Jun 17 2022

Classy Collaborative 2022: Highlighting Emerging Fundraising Trends

The pandemic shifted things dramatically from a fundraising standpoint, but big-picture demographic trends will continue to matter too.

This year’s in-person edition of Classy Collaborative took place in a rock concert hall — The Fillmore Philadelphia, a cavernous venue that usually hosts national touring musical acts.

But the in-person portion of the event (there were also virtual sessions with different presenters) brought in a number of major figures in philanthropy — rock stars in their own right — who had broad insights on the sector’s potential, including leaders with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Giving Tuesday, the Jane Goodall Institute and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

And they had a lot to say about the state of fundraising trends. Read on for a few examples:

Fundraising Trends: “2020 Just Broke Everything”

In a Thursday session highlighting high-level trends, Woodrow Rosenbaum, chief data officer of Giving Tuesday, said the pandemic’s most dramatic effect on the nonprofit sector is that it affected the industry’s overall stability.

“Coming out in 2019, we were starting to see long-standing patterns, and then 2020 just broke everything,” Rosenbaum said. “And while on the surface, 2021 seemed to be a return to some of the longer-term trends, when we look underneath those kinds of top line metrics, it's actually quite different.”

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What factors were at play? Simply put, Rosenbaum said that overall participation was down, and while fundraising totals in general were continuing to grow, the number of people taking part in fundraising efforts has continued to slip in recent years.

Christa Evans, vice president of development with First Book, noted that one of the challenges that nonprofits faced was an inability to capitalize on the unusual circumstances of 2020.

“So we knew that 2020 was a flip in terms of acquisition because of the urgency of our missions,” Evans said. “But we're not capitalizing on the brand awareness and the mission message that was put out during those times to keep that acquisition up.”

BUILD YOUR STRATEGY: Learn how the right IT team can help strengthen your digital strategy.

Shifting Donor Demographic Needs

During a Wednesday session, Classy COO Soraya Alexander brought in members of the company’s leadership council, many of whom have prominent places within the nonprofit sector — a perch that gives them a unique perspective on the sector’s evolution.

Victoria Vrana, deputy director of philanthropic partnerships at the Gates Foundation, noted that it is important to understand donors’ motivations and how shifting demographics can affect those things.

“There's really no statistical difference in giving across race and ethnic groups, but there is a big difference in the how and why donors are giving,” Vrana said. “So, Asian and Black donors are much more likely to give to social justice causes than white donors. They're more likely to give through informal channels like mutual aid or direct cash transfers and crowdfunding. They're more likely to be donors and filler across the board and more likely to be on crowdfunding platforms.”

These differences, she noted, highlighted the importance of understanding targeted strategies. “Making sure that we've got all the pathways open for every donor is critical, I think, for the sector,” she said.

During the Thursday session, Jeannie Sager, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University, said that it was important to know that the status quo — as she noted, per Blackbaud data, the average donor was a 65-year-old white woman — was likely to change.

“So what are we doing, with regard to our systems, to make sure that we are reaching out to those future donors and meeting them where they are, and relating to them as they are and understanding their experience?” Sager said.

READ MORE: Learn why nonprofits should consider restructuring to support recurring donations.

Embracing Virtual Event Strategies

While the pandemic created significant changes — some more fleeting than others — one trend expected to remain was the rise of virtual events, another point the leadership council emphasized in their Wednesday session.

“I think when we talk about community and what that looks like to the community of donors, there's some real opportunities within this virtual space to access and engage and meaningfully connect with people that we may not have been engaging with previously,” said Anna Rathmann, executive director of the Jane Goodall Institute.

Will Fowler, CFO of the Fox Foundation, added that it was a struggle for many organizations, including his, to respond to the sudden pivot to virtual events, but that it opened up opportunities to move beyond athletic events, which naturally leave some people out, in favor of virtual galas.

“Two years in, it’s not an anomaly anymore. Now it's the expectation,” Fowler said. “Now people expect virtual events. That's a huge sea change in just two years.”

Rathmann added that virtual events made it possible to integrate her nonprofit’s biggest asset, the 88-year-old Goodall, in new ways. “Being able to use virtual technology and integrate her into things, we are reaching such a broader ripple effect,” she said.

Keep this page bookmarked for coverage of the event, and follow us on Twitter @BizTechMagazine and the official conference Twitter feed, @ConnectAtCollab.

Photography by Ernie Smith

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