Fundraisers have some big questions on their minds as they plan their 2024 strategies:
- How will macroeconomic trends continue to affect donor confidence?
- How can we put our fundraising budget to the most effective use?
- How can we find and engage new high-value donors?
- How can we maximize our relationships with existing donors?
These perennial questions seem to have greater urgency with less room for error as we enter 2024. After a challenging 2023 that has represented a second consecutive year of downward trending fundraising results and an evolving economic, regulatory, and fiscal landscape, it’s crucial that nonprofits collaborate with their data partners to position themselves for a successful 2024.
We spoke with a panel of experts from the Wiland nonprofit team—Roger Hiyama (Executive Vice President, Solutions and Innovation), Angela Newsom (Vice President, Client Success), and Kaitlyn Anderson (Vice President, Client Success)—to get their perspectives on what fundraisers should expect in the months ahead. They discussed what fundraisers could be doing now to ensure that they are using all of the best data-driven tools at their disposal to achieve their goals in the coming year.
How would you describe the fundraising landscape this past year?
Roger: “This year was a challenging one for fundraisers. The 2023 economic climate has been mixed with some positives, including continued low unemployment rates, reduced inflation, and a strong stock market. However, interest rates are high, savings rates are down, and economic and political uncertainty seem to be impacting consumer confidence. Most nonprofits have also been working from flat or slightly reduced expense budgets again this year. Although supply chain issues have been normalized, the increased costs of paper, production, and postage have reduced nonprofit mail volume. Combine these lower volumes and reduced response rates and 2023 will likely be down—possibly by up to 10%—from 2022 to 2023.”
Angela: “Dynamic is the word that I would use to describe the 2023 fundraising landscape. Nonprofits have had to navigate many obstacles simultaneously, from rising postage and paper costs to uneven donor confidence. At the same time, many are also working through the challenge of attribution given the prominence of multichannel fundraising.”
Kaitlyn: “I would call it a rugged fundraising environment. Data privacy has been another challenge that nonprofits have had to navigate as they look to reach their best donors and prospects while staying in compliance with new and evolving data privacy laws.”
How do you anticipate these trends and challenges will carry over into 2024?
Angela: “I think that many of the top considerations for fundraisers in 2023 will continue next year as we wait for economic uncertainty to subside. Fundraisers will need to find new ways to engage with their donors, and multichannel campaigns will play an important role.”
Kaitlyn: “I’d go so far as to say that many of the trends of 2023 will be amplified in the new year. Data privacy, for example, will be an even greater focus as new state laws continue to come into effect. Fundraisers will also need to strike the right balance between testing new strategies to keep donors engaged with rising costs and budget constraints.”
Roger: “A growing concern for nearly all nonprofits is the shrinking size of their active donor files. Many nonprofits have struggled to reactivate enough lapsed donors and acquire enough new donors to offset the number of lost donors. Having fewer active donors will make hitting top-line revenue targets even more difficult in 2024. Reversing this trend will require a combination of two things: 1) improving marketing effectiveness by more efficiently targeting appeals to increase response rates and reduce marketing waste; and 2) increasing marketing budgets to offset the effects of inflation and allow for strategic investments to acquire new donors. All this said, nonprofits are very resilient and have a history of facing challenges head-on. I have confidence that they will find ways to do more with less.”
What do you think the biggest “hot topics” of conversation will be for nonprofits in 2024?
Roger: “Artificial intelligence (AI) will dominate much of the conversation across the industry because AI promises advances in creativity, productivity, and processing flow. There is a tremendous amount of interest in the role of AI as a tool to create more effective fundraising solutions and run more profitable campaigns. At Wiland, we’ve been using AI and other machine learning techniques for well over a decade to inform the creation of our industry-leading donor audiences and predictive data solutions, so we’re excited to discuss its ability to impact results with our clients.”
Kaitlyn: “In addition to AI, I think that nonprofits will be discussing how they can hyper-personalize their fundraising to maximize each campaign’s performance and how they can diversify their revenue.”
Angela: “As nonprofits look to grow and diversify their active donor bases, I expect that conversations about how to attract new, different, and younger donors will continue.”