January 14, 2021

Take the Guess Work out of 2021 Fundraising

During the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, facing multiple unknowns, we pondered whether life would return to normal. Now, as vaccines promise to bring the pandemic under control, we can begin to speculate about the year ahead.

One of the certainties in this uncertain time is that change is the new constant. That means we must think and act with flexibility and resiliency.

With this in mind, here are six ways you can plan for another uncertain year.

1. Know where you stand

Now more than ever, you need to take stock of your donor relationships. What did you learn about giving and other donor behaviors in 2020? Watch for the reports of year-end giving but more importantly, look at your own organization’s experience. Did your donors remain loyal? Did they shift their priorities to COVID-19 relief, food banks, or racial and social justice causes? How were your donors affected by the pandemic-related economic crisis? Did individual donors lose their jobs? Did they benefit from the record-breaking rise in the stock market? Did your business donors close their doors, or did they profit from COVID-19 caused necessities? The economic impact hasn’t been the same for everyone.

2. Talk to donors to anticipate their future plans

Before doing anything else, talk with your donors. We may be constrained to talk face-to-face, but donors are receptive to phone calls and virtual visits. Talk with them before firming up your goals for 2021. Ask about their well-being and let their answers be a guide before you explore their plans for the future. Will they continue to support your organization? Is their giving likely to increase, remain constant, decline? Have their giving priorities changed? Do they want to know how your organization “weathered the storm” before they consider their next gift?

3. Craft a compelling value proposition and focus on shared outcomes

Clearly, succinctly, and in human interest stories, illustrate how your organization impacts the lives of the people you serve. Your case has to convince your donors that, despite the challenges of recovering from the shocks of 2020, your mission is essential, and giving changes lives for the better!

Align your value proposition with your donors’ priorities. People give when their interests and yours are in sync. Define short-term, focused, achievable outcomes that translate into specific giving opportunities and dollar goals and also ensure your organization’s future impact.

4. Adjust your time horizon

Organizations must plan for the year ahead, but 2021 promises to offer plenty of volatility, so assume you’ll need to be nimble. What you’re aiming toward now may be very different in just a month or two. Keep your eye on the environment and stay in touch with your donors.

5. Analyze data and monitor the environment

In these times of uncertainty, it is wise to adopt a continuous SWOT analysis mindset. Follow internal data to know what’s working and what isn’t. Monitor the external environment for opportunities and challenges so you’ll have the information you’ll need to adjust fundraising goals and strategies with agility. Our free monthly fundraising monitor can help you accomplish this is an easy, organized way. 

"In these times of uncertainty, it is wise to adopt a continuous SWOT analysis mindset." 


6. Invite key donors to be your partners

Ask key donors to partner with you. Ask them what they think about your value proposition, outcomes, and dollar goals. Engage them in analyzing data and interpreting the results of your environmental scans. Donors can provide a rich complement to staff and board perspectives. We’ve done this for years in capital campaigns, why not do the same in annual fundraising?

These six considerations will aid you throughout your fundraising year, regardless of what 2021 throws your way.

How are you planning for 2021? Let us know in the comments below.

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Written by

Marilyn Foster Kirk, CFRE

Marilyn Foster Kirk, CFRE, is Executive Vice President at TWB Fundraising.


Questions or comments? Join the conversation!

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