The Future Of Nonprofit Fundraising and Engagement

Craig Grella
October 12, 2021

The next few months represent an important time for fundraising teams at nonprofits across the world with Giving Tuesday around the corner and end-of-year programs just beginning. While much of your work will be focused on executing the last few events of 2020, it’s always a good time to look ahead and to think about the future of your nonprofit fundraising strategies.  

To aid in that effort, EveryAction and Salsa surveyed hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the country and asked them a series of questions focused on their plans for the future of their fundraising and engagement efforts. 

As you review 2020 data and measure your nonprofit KPIs, think about the actions you might take now to improve your overall fundraising program. Compare that to the survey results below and how other nonprofits plan to tackle those same issues. 

The Future of Nonprofit Fundraising and Engagement Survey 

EveryAction and Salsa surveyed our clients to better understand their strategy for fundraising and engagement over the next 3 to 5 years. The survey included just five questions and the responses were categorized by the size of the organization's annual revenue as follows: 

  • Small Nonprofits – revenue under $1 mil per year 

  • Medium Nonprofits – revenue between $1 mil and $10 mil per year 

  • Large Nonprofits – revenue above $10 mil per year 

This article discusses the responses to questions 1 and 4 in the survey which focus on fundraising channel priorities for nonprofits and where they expect supporter growth to be strongest over the next 3 to 5 years. 

Let’s take a look at the results. 

Where Nonprofit Fundraising Goes Over the Next 3 to 5 Years 

The first question of the survey asked nonprofits what their top priorities are for fundraising and digital supporter engagement.  

Overall, the top priorities are to grow their digital lists and acquire new supporters and donors. This held true across organizations of all sizes.  

However, as the size of the nonprofit increases, priorities shift from gaining new supporters to optimizing relationships with existing supporters and increasing donation size and frequency. 

Small Nonprofits Are Focusing on Fundraising Growth 

Nonprofit Fundraising Survey Q1 Small Nonprofits Image

Smaller nonprofits typically have less stability with their fundraising programs and are still developing their donor lists. It makes sense that 68% of nonprofits in this group overwhelmingly rank list growth as their top priority.

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project estimates that only 20% of first-time donors will renew their donation to a nonprofit, so generating a larger list is crucial for newer, less established nonprofits looking for that fundraising stability. Outreach to new potential donors helps to build that bench of future supporters and fundraising revenue stability.

Fundraising Tools for Small Nonprofits 

It’s essential that small organizations employ nonprofit CRMs to help organize contacts and turn supporters into new donors.  

Every contact that visits your website or attends an event should be entered into your donor database and categorized for future appeals. You can create automated nurture emails that go out to new contacts in a series of 3 or 4 emails over the course of a month or two.  Introduce them to your organization and slowly increase the urgency of your appeals. If your contact hasn’t donated after 6 months of communication, move them to an “inactive” list where they’ll get less frequent appeals. 

Medium and Larger Nonprofits Will Focus on Fundraising Optimization 

Nonprofit Fundraising Survey Q1 Medium Nonprofits Image

For more established organizations with well-defined donor lists, the priorities are more diverse. While list growth remains an important part of their fundraising strategy, capacity shifts to other items like existing donor retention, increasing the value of each donation and turning one-time donors into recurring donors. 

This shift in priority is even more apparent with larger organizations that have more mature fundraising programs and the capacity to communicate with the donor throughout the entire lifecycle

Nonprofit Fundraising Survey Q1 Large Nonprofits Image

Fundraising Tools for Medium to Large Nonprofits 

For medium and large-sized nonprofits, donor management and communication are critical.  

A study by Oracle showed 94% of consumers discontinue relationships with a brand because of irrelevant communications. Here, a nonprofit CRM with wealth screening and email automation capabilities is an indispensable tool for segmenting your list and creating targeted communication.  

The best way to turn a one-time donor into a recurring donor is to let them know that their initial gift is meaningful to your organization and the people you serve. Fundraising software with case management capabilities lets you tie a donor’s gift directly to its impact on the ground. Following up with stories of your impact and segmenting your list by program or event is a great way to personalize your communication and make it more contextually relevant to each donor. 

Fundraising software with predictive analytics will analyze multiple data points for each supporter in your donor database and make recommendations for smart appeals. Matching the giving capacity of each donor gives you a better chance of increasing both the amount and the frequency of future donations. 

Adding event management capabilities can help you attract volunteers and give existing donors additional opportunities to engage with your cause. 

How Nonprofits Can Increase Engagement with Supporters 

Increased engagement leads to an increase in supporter growth and eventually an increase in fundraising revenue. The aim of Question 4 in the EveryAction survey is to predict the digital channel that will provide nonprofits with the greatest donor growth over the next 3 to 5 years. 

We know that mobile traffic is on the rise and continues to outpace desktop traffic. The portion of donations coming from mobile devices is also increasing along with the use of SMS and text-to-donate. 

What we learn from the responses to question 4 is that you cannot underestimate the importance of multichannel digital to the future of nonprofit fundraising. Still, capacity determines the number of channels the organization will use to fundraise. 

Let’s look at the numbers. 

Supporter Engagement at Small Nonprofits 

Nonprofit Fundraising Survey Q4 Small Nonprofits Image

Small nonprofits have a much heavier reliance on social media for fundraising, which makes sense because that is the easiest format in which to post and it has the lowest cost of entry. Email is the channel predicted to offer the second-highest growth for nonprofits. Again, because email marketing programs are ubiquitous and have a relatively low cost of entry. 

Outside of email and social media as digital channels for growth, nonprofits believe peer-to-peer programs will offer the next highest level of growth for their organization. Peer-to-peer fundraising software is a great way for smaller nonprofits to grow their lists and increase their donations. P2P software amplifies your message and expands your network to the friends and family of your supporters.

Supporter Engagement at Medium Nonprofits 

Nonprofit Fundraising Survey Q4 Medium Nonprofits Image

As the organization grows in size and revenue, staff capacity increases and the nonprofit adds additional channels to its fundraising outreach. 

For medium-sized nonprofits, email and social still dominate as the predicted growth channels, but the difference between the two data points is much less dramatic. This group of nonprofits also predicts that SMS / texting will become an engine of growth for their organization. 

Supporter Engagement at Large Nonprofits 

Nonprofit Fundraising Survey Q4 Large Nonprofits Image

Larger nonprofits perform outreach through a more diverse group of digital channels, and their predictions for fundraising growth are similarly dispersed. Large organizations typically have the capacity for dedicated staff to handle social communication, email communication, and events. We also see these organizations predicting that SMS and texting will become an even larger driver of growth for their organization in the coming year. 

Large nonprofits distinguish themselves from their smaller counterparts with their prediction that other digital channels will be a driver for growth. Here, “other” refers specifically to in-person and hybrid events. While small and medium nonprofits are focused on optimizing their existing channels, larger nonprofits can afford larger and more frequent events, and see that as a means to increase supporter engagement and fundraising growth. 

Conclusions On the Future of Nonprofit Fundraising and Engagement Survey

Organizations of all sizes which are focused on list growth and who predict seeing the most growth in social media will need strategies for nurturing the supporters they acquire in that channel. Larger organizations of increased capacity are experimenting with or optimizing their multichannel digital offerings to increase average gift size and turn existing donors into recurring donors

Constant communication with your donors is critical, and, more specifically, contextually relevant communication will help you retain more existing donors. Now, more than ever before, a nonprofit CRM with integrated social media capabilities and multi-channel automation offers an efficient way to make sure your supporters receive the right stewarding messages, in the right channels, at the right time.  


If you want to unlock more strategic fundraising tips, check out these additional resources:

  • E-Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising on Giving Tuesday - Best practices for communicating your Giving Tuesday fundraising events with email and social templates, a branded donation form template, and a roadmap for 6 weeks of donor communication.

  • Nonprofit KPIs and How To Measure Your Impact - The most comprehensive post on key performance indicators for nonprofits. Download our template and learn how to measure your own nonprofit KPIs.

  • Nonprofit Editorial Calendar - Download our Guide on creating your own nonprofit content and download our editorial calendar you can use right away to help you plan.

  • Want More Volunteers and Donors? - Read our article on the Nonprofit Ladder of Engagement and learn how to engage your audience at every level of their relationship with your organization.

  • Ultimate Guide to Advocacy Campaigns. If you're planning an advocacy campaign our Ultimate Guide to Advocacy Campaigns is the place to start, with communication templates, relationship mapping tools, and more.

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