Jocelyn Harmon, Director of Nonprofit Services at Care2 and author of the blog Marketing for Nonprofits, recently gave the 2011 North Carolina Philanthropy Conference’s keynote address . Sponsored by North Carolina’s Association of Fundraising Professionals chapters, she highlighted four trends for North Carolina’s fundraising professionals and encouraged them to embrace these trends to improve their effectiveness.
America’s demographics are changing. By 2042 Harmon stated the U.S. diversity will be analogous to the UN with people of color being in the majority. There will be a corresponding need for the sector to reflect and incorporate these changes. She talked about the millennial generation. Described as “native in their use of technology”, millennials will require nonprofits to integrate social media and other technology channels to engage them in philanthropy. Finally, she recognized the growth and influence of women’s philanthropy. According to Harmon women now control approximately 51% of the world’s wealth.
Harmon encouraged the conference participants to “embrace technology and to leverage it strategically”. Responding to her inquiry with raised hands, nearly all were connected to the Internet while at the conference. Mobile technology is here.
With increasing online giving including major gifts, nonprofits face two challenges. First, there may be the counterintuitive need to create disincentives for offline giving represented by the traditional, but more expensive means like direct mail appeals.
Secondly, nonprofits must structure and enhance their online capacity for fundraising to take advantage of the Internet’s efficiencies and reach. For Harmon, a nonprofit should create a landing page on their website that guides donors to the organization’s needs. By growing their email lists and integrating them with other media, a nonprofit can drive traffic to their website’s landing page. Using social networks and technology they will also connect with younger donors for whom the Internet and now mobile technology is ubiquitous.
Despite encouraging the use of technology, she cautioned that no one has truly cracked the nut for online giving. Fundraisers will still have to make “The Ask”.
Through websites like Crowdrise, Six Degrees, and Your Cause, Harmon noted technology now empowers an individual working through their personal networks to raise funds for the nonprofit(s) or cause(s) of their choice without working directly with an organization In return the nonprofit recipient must find reciprocal means to identify and support these individuals and their networks or risk losing their support.
Because donors want to know their gifts make a difference, Harmon believes restricted gifts will increase. She cited Donors Choose as the “gold standard” by the means through which it seeks restricted gifts. Harmon argued nonprofits could similarly “merchandise” their nonprofit’s needs and then direct donors to them. She cited two other examples in Global Giving and Oxfam Unwrapped.
THE UNSPOKEN TREND
Demographic changes are generally predictable and seemingly inexorable. They arrive slowly unaffected by a single nonprofit. On the other hand, technology, social giving, and personalization require continuous nimbleness in thought and action. Jocelyn Harmon’s trends are four of the many influences buffeting today’s nonprofits.
Nonprofit boards of directors must identify those trends most affecting them and then address them through their strategic thinking and management. What this suggests, however, may be the most significant unspoken trend confronting nonprofits. To succeed nonprofit leadership must improve and accelerate their capacity to learn continuously if they are to adapt and survive in their rapidly evolving funding and operating environment. In short, nonprofit boards are going to have to step up their game.