Money & Business

How Tech Savvy Is Your Fundraising?

By / Oct 16, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A new study on tech trends in fundraising illustrates some of the challenges nonprofit fundraisers face and opportunities that technology is making possible. How do you match up?

Some good news on the fundraising front: Sixty-one percent of nonprofits reported they expect to increase fundraising revenues this year, up from the 53 percent that reported an increase last year.

These numbers are from the “2014 Fundraising Technology Trends” study, which also found that a significant number of fundraisers feel they could be more effective at raising revenues.

Sponsored in part by the Association for Fundraising Professionals, the survey found, for example, that only 45 percent of the 142 respondents rated their fundraising efforts as “effective” or “very effective,” while 29 percent rated their efforts as “average,” and roughly a quarter reported their efforts are at least “somewhat ineffective.”

The biggest fundraising challenge was “finding likely contributors,” followed by “deepening relationships with supporters”—both areas in which technology can help.

In fact, 80 percent of respondents agreed that better technology leads to more effective fundraising. The survey also found that fundraisers who are better outfitted and plugged in, technologically speaking, outperformed their peers.

For example, those nonprofits using contribution management software were 36 percent more likely to project increased fundraising revenue for 2014 and almost 50 percent more likely to describe their fundraising efforts as effective or very effective.

The survey created a profile of “very effective” fundraisers, who on average are using

  • three or more software management tools
  • five or more communication channels (including in-person events, websites, social media, email, and postal mail)
  • three or more payment acceptance methods and accepting online donations.

More and more associations have been tapping technologies such as social media to assist with their fundraising efforts. A survey conducted last year by CRM provider Avectra found that almost three-quarters of nonprofits believed social media will have a moderate or very positive impact on their fundraising efforts.

Where social media seems to come handy, though, is not necessarily in garnering donations, but in building and maintaining relationships with donors—one of the key challenges reported in the “Fundraising Technology Trends” study.

“The consensus among development professionals is that the various types of social media have yet to be proven as effective, standalone fundraising tools; few direct asks are being made via these channels today,” Julie Dixon and Denise Keyes, deputy and executive directors of Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication, wrote in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. “Yet these social media channels are the very ones that increasing numbers of people use to gather and process information today—young people in particular.”

Attracting younger donors has been top of mind for the nonprofit Charity: Water, which aims to expand access to clean water around the world. NPR recently profiled the organization and its technologically savvy approaches to appealing to millenials, such as ensuring the online donation process is as seamless as possible with just a few clicks rather than a three- to four-page form.

The organization also capitalized on the potential of social networks, similar to the idea behind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, by asking potential donors to give up their birthdays for clean water.

“We had 7-year-olds in Austin, Texas, go door to door asking for $7 donations,” Charity: Water founder and CEO Scott Harrison told NPR. “We had 16-year-olds in Indiana asking for $16 donations.”

That campaign, in addition to Charity: Water’s easy online donation process and other tech-inspired campaigns, like its latest idea to put sensors on wells to allow donors to track the amount of water flowing from their donations, has added up to 4 million people in 22 countries gaining access to clean water.

For more on the “2014 Fundraising Technology Trends” study, check out Morgan Little’s wrap-up from earlier this week.

How does your association use technology to improve its fundraising efforts? Let us know in the comments.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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