A New Fundraising Paradigm: Should NPOs let advocates take over fundraising efforts so that they can focus more of their resources on making an impact?

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The evidence is alarmingly apparent that the next generation of donors will be much more focused on social impact. The recent CompassPoint study and a report from Dorothy A. Johnson for Philanthropy both identify a change in the way Millinnials will approach philanthropy when they inherit the $40 trillion in wealth from their parents and grandparents. This means that non-profits will need to focus more of their time and energy on impacting the cause that they represent if they want to position themselves to be able to compete for these funds. Organizations that have traditionally allocated time and energy to marketing and advertising will be criticized for being wasteful. In our opinion, this change is completely exhilarating and will lead to charitable giving that is more effective than ever before. On the other hand, the new model will surely be the demise of many non-profits unless they shift their approach…and fast.

The main message in our December blog post, “How Millenials Can (and should) Change the Way We Give”, points to the fact that donors often deserve more results from the money they give to non-profits. However, we also address that fact the current system and the forthcoming donor expectations are somewhat counterintuitive.

Non-profits are expected to spend more money getting results while simultaneously spending less money on fundraising and recruiting new advocates. If Gen X/Millennial donors are truly dedicated to social impact results (and we believe they are) then fundraising events should eventually be a thing of our past. Theoretically, donors should simply seek out non-profits that have the most efficient and effective model for impacting the cause that they support, ultimately putting their money where they get the most “bang for their buck”. Things brings up a few questions:

  • Will this eventually put an end to fundraising events altogether?
  • Will donors get to a point where fundraising events actually hinder their perception of the non-profit enough to turn them away?

Opinions on this topic vary, with the majority believing that fundraising events will always be an essential part of NPO strategic development. Regardless of your stance, you cannot deny that the future of philanthropy will require non-profits to allocate more of their resources to impacting the cause they represent. How do you begin to position your organization to make the most out of inevitable change?

Should NPOs let advocates take over fundraising efforts?

With many Millennials still paying off college debt, and the fact that some are decades away from inheriting the aforementioned wealth it is still too early to expect any huge influx of funding from this generation in the short term. But as the research shows, Millennials are ready to start making a difference and influencing that for which they are passionate about. They are ready to start taking the wheel, so why not let them?

Millennials are completely capable (and frankly more savvy) at using today’s tools to communicate, motivate, and organize support for the things that interest them. They can influence peers more effectively with their iPhone than many events can do with an entire committee. Millennials are already coordinating events through apps like Meetup with complete ease and impressive results. So why not begin to develop turn-key fundraising solutions that advocates can adopt and run with? Not only does this eliminate the overhead of an event, but doing so allows advocates get involved at a more personal level while acting as an ambassador for their favorite non-profit.

What do you think, should NPOs start letting advocates take over fundraising efforts?

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2 Responses to A New Fundraising Paradigm: Should NPOs let advocates take over fundraising efforts so that they can focus more of their resources on making an impact?

  1. tanya says:

    Matthew, Ii just found this in my linked in box (sorry, I rarely go there)! Great question. Gosh, I’d LOVE to have volunteers and advocates who are so passionate about what we do help us with our fundraising efforts. I dont’ think it has to be either/or, though. I think we could do things together and I think it would be phenomenal to have such people on our side. Question is: how do we find them and get them on our side? WE know we do good work, but how do the Millenials find us if we aren’t spending a fortune on advertising, which we refuse to do?

    good post!

    • PIF Apparel says:

      Thank you for the feedback Tanya, and great question. Allow me to tee this up before I offer a direct answer to each of your questions…

      Unfortunately today’s fundraising model requires NPO’s to “find supporters and get them on your side”. Books like “The Seven Faces of Philanthropy” have been written specifically to address the issue tactfully convincing donors to support our cause by identifying and leveraging the different reasons that people decide to give. This book is an excellent resource for dealing with TODAY’s donors, which have been trained to rely on fundraising events and advertising as their cue to give.

      However, I believe that the recent look into what motivates Millennials (CompassPoint study and a report from Dorothy A. Johnson for Philanthropy) shows that we are dealing with just one “face” of philanthropy when it comes to gaining support of nextgen donors. That one “face”, or motivating factor is SOCIAL IMPACT.

      If the future of fundraising is determined by the NPOs ability to impact positive change for the cause that they represent; then donors should begin to seek out the organizations that are making the most out of the money they receive. Resources like http://www.CharityNavigator.org make it easy to separate the good from the bad. This is great news for NPOs like American Foundation for Children with AIDS because you are already committed to making the most out of every dollar you receive, and I thoroughly believe that your ethics and stewardship will pay off ten-fold as wealth begins to shift from current generation to the next.

      Enough rambling, you have questions…

      Q1: How do we find them and get them on our side?

      A: My dream is that you will one day not have to “find them”, because they will find you based on the amazing work that you are doing. This however is not realistic in the short run. I believe the solution in the short run is to empower your existing advocates.

      There is an old saying, “Birds of a feather…support the same charity”. OK, not exactly the way it goes but I hope that you get the picture. Your existing supporters know people that share the same passions, but do your existing supporters feel it is their job to recruit their friends for you? Have you invited existing supports to do so?

      I am working on testing out a program in my local community later this year which will empower donors to take over fundraising efforts to help raise money for their favorite charity. The idea is create 10 or so “out of the box” fundraisers that individual advocates can to take and implement on their own with little to no overhead costs. Each event will be small, with low expectations when compared to traditional fundraising events. However this removes the burden of planning from the non-profits and creates much more favorable (and sustainable) introductions to new donors.

      Q2: WE know we do good work, but how do the Millenials find us if we aren’t spending a fortune on advertising, which we refuse to do?

      A: This is where I feel obligated to plug a company by the name of PIF Apparel, I hear they don’t cost much to partner with (just FiftyFREE dollars a year), they give you money, connect you to millennials, and they love NPOs like yours!

      In all seriousness this is a very valid question and a problem that I would not expect that we would be able to handle on our own. Some of this I have already addressed in my last answer:

      Empower advocates to take over fundraising
      Through companies like CharityNavigator.org which help measure charity efficiency
      Good communication with existing supports as to how your commitment to stewardship relates to a deeper impact in the work you do

      In summary, and most importantly, our society’s approach to charitable giving needs to change but our NPOs have to change along with them. It will take time, but the early signs point to a very promising shift in how people choose to make a difference in the world. If Millennials can harness the “Social Impact” mentality then traditional fundraising (spearheaded by NPOs themselves) will eventually be a thing of the past.

      Blue skies – Matt

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