The poet and philosopher Paul Valéry wrote in 1937: “The future, like everything else, is no longer quite what it used to be.” A couple of direct response experts gazed into their crystal balls for future indicators during a session at the Bridge To Integrated Marketing Conference.
It is clear that Valéry was correct. Some of the industry’s biggest challenges include: Acquiring new donors; Retaining current donors; Diversifying income sources; and, Preparing for external factors.
Jennifer Mercer of CMS and Jack Doyle of Amergent, speakers during the Experts with Crystal Balls session at the Bridge Conference, advised on how to conquer some of these challenges.
Mercer set the stage by showing industry and election year trends, the amount of donor giving and the increase in charitable organizations that are competing for donor dollars each day. “With the number of nonprofits on the rise, we must all be putting our best strategies out there and setting ourselves apart from the rest of the pack,” she said.
With new donor acquisition the first challenge discussed, Mercer said, “Millennials are our future donor pool. We must engage them now to start to employ donor conversion tactics in the future.”
Doyle suggested, “The only way to build a healthy and sustainable file is to acquire new donors with high value and share information to maximize the generation of quality donors that will remain on the file for years to come.”
They pontificated on the challenge of donor retention — an issue with which all organizations struggle and about which everyone who is anyone in the industry is buzzing. Mercer told those assembled: “Donor experience, customer service, upgrading, monthly giving and multichannel fundraising must be the focus of all fundraisers who want to retain and grow their organization’s donor file.”
Under the subject of diversifying revenue sources — a critical component to any successful fundraising program in this crowded space — Doyle predicted: “If you want to set yourselves apart, utilize donor advised funds, focus on bequests and annuities and rewriting your telemarketing contracts so they make the most revenue for the organization.”
They share an update on the status of the U.S. Postal Service, touching on the hot issue of donor privacy and current regulatory threats.
In such a crowded space, concerted focus in these challenge areas will best prepare charitable organizations to stand out to new and current donors.