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by Shari Rudolph
We’ve just said good riddance to a global nightmare of a year. But the lessons of 2020 remain with us.
For the nonprofit sector, one of the biggest takeaways from the unprecedented year is the importance of diversifying your communications touchpoints and not relying on a single channel, like in-person events, to drive donations and engagement.
After the pandemic prevented large public gatherings, nonprofit leaders realized that having a comprehensive digital strategy is crucial to serving their constituents, keeping volunteers engaged and fundraising for donation dollars. Many organizations rose to the challenge while others struggled to adapt to the new normal.
In 2021, nonprofits will need to focus more than ever on online programming and digital marketing as COVID-19 remains a lethal public health threat.
With this overarching theme in mind, we have rounded up some of the biggest trends that will affect how nonprofits and charities do their business this year.
1. Virtual Events Are Here to Stay
With the pandemic canceling most in-person events in 2020, nonprofits needed to pivot fast to make up for all of those lost fundraising galas, dinners and fun runs. Despite the unusual circumstances, the most nimble organizations still found a way to produce compelling virtual events.
For instance, Upaya Social Ventures blew past its $200,000 goal for its annual gala to rake in $302,105 — despite having less a week to shift to a virtual program. This should inspire all organizations to make sure they have a solid digital strategy for online programming and fundraising.
2. Video Content Is No Longer Optional
YouTube has replaced Facebook as the top platform that affects consumer behavior, while video ads were the No. 1 way consumers discovered a brand they later purchased from, according to data from video maker Animoto.
An older survey from Google found that online video is the most influential source in driving donations for nonprofits, with 39% of people who watch a video reporting that they look up the relevant organization within 24 hours of viewing.
In short, people love watching videos and video marketing works amazingly well. In a related trend, expect live content to continue its explosive growth. If you’re not producing video content, this is the year to start investing in it.
3. Think Mobile First or Risk Losing Your Audience
Are you noticing a trend here? Digital is the future of marketing. And when it comes to online behavior, more and more of it is moving to mobile devices every day. If your website, fundraising tools and content aren’t optimized for mobile viewers, you’re leaving dollars and engagement on the table.
You should also consider SMS marketing such as text-to-donate technology as well as explore emerging storytelling platforms that are mobile first, especially Tik Tok (take a look at Tik Tok for Good). Generation Z conducts almost all of their business on their phones. If you’re not thinking about the mobile experience, you’re already losing ground.
4. E-commerce Is Ripe With Opportunity for Nonprofits
The digital transformation is not just affecting how nonprofits market themselves; it’s also enabling many of them to increase their income streams. One of the more interesting trends in this area is the rise of e-commerce for nonprofits.
With online tools like Shopify, nonprofit organizations can easily create an online store and start selling branded merchandise such as t-shirts, caps and hoodies to augment their revenue. More and more nonprofits are thinking like startups, seeking ways to diversify their sources of income. E-commerce enables you to do that.
5. This Is the Year to Prioritize Foundation Funding
In response to COVID-19’s economic devastation, some of the largest charitable foundations publicly pledged to massively increase their grantmaking. This trend will only continue to grow for the foreseeable future for a variety of reasons, including the fact that more foundations are supporting social movements and local communities more than ever.
In 2021, every nonprofit organization would do well to develop a strategic plan to approach at least a few foundations for grants.
6. Public-Private Partnerships Will Be More Pivotal Than Ever
If 2020 taught the nonprofit sector anything, it’s that no single group or organization can solve huge global problems like a pandemic. It takes cross-sector collaboration across government agencies, nonprofit entities and for-profit companies to move the needle.
With COVID-19 still a menace to society, we all need to think creatively about forming new partnerships and relationships that can drive greater impact for our constituents and create sustainable improvements in our communities.
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