Our 2022 Crystal Ball

By Brooke Bryant, Ph.DRobin Merle, CFRE; and Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

As we approach a new year, fundraisers continue to navigate an unsettled landscape.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, calls for racial justice, changing donor expectations, and a tight labor market have been central themes in 2021 — and they will continue to influence how we approach our work in 2022.

Against that backdrop, we offer these 12 fundraising trends to watch over the next 12 months:

Donors will give more generously

Let’s start with some good news. Donors have stepped up their giving throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is plenty of optimism that they will continue to give more in 2022.

Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy projects total giving will increase by a robust 5.7% in 2022 — an increase that will be fueled by an 11% bump in estate gifts.

This projection affirms the importance of identifying annual donors who are likely planned giving prospects, as well as having a sound annual giving strategy for the year ahead.

Equity Must Be Front And Center

Donors are increasingly supporting nonprofits that center their work on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Your organization has likely already been taking important steps on its DEI journey. Don’t stop!

Now is not the time to get complacent as you face decisions about how to best continue that journey. It’s important to continue to forge ahead and show your progress. Your donors are paying attention and will be making decisions based on what they see.

To help you on your journey, read our recent guidance on how to bring equity into your fundraising practices.

We also invite you to join us for a special webinar on January 18.

Hybrid Work And Events Are Here To Stay

While in-person events and meetings will likely begin popping up on our 2022 calendars, many of your team members and donors will not be ready to show up face to face. That’s especially true in the explosive growth of the omicron COVID-19 variant.

Nonprofits must learn to be ambidextrous and plan hybrid events that have both virtual and in-person experiences. Donors have grown accustomed to virtual technology during the pandemic, and many may choose to stay away if they do not have the option of attending remotely.

Virtual technology also opens new doors — giving long-distance donors an opportunity to attend events and to participate with your organization when they would otherwise not have been able to do so. It also gives you the opportunity to be flexible with how your team works and interacts.

Mega Donors Will Play An Increasingly Important Role

Gifts from mega donors totaled more than $9.5 billion in 2020 — reflecting the massive growth that’s happening at the top of the wealth spectrum. And that number will only continue to grow in 2022.

While these superwealthy donors aren’t accessible to all nonprofits, they are nonetheless informing philanthropy. Billionaires like MacKenzie Scott are quite public about their giving priorities and are shaping how other donors are thinking about their giving.

Even if you’re not able to build relationships with the uberwealthy, it’s important to pay attention to how they’re approaching their giving — since it will likely reflect and influence the priorities of your donors.

Staff Retention Will Be Critical

The number of fundraising jobs is expected to grow by more than 14 percent over the next decade. And as demand for qualified fundraisers grows, it’s occurring in the midst of a significant change in how individuals are approaching their careers.

Retention has always been a challenge for nonprofits, especially when it comes to top fundraising talent. But in light of the “Great Resignation” — the recent phenomenon in which many workers are walking away from their jobs and careers and rethinking their priorities — the challenge is even greater.

As a result, staff retention is one of the top issues facing nonprofit leaders in 2022. With that in mind, it’s important to make sure you’re communicating regularly with your top talent, being flexible, and finding ways to ensure that they are getting the support and resources they need to be happy and successful.

You should also be paying close attention to the mental health of your team and be thinking about how to create an environment that fosters positive mental health. When fundraisers feel good, they perform better — and are more likely to be satisfied in their roles.

Differentiation Is Key

Your nonprofit doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Your donors give to your organization because they care about your cause. But they are also getting solicitations from others that have similar missions and priorities.

With that in mind, you should always be assessing your competition and taking steps to identify your strengths and what makes your nonprofit unique.

You should also know who your donors are, what they care about, and why they choose to give to you.

Once you’ve identified your unique strengths and what your donors care about, assess your messaging to ensure those strengths and values are reinforced there.

Donor-Advised Funds Will Keep Growing

More than $140 billion is now sitting in donor-advised funds (DAFs) — a number that will likely continue to grow in 2022 as donors continue to pour more money into this popular giving vehicle.

Your nonprofit can tap into this massive pot of potential funding by using prospect research and surveys to identify donors who have DAFs.

You can also take steps to ensure more money gets to working charities by supporting legislation that would reform the way DAFs operate. The Accelerating Charitable Efforts (ACE) Act, introduced earlier this year, would tighten rules on DAFS and private foundations. We’ll likely see more movement on this legislation — or even an updated proposal — in 2022.

Email Marketing Will Continue Its Dominance

Nonprofits that pay attention to refining their digital fundraising strategies will stand to benefit the most from the projected increase in charitable giving in 2022.

Social media will remain a key tool for increasing your reach — but you’ll see the greatest impact from your email marketing efforts. 

Nonprofits Will Embrace Artificial Intelligence

The next wave in digital fundraising is artificial intelligence — and nonprofits will increase their adoption of tools like chatbots in 2022. Chatbots are friendly, automated mechanisms that are built into website platforms to answer questions  like an automated FAQ.

Nonprofits that embrace chatbots and other artificial intelligence tools will have a leg up when donors are researching which organizations share their values and goals.

Fundraising And Marketing Will Be Better Integrated

Your nonprofit’s marketing team has several goals — only one of which is raising money.

Depending on your mission and culture, marketers might be charged with driving enrollment or admissions, building awareness, or crisis management.

It’s up to you to make sure they don’t lose sight of their most important goal: fundraising. With that in mind, make 2022 the year in which you strengthen the relationship with your marketing team and become more aligned on raising money for your organization.

Virtual Galas: Participants Will Expect More From The Event Experience

Galas are a show. And in this new era of virtual and hybrid events, it’s important for event planners to think differently about the spaces where these events are held and think about how to make the virtual piece of your event as engaging as the in-person experience.

Donors were patient with flat event experiences during the early days of the pandemic. Now, they expect more.

As a result, we recommend working closely with event planners that understand how to 
make virtual events attractive and enjoyable for participants.

We also recommend using the same approaches you use for traditional gala fundraising — securing the bulk of the gifts from your honorees, sponsors, and awardees well before the event takes place.

Refined Growth Plans Will Rule The Day

Nonprofits that have a clear fundraising strategy focused on growing revenue will raise more money and make more progress toward their missions.

This strategy should consider the trends outlined above — and also incorporate stewardship and advanced prospect research.

Stewardship, after all, has always been — and will always be — our Holy Grail. And utilizing prospect research tools will help you set and exceed aggressive goals for your campaigns.

It’s always important to be aware of the latest trends that affect our work. But we should also always be mindful of the fundamentals of effective fundraising.

What trends are you expecting in 2022? Share your predictions in the comment below.

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