The Future of Fundraising

crystal ball.jpg Few and far between are major donors who simply write checks in support of the issues or organizations about which they care. In my experience, the vast majority are also pressed into fundrising, especially in their role as board members.

All would do well to read Gayle Roberts blog, Fundraising for Nonprofits, which offers wide-ranging wisdom based on a life of experience in the biz. This post is in response to a challenge Gayle has made as part of the Giving Carnival which asks bloggers to respond to the question: What will fundraising look like in ten years?

Having spent much of my lifetime either raising money or giving it away, watching my own consumer patterns shift in response to changes in industries like music, healthcare and publishing, and spending countless hours considering the future with Carla Dearing, here’s my take:

Customization Will Transcend Mass Production - If I can pick the colors for my Nike’s sport, which songs comprise my playlists, and which combo of hotel, air and car rental companies I’ll use, why can’t I customize my giving options? Donors in 2017 will gain similar customization options that that reflect their personal interests and values. If I want to support the rescue of Labrador Retrievers in a specific county in Alabama, some leading-edge animal welfare organization will offer it to me. Donors already demonstrates this capacity by offering a robust list of options within a region, a school, a classroom. Sally Struthers demonstrated the power of very directed giving decades ago. In the future, large portions of charitable dollars will be gained by national nonprofits which take this concept to the next generation of givers by investing in technology that offers up these options.

Issues Will Transcend Organizations - Wide-ranging research demonstrates the fact that an emerging generation of donors isn’t tied to major institutions like their parents once were. Despite this fact, today’s fundraising is driven by individual organizations. Fueled by the demand for customization noted above, tomorrow’s donor will also be able to craft solutions across organizations (just like lets me combine Delta, Avis and the Fairmont.) While major institutions like hospitals will be able to offer robust customization options for programs within their purview, the gold will go to those that offer the major donor concerned with curing cancer the opportunity to combine the best research center in the world with the best training program in the world with the best policy center in the world. If the theory of the Long Tail is true, smaller nonprofits will actually gain more of the total dollars but only when a company like Guidestar (or Amazon) aggregates customization across for-profit, government and nonprofit organizations

Impact Will Finally Matter - Because the Internet will fuel new levels of transparency regarding programmatic impact, a growing number of donors will begin to give based on what is being accomplished rather than who asks them to give. Major donors will gain bragging rights for funding “, for instance, the most effective homeless shelter in Seattle.” Once this happens, boards won’t just be looking for leaders who have fundraising experience, they will look for those most deeply experienced with high-impact approaches.

BOTTOM LINES: Money to social impact will continue to grow but name brands will become less important than value and vision.

Susan Herr

Posted at 8:38 AM, Sep 04, 2007 in Accountability | Cross-Sectoral Strategies | High Net Worth Donors | Performance Measurement | Scaling Philanthropy | Permalink | Comments (1)


Susan, you are too kind. Really appreciate you drawing on your vast experience and contributing to this month's Giving Carnival. Will be publishing links to all the responses on my blog by the end of the week.

Posted by: Gayle Roberts