2020 was undoubtedly the year of COVID-19, an unprecedented (in our lifetime at least) pandemic that created a level of never-before-seen economic uncertainty across a vast number of sectors in Canada. For the nonprofit or charitable sector, it was no different.
2 million Canadians lost their employment in April 2020 and many more were faced with reduced hours or reduced profits. In times of personal financial crisis, one of the first household expenses to face the chop is charitable donations.
2021 Giving Report by CanadaHelps reported total donations in 2020 fell to $10.2B from $11.3B in 2019 and as many as one-fifth of Canadian charities—mainly small organizations—were forced to cancel or reduce programs and fundraising events as a result of the pandemic.
Almost 18-months on and mass vaccinations are underway and the economy is beginning its recovery with restrictions easing and employees returning to the office. However, not everything will return to the same state as it was before 2020. The pandemic forced businesses and individuals to pivot in countless areas where change would not otherwise have happened. It looks like many of these changes are here to stay, even in a post-COVID world, including the way we give and raise money.
Online Donations: A fundraising trend in Canada that is here to stay
Pre-pandemic, making online donations was not the norm, and many nonprofit organizations relied on in-person fundraising events to engage donors and encourage giving. With the onset of the pandemic forcing the rapid cancellation of in-person events, 7 in 10 nonprofits struggled with the quick move to online fundraising, and revenues were down for 55% of charities.
Fundraising platforms such as CanadaHelps, an all-in-one solution for online donations and fundraising, became invaluable to many small nonprofits who could not afford to invest in their own online fundraising technologies. CanadaHelps reported an increase of 95% in the number of Canadians giving through their fundraising tool in 2020 benefitting almost 30,000 Canadian charities, and while total donations in 2020 fell, online donations grew by 86% from the previous year.
In the US, The Blackbaud Institute's 2020 Charitable Giving Report stated 13% of revenue is now coming from online sources—the highest percentage ever for online donations. This reflects a necessary move by Canadian charities to pursue more diversified methods of raising funds.
With the technology and fundraising platforms now in place to not only receive online donations but also to increase digital donor engagement, the proportion of online donations is only going to grow, even when the pandemic is behind us. Embracing digital transformation is key for survival among nonprofit organizations.
Online Fundraising Strategy & Digital Engagement
In-person charitable events will not become a thing of the past entirely, but it’s likely that events will be much smaller. Even when all restrictions on social gatherings have been lifted, event organizers will probably still experience a perceived risk to in-person events for some time to come, forcing a more long-term rethink of future strategies to raise funds, with a larger focus on digital donor engagement.
Social media platforms, email marketing and online advertising will become as important—perhaps even more so—than in-person events to grow awareness of and collect donations for fundraising campaigns. Reaching the right type of donors through the right marketing channel with the right marketing content is paramount to the success of online fundraising strategies.
Example: If your nonprofit organization is executing a campaign that raises funds to support racial injustice, there's a good chance your target audience is a younger demographic that is active on Instagram. You can then create content about your mission specifically targeting that demographic on that platform to generate awareness and encourage your target audience to donate.
Tapping into Live Streaming
Live streaming is one type of content that has exploded in popularity on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok. Typical live streams for a nonprofit would show day-to-day or behind the scenes operations, the work they are doing with donations, and how their work is impacting the community. This type of content creates a deeper and more personal connection with potential donors, increasing engagement and donations, and encouraging more people to volunteer their time.
The key to successful online engagement is targeting. You need to identify who your target audience is, what is important to them, and where they consume content online, in order to increase engagement on the right platforms.
Engaging in Donor Data
With the growth in online donations comes a greater abundance of donor data that can be used to segregate and better target potential donors. No longer limited to only the information that donors provide, nonprofit organizations can use digital data to expand their reach, and connect with more potential donors that match their ideal donor profile, developing relationships that will boost future donation and donor retention rates.
Donor management platforms like Keela and DonorPerfect track donor data, storing it in a centralized database so that the organization can better segment donors for more targeted communications. There are an abundance of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems on the market for every organizational size and budget. It's probably best to look for one that's been specifically built for nonprofit organizations, but if you do plan on investing resources into purchasing a CRM for your nonprofit, make sure at a minimum it has:
- List segmentation capabilities. Being able to segment and sort donor profiles into various lists based on attributes of your choosing (e.g. age, location, size of donation, last donation date etc.) means your communication with your donors will be more customized to their specific situation and demographics.
- Engagement measurement. A nonprofit's CRM should be able to track an individual's history with your organization (e.g. how often they have opened an email or clicked a link, which specific link they clicked, how many times they open an email etc). This can let the nonprofit know if that individual is more likely to make a donation, or volunteer their time, and can be used for further communication to prompt them to take affirmative action.
- Data analysis and Reporting functionalities. The software should be able to keep tabs on the effectiveness of different methods of engagement with donors. Most donor platforms come with standard reports to analyze metrics such as donor retention, but you might want to be able to create your own reports too.
Ultimately, the way donors give to nonprofit organizations has, and will continue to change in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. If there's one thing the pandemic highlighted, it's the need for nonprofits to be able to adapt the way they operate, in particular in the way they raise funds. Technological advancements must be embraced and integrated into organizations and planning now for future uncertainties will make adaptation down the road much easier.
Did you know, Enkel can help your not-for-profit organization track fundraising efforts and improve your financial reporting? Contact us today and find out how!