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Hard Talk on the Future of Fundraising

How NGOs should develop their fundraising? This important question was dealt with in a one-day seminar "Planning your Fundraising Future: The Next Generation of Nordic Giving" organised by Radical Soul on April, 19, in Helsinki.
Anna-Sofia Joro
27.4.2012

The keynote speaker was Canadian Michael Johnston, who has more than 25 years of experience in fundraising and has worked with more than 100 NGOs worldwide.

The other speaker was Cristoffer Holm from Amnesty Denmark. Since 2005 he has sensationally managed the 100 000 members' community and developed Amnesty's member register to a new level.

With such expertise, the atmosphere got enthusiastic - especially as there were prices, Danish cookies and Canadian mable syrup, given out to participants who got right answers in quizzes.

Johnston reminded that it's not easy to be an NGO these days. So many things are expected from them: one should be visionary, change agent, relationship builder, message creator, resource wizard...

Further, the world is in a constant change - and so is fundraising. NGOs should develop ways to be more donor centric - and think what that really means today. They should think ways to merge old fundraising best practices with new technologies. Another thing is the multi-generational challenge.

All in all, everyone should be ready for change. According to Johnston, today not changing is more likely to lead to a bad outcome.

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What will a donor look like in 2021? The future donor wants hyper-choice - unrestricted giving is dying. They want hyper-adventure giving for feeling young and having fun. Ego philanthropy is on the rise - people want to start their own NGOs.

Johnston quoted a middle-aged donor on helping charities: “It wasn’t a matter of being a Mother Teresa. It was a matter of, ‘Boy, that sounds like fun!" This kind of thinking is totally new and we should react to it, for example by finding ways to engage donors that do not involve giving.

There are many ways to face the new challenges. Johnston offered some guidelines to be further implemented.

The word of the day is integration. NGOs departmental silos mean that the donor is often an afterthought. NGOs should create integrated teams, goals and plans to be efficient. Multiple giving options should be integrated into all communications.

"A general problem with NGOs is to think only in short term profits and 'fast money'. We should widen our ways of thinking."

Giving should be made gangible, emotional and interesting. This has to do with commodifying the giving - what does one get for a certain amount of money?

And it's recommendable to have an integrated welcome strategy that attempts to take donors to the next engagement level.

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In general, different generations have different communication preferences, even if most enjoy being communicated with in a variety of ways.

Donors also learn about an NGO in a various ways, but traditional media are still very important. As to the new forms, Facebook and Youtube are considerably more popular than other social media, but e.g. LinkedIn is on the rise.

The youngest ones tend to have more time than money, their giving is random and social media is very important. Elders are most loyal and committed but also most scrutinizing about efficiency. However, according to a Canadian research, donors of all ages give in multiple ways.

Still, good old means shouldn't be forgotten. "Use the phone!" both Johnston and Holm emphasized. "Donors should feel a personal connection to your organisation and mission. The personal touch of a phone call is the best method for conversion to monthly giving."

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The possibilities of legacy giving were widely discussed. For many NGOs, it's not so easy to go out, meet elders and refer to their death. According to Johnston, there’s a clear line around age 65 and people starting to make peace with mortality.

Establishing a focus group is a good way to find out about people's attitudes.

"A line that must not be crossed is to tell elders what they should do", Johnston warned. "People are smart at managing their money. Rather you should talk about NGO's financing and demonstrate accountability and efficiency. You should make clear, why their gifts will make the world a better place. Focus on your mission, values, programs and services. Show passion and speak about what you’ll look like in 20 years."

In brief, (also) elders want information, not fancy brochures.

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PS: This is our first member blog in English, as we have received requests for serving also other than Finnish-speaking CSOs. As the seminar in question was held in English, we thought this is a good opportunity to start. Please send us feedback and comments on the idea to blog also in English every now and then.