Happy New Year!? That’s a declaration because I hope that you will have a Happy New Year. It’s also a question — “Will it be a good year?” You and I won’t be able to answer until the ball drops in 2021.
Before I talk about pivoting please know that I support focusing on fundamentals of fundraising. I’ve been teaching known best practices for the past five years and employ them in my consulting work. I called my firm i5 Fundraising because we sometimes make fundraising too complicated. By focusing the I’s
Identify, Inform, Involve, Invest, and Impact
nonprofits can rise above the noise that can distract even the best fundraiser. That noise might present itself in the form of a new tool or in an unproven new practice.
While I believe in staying focused I also know from experience that we all need to be prepared to pivot. Times change and people, yes that means your donors, change – see my articles about:
Tools and techniques that we thought were proven no longer work or never really did. I highly recommend following The Agitator, Adrian Sargeant, Jen Shang, the folks at Bloomerang, Michael Rosen, and Penelope Burk’s Blog — all offer insight based on data or research.
And please, please pivot when it comes to diversity. The cities, states, and countries and the world in which we live are all becoming far more diverse than the population of your own community might suggest.
Want to know more about diversity and about new perspectives? Follow people like Angelique Grant and Kathleen Loehr from Aspen Leadership Group, Ikhlaq Hussain from Orphans in Need, Taylor Shanklin from Pursuant, Armando Zumaya, Kishshana Palmer, and Louis Dietz. You are also welcome to contact me to request a copy of my PowerPoint about Diversity in Fundraising.
I’ll leave you with a couple of examples of pivoting.
- Pivot when a planned program, project, or form of fundraising falters.
This article about immunization events being shut down due to planned protests is a brilliant example of a nonprofit pivoting. If you read beyond the early portions you will see that the organization turned lemons into lemonade by moving from public, in-person events to a social media campaign to raise funds to provide vaccinations. The campaign is enabling this organization to reach even more people than originally imagined.
[I humbly ask that that you please not assail me with messages about vaccination programs. I’m not sharing this to be pro or con, simply as an example of a nonprofit fundraising pivot].
What’s the lesson? The lesson is not to replace all of your events with a social media campaign. Rather, the wise fundraiser prepares him, her, or themselves to lead through change.
- Pivoting from “annual” and event fundraising to major and planned giving.
This is a type of pivot that I have recommended to several clients after completing a development audit. Jim Langley from Langley Innovations recently described annual giving as the two deadliest words in fundraising; I’ll leave you to read that brief but marvelous missive.
Event fundraising falls not far behind given the massive amount of time and effort which is often uncounted against dollars-raised. I have suggested to clients to audit the number of people and time spent on a fundraising gala or golf tournament then ask — was the $10,000 or $25,000 worth it. More important, could that time have been better spent focusing on major gift fundraising? One client said yes and is in the early stages of reaching out to individual donors and is successfully garnering larger gifts that alone could almost replace the income raised from an event.
What’s the lesson? Consider the true ROI (return in investment) of a specific fundraising activity.
- A personal Pivot
I am grateful for all that transpired in 2019. I am looking forward to practicing what I’ve been preaching about leading through change. I will continue to write and consult though on a far more limited basis. Thanks for reading and best wishes to you for a happy and healthy New Year!
Sophie Penney is the founder and President of i5 Fundraising and has been selected to be the next Director of Foundation Relations for Penn State University