The "new normal" has come to mean leaner, meaner, pared down, and frugal--just the opposite of conspicuous and grandiose. Economic realities are hitting nonprofits right and left, from government funding contraction to new kinds of volunteers and donors.
In response, a new way of fundraising is emerging as well. The next few years could be called the era of post-fundraising campaigns...at least those gargantuan, time-limited, big name led fundraising campaigns of the past.
Characteristics of the New Normal
The new normal is "less about bold and more about achievable,' according to the webinar presenters.
They predict that, although we are technically out of the recent recession, the recovery from that setback will take 3-5 years. There will continue to be rapid change, contraction of resources, and more dependence on philanthropy to fund institutions and nonprofits.
As a consequence, major givers (and there is no doubt for these consultants that major gifts still sit atop the donor pyramid) are cautious, experiencing considerable fear and uncertainty about the future. Large gifts now take longer to consummate, and the largest donations sometimes come from unexpected sources, making cultivation harder than ever.
Strategic planning and fundraising plans are merging to create strategic philanthropy.
Strategic planning is no longer separate, with the staff and board huddling in retreat as they plan the programmatic future, and then afterwards developing a fundraising plan to support those plans. Now donors must be included in the planning from the get-go. There can no longer be an insider group vs a donor group....they are intertwined and require constant dialog.
The New Fundraising Campaign
What will fundraising look like now? Here are the most likely trends:
- Our new leaders will be entrepreneurs, or at least based on the entrepreneurial model. Whereas in the past nonprofits looked for leadership among the managerial elite, nonprofits will now seek out entrepreneurs who know how to negotiate a new business landscape, both globally and domestically, and who understand the need for fast moving strategies that can stay ahead of the curve.
- Case statements will be replaced with business plans detailing what will be done, how it will be funded, and what the "deliverables" will be. Donors, people and corporations will be connected to specific programs, NOT the institution.
- The old fashioned campaign committee is out, giving way to mini boards or councils that can connect donors to the goals they care about the most. Campaign chairs and steering committees will disappear.
- Staff will play a more visible role in cultivation and asks, and the volunteer structure will become decentralized. Busy volunteer leaders will open the door to more active staff participation.
- Campaigns will not "start" and "end" but be continuous and overlapping. There will no longer be big announcements and hoopla, no kickoffs or grand finales.
- The mini-campaign will be in. Mini-campaigns are short, have a high chance of success, and allow for focus on specific goals. They are also an antidote to donor and leadership fatigue. Donors and leaders want their philanthropic activities to fit their busy lifestyles and be relevant to their life and family goals.
I was struck by the emphasis from these consultants on the need for nonprofits to be even more mission driven, and that their missions must be specific and strategic. Donors will want to match their resources with specific projects and goals and have a place at the table when it comes to designing those projects, bringing them to fruition and evaluating them.
There is much to learn from this presentation, and I encourage you to listen to the recorded webinar and take a look at the slides. As a follow up, read this blog post by Bob Ottenhoff of GuideStar about one outstanding nonprofit, DC Central Kitchen. In that post Ottenhoff says, "...hope is not a business plan."
How are these observations and trends playing out in your nonprofit's fundraising? Will a slimmed down, more strategic approach work for you? How far along is your organization in this transition to a new fundraising model?
- Rethinking the Traditional Capital Campaign
- How to Avoid Nonprofit Mission Creep
- Planning Is Not an Event: How Nonprofits Can Achieve Results
- Measuring Your Nonprofit's Results
- The Nonprofit Hard Times Survival Guide
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