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The Future of Fundraising at the AFP International Conference

Resource Center - Foundation

Innovation is great. Keeping up with innovation? Not so great—or easy.

Every day new technology, tools and trends emerge that could significantly impact our ability to connect with donors and raise funds. But only if we know about them, understand them and figure out the best way to use them. It’s not easy, and even the savviest of fundraisers can put out their hair trying to keep up.

But there ARE ways to keep up and make the latest innovations work for you. You just have to take the right approach, and no one knows that better than Steven Shattuck, chief engagement officer for Bloomerang.

Steven looks at innovations every day in this role at Bloomerang, trying to decipher what’s going to become important to the profession and what’s likely to fade away. He’ll be giving a workshop at the AFP International Fundraising Conference on Saturday, April 29, on the implications of new tools, trends and innovations that help nonprofit work smarter, not harder. AFP sat down with him to talk about this important topic.

steve shattuck postcard 2017Q: So let’s start with the obvious question. How DOES one keep up with new technologies and innovations that seem to be coming out every single day?

A: I think it's important first to not overwhelm yourself or allow yourself to be overwhelmed. Because of how fast things move, there is a lot of pressure on communicators and marketers (particularly nonprofit ones) to stay up-to-date at all times. Nonprofits in particular seem to unfairly bear the brunt of shame when it comes to using outdated methods.

That being said, one of the best ways to keep up with everything is not to do it alone. Maintaining at all times an active peer group wherein you can fill each other in on what you're seeing, reading or hearing—and even trying—can be invaluable. There are many good Facebook and LinkedIn groups where fundraisers are filling each other in, and meeting with local peers in person can be just as good.

Q: In your experience, what one simple innovation or area do you think charities are missing out on or ignoring?

A: Automation. Not that we aren't automating things already, but that we aren't optimizing those existing automated processes.

Take, for example, the automated email that a donor is sent after giving online. Transforming that typically perfunctory, boring receipt into a true gift acknowledgement that puts a smile on the donor's face (and drives them to further action) can be done so easily through just a few tweaks.

Recognizing already-automated processes for the stewardship opportunities they are can be a game-changer.

Q: Gamification and augmented reality are two examples of very cutting-edge innovations. Can charities really expect to employ these in their fundraising, or are there ideas or principles that we can take from these innovations and apply them to our organizations?

A: Gamification is one of those things that has crept into our lives almost without us knowing about it. Social media is one example of this, itself being a gamified system. That's why it's so rewarding to get likes, comments and shares. Those tiny bits of feedback are no different psychologically than scoring points in a game.

Fundraisers have a huge opportunity to capitalize on that psychological effect; perhaps that's what peer-to-peer fundraising is so popular and effective. When fundraisers have a clear goal, can track progress and compare it with others, as well as be rewarded with things like badges, fundraising can become a fun game in and of itself.

Augmented reality seems distant and out of reach for the average, small shop. But so did email, social media, online giving, analytics, A/B testing, text-to-give, P2P and all the other tools that are so ubiquitous now that we forget ever not having them. Your iPhone didn't exist 10 years ago. Can you imagine living without it? AR's price will decrease while its accessibility will only increase.

Q: How can charities begin thinking about which innovations to use and which to—okay, maybe not ignore, but put in their back pocket and focus on later? How do you decide?

A: I think it's important to first get your house in order so to speak. If you aren't segmenting your data and creating donor profiles/personas; or crafting stories about the impact your donors are having; or focusing on engaging the donors you already have; or giving new donors a satisfying experience; you won't be able to make effective use of any new social network or communication tool.

If you are doing those things and want to branch out, don't forget that you don't have to do it alone. Find out what your peers have tried and what's worked for them. Read blogs, attend conferences—then decide for yourself. Early adoption is often rewarded, but only if you do more than just dip your toes into a lot of different streams.

Q: We hear a lot about the importance of innovation and new trends, but equally important, what hasn’t changed? Are there areas where we should be more skeptical of change?

A: Making your donors feel truly appreciated, communicating the impact of their gifts and soliciting their feedback has been and always will be the cornerstone of donor loyalty. HOW we do those things is where the innovations and new trends come into play.

A: What innovation or change have you used professionally or personally that’s had the greatest impact?

A/B testing. You don't have to guess or wonder if a different looking or worded donation form, email, social media post, etc. would perform better than another (another form of gamification). Even if you don't yet have software to do this, manual testing can provide great insights.

To hear more from Steven and attend his workshop on April 29 at the AFP International Fundraising Conference in San Francisco, click here to register.

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