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Three Trends That Aren't Going Away

February 21, 2019

By Elissa Beckett

As I prepare for the year ahead, I’m struck by the changing environment that the fundraiser of today faces. While each organization is different, and a lot of the fundraising fundamentals still hold true, a review of current and future trends can give today’s fundraiser something to ponder and bring back to their organization. Here are three trends that I’ve been thinking about lately.

Technology and Story-Telling

While story-telling is as old as fundraising, it’s the way we tell stories that now keeps fundraisers on our toes. In 2018, as technology gets both cheaper and easier to use, the best story-tellers will be live streaming, blogging, and using virtual reality.

One of the most powerful ways to connect to a donor is to get them “into the field” to see the work first hand. While this may be easier to do when building a hospital wing in a donor’s home town, it is possible to create a powerful experience for a donor who you can’t get there in person.

Take at look at Clouds Over Sidra, a short virtual reality documentary following a 12-year-old Syrian refugee (you can view it here: This incredible VR experience raised 70% more than expected at $3.8 billion. While this size and scale may be out of reach for most organizations, the technology is not.

Collaborative fundraising

The second trend that I find fascinating is collaborative fundraising. With trust in our sector continuing to wane, and the cost to attract a new donor higher than ever, perhaps it is time to consider working with other organizations. Benefits include cost savings, broader reach, and increased credibility. While the challenges are real, and it may take creative and potentially difficult conversations to get started, the possibilities are huge. Check out this series on the subject:


Finally, innovation in the sector, whether we like it or not, is having an impact on our donors, our organizations, and our fundraising. Donors are wealthier, younger, and more sophisticated. This new group of donors is looking for new solutions, including innovation and creativity in how their money is used and invested.

We need to rise to the challenge and meet our donors where they are. Some may view this trend as a threat to our sector, a sector which has operated in a largely transactional way with our donors giving them few opportunities to participate in our charitable work. I, however, think it can be a real opportunity.  With donors looking to deploy not only their philanthropic dollars but also their invested dollars—as well as seeking a deeper connection to their philanthropic work—organizations will have to be nimble, invest in building their own sophistication, and be able to partner strategically.

I’m excited to be reviewing the innovations in our sector and seeing which ones fit for the work I’m doing. I encourage all fundraisers out there to do the same.

Elissa Beckett, MBA, CFRE, builds philanthropic solutions for donors at Tides Canada and is an instructor at Ryerson University where she teaches Entrepreneurial Fundraising, a course that looks a partnerships, trends, and entrepreneurialism in the non-profit sector. The course is offered in class and online through Ryerson’s Chang School of Continuing Education. Connect with Elissa on LinkedIn


This article originally appeared as part of AFP Greater Toronto Chapter's blog.

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