plan to carry you through the upcoming year. If you feel like you need more guidance, don’t be afraid to connect with an expert fundraising consultant to give your organization the direction it needs to stay on target. Nonprofit consultants can assist with the planning process in the following ways:
- Assessing where your organization currently stands and interviewing key stakeholders to gather their insights.
- Aligning your nonprofit’s team (including your board and staff members) on what your top priorities, opportunities and challenges are.
- Creating a plan of action based on their findings, complete with team member responsibilities, key objectives and a timeline.
As we move into next year, keep your strategic plan front-and-center. Host regular check-ins with your team to ensure you’re meeting targets efficiently. If you choose to hire a nonprofit consultant to help with your plan, you can even continue working with them on an ongoing basis to help implement their recommendations. This can give your team the stability and structure it needs to tackle any obstacles that arrive.
Preparing for 2022 doesn’t have to be a daunting or stressful task. By diversifying your fundraising efforts, connecting with donors on a deeper level and continuing to enhance your virtual capabilities, your nonprofit will be well-positioned to enter next year with a solid plan. Good luck!