2016 will be a year of great opportunity for the philanthropic sector. The same trends that are changing the world around us at a rapidly accelerating rate are impacting the fundraising profession in new and exciting ways. In the midst of all these developments, it’s more important than ever to keep your goals clear and focus on what matters.

Here are insights from five industry leaders—from Blackbaud’s Chief Scientist to its Chief Technology Officer—sharing five resolutions you can make in 2016 to better guide your fundraising efforts:

1. Exceed Donor Expectations

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Each year, organizations scrape together scarce resources to hold events or conduct campaigns in order to acquire new supporters.  Too often, they then watch as 60%, 70% or even 80% of those new donors fail to support them in year two.  Why have we become accustomed to losing so many existing supporters and spending our resources to find new ones?  Why can’t we do a better job meeting–even exceeding–the expectations of our current donors so they remain loyal supporters, maybe even at higher dollar levels? Well, many organizations are in fact doing so by identifying the reasons why donors leave and finding ways to fill the proverbial “holes in the bucket”.  If you spell the donor’s name wrong or lose track of their address, do a better job with file hygiene.  If you provide too little or too much information, ask them their preference.  If you upset a donor, identify and address their concern, if possible.  Make 2016 the year that you commit to keeping the donors you already have.

Fight for every donor. Even small changes in donor retention practices can make a significant difference. – Chuck Longfield, Senior Vice President, Chief Scientist, Blackbaud

2. Focus on Impact

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2016 holds much promise for the sector, building on a year where we saw an increase in charitable giving in the U.S. alone of 7.1% (Giving USA), fueled by overall growth and mega-gifts coming from tech sector donors.  Major (and mega) gifts will continue to make the headlines, as will donors making choices for how to give back in new ways that push the limits of traditional philanthropy (aka both donor advised funds and Zuckerburg’s LLC).  As we’ve seen this year in the Blackbaud Index, online giving will continue to grow as more people turn to smart phones and tablets as the mechanism for making their contributions, just as they have with banking and shopping.  And just as large gifts will continue to capture our attention, broad grassroots movements like #GivingTuesday will continue to gain ground, breaking down barriers and bringing philanthropy to a broader swath of the market. With these emergent trends, donors have more choice than ever before in how they support the causes that matter most to them. In 2016, fundraisers will need to focus on tying the impact of gifts to the cause itself in order to retain and gain supporters.

Donors have more choice than ever before. Fundraisers will need to focus on tying the impact of gifts to the cause itself in order to retain and gain supporters. – Rachel Hutchisson, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy, Blackbaud

3. Improve Data Quality

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It might be cold outside, but this is the perfect time to get a jumpstart on spring cleaning for your database. With proper data quality, you will have a solid foundation to build out advanced analytics and optimize your fundraising program this year, and for years to come. Start off with a simple National Change of Address (NCOA) screening to update the addresses of donors that have moved, and make sure to keep this in your quarterly activities throughout the year. Next, run an expanded move update (PCOA) and donor record cleaning to catch additional updates for those that have moved, married, or deceased to make sure your mail files are squeaky clean. Your donor engagement strategies are only as good as the data you have available, so now’s the time to run some basic, and not-so-basic, clean up on your database. 

With the proper data quality and program analytics, you will be prepared to expand and optimize your fundraising in 2016 and beyond. – Richard Becker, President, Target Analytics, Blackbaud

4. Build a Seamless Tech Experience

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Technology is driving change at an unprecedented pace; dramatically impacting the ways you interact with donors, and driving the expectations donors have of you – as well as the expectations you have of us. You expect security, always-on availability, seamless updates, and a great user experience. Donors expect to be able to give anytime, anywhere for any cause from any device. They want the giving experience to feel personal, to feel appreciated for their donation and connected with your organization. Donors expect it to be easy to give – whether they are donating money, time, or talent. With the rise of social media, donors who are passionate about a cause want to share it with their networks, and you must treat these rich networks as a valuable asset. Donors also increasingly want to find local giving options; they want to see the impact of their donations in their own communities. All of these developments and more will make 2016 a year of tremendous opportunity to further your mission in innovative ways. Pay close attention to your investments in technology to ensure that your organization is keeping up with the times in your donors’ eyes.

2016 will be a year of tremendous opportunity to further your mission in innovative ways with technology. – Mary Beth Westmoreland, Chief Technology Officer, Blackbaud

5. Embrace a Multi-channel Approach

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Today’s donor is wired to be multichannel. They live in a world where online, social, mobile, radio, television, are other channels are ever-present. Nonprofits know this to be true and yet they often don’t diversify their donor outreach enough. In 2016, nonprofits should embrace a multichannel outreach approach that will help them build stronger relationships with their supporters. Using the right message at the right time  to the right people using the right channels is the key to truly diversifying donor outreach.

Nonprofits should embrace a multichannel outreach approach that will help them build stronger relationships with their supporters. – Steve MacLaughlin, Director of Analytics, Blackbaud


For more key statistics like the ones listed above, check out 50 Fascinating Philanthropy Stats. This new central hub of need-to-know statistics from reputable sources across the industry will help you understand the sector and how your organization compares.  


Ashley Thompson is the senior marketing manager of communications at Blackbaud. She is the Editor of npENGAGE magazine as well as driving many of the company’s extensive benchmarking reports and best practice guides. She also manages some of the company’s greatest relationships such as the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International and stays involved locally in Austin through board service with AFP’s Greater Austin Chapter and as a Social Venture Partner through Mission Capital. Connect with her on Twitter at @EttaMT or on LinkedIn.

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