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How to approach fundraising for the year ahead

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The past year has been challenging. During a time of so much uncertainty and competing priorities, nonprofits have struggled with how to fundraise effectively while maintaining their vital work.

The good news is many nonprofits have learned to adapt, pivoting from traditional fundraising events and initiatives to digital and virtual formats, creatively allowing donors to continue to engage.

And in light of the extreme economic hardships many are facing, we have also seen donors step up.

According to recent research from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, more donors plan to give this year than ever before. Total charitable giving is predicted to increase by 5.1% in 2021.

As this year gets underway, here are some tips on how to approach fundraising in this new economic environment and global pandemic.

Be flexible and adapt as circumstances change

Nonprofits that fared the best in 2020 were able to quickly adapt and evolve, staying nimble as plans were ever-changing. This past year presented many challenges, so flexibility was crucial.

Use this opportunity to review how you are operating as an organization, how your plan is working, and if not, what needs to change.

Listen to your donors to find out what they are thinking, how the pandemic has affected them, and work to build an authentic relationship.

Add a personal touch to communication

Personalized communication and outreach are critical in 2021. This will set your organization apart. We are seeing more outreach turn digital, which makes personalization even more important as messages flood email inboxes.

By making a personal connection, you can show why and how your donors’ gifts matter and the impact their contributions will have on your organization. Without this personal touch, donors are more likely to walk away and find another cause.

In your outreach strategy, make sure to use the donor’s preferred name and know their donation history, events attended, and past campaigns they supported so you can target specific messaging.

Focus on donor cultivation and empower your supporters to help by laying out a strong case for charitable giving, and then follow up with a thank you message and outcomes.

Get creative with virtual events

Virtual events are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. We’ve seen organizations find success in hosting virtual dinners by sending out a meal kit to donors, virtual events with a surprise celebrity guest appearance, and online interactive raffles and auctions.

Before you organize an event, consider increasing communication to the community and your donors to gage interest. It’s important that the event aligns with your charitable mission and that you have the resources you need to make the event successful.

Know your donor base

Many donors budget for charitable giving. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your donor base and ask if a gift is still viable. Look to your area of expertise and brainstorm ways you can better serve your population or best engage your supports.

The better you know who your donors are, the better you can reach out and get them to invest during these uncertain times.

While 2020 was a whirlwind, it’s important that agencies and nonprofits look back to recognize what worked, what didn’t and continue to adapt.

Take the lessons learned from this last year and apply them to fundraising efforts this year and beyond.

While we hope to return to a more normal environment soon, now is the time to continue to flex your creativity and deepen those relationships for both short-term and long-term success.

Brande Anderson is the Institutional Investment Management Relationship Manager at UMB Bank.

Alicia Beck is the Vice President and Director of Philanthropy at UMB Bank.