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Nonprofit Lessons from 2020 to Grow in 2021

Adapting is not one and done 

Look – you faced (are facing) enormous challenges and you got through it. You overcame. You rose. You learned. You improved. You got better. Challenges are hard and not particularly fun, BUT from challenge we learn to stretch, to tap into creativity even in dark places, and to design new ways for our mission and impact.  

Recently, we released Growing in 2021 – a short collection of lessons learned from 2020 to power collective growth in 2021. The challenges before you may not be over, but you have proven yourself capable. So, what did 2020 teach us? 

Here are a few highlights from our new ebook and some of the nonprofit industry’s smartest digital thought leaders: 

Never Stop Fundraising. 

2020 provided many development staff with an inherent hesitancy in asking for money. Many of your donors found themselves in incredibly different financial situations than pre-COVID 19. At the same time, many donors responded to the incredible uncertainty with greater generosity. Most of our clients experienced record End of Year campaigns. 

2020 reminded each of us the importance and interconnectedness of our communities. Your nonprofit is serving a key need in your community. As you speak to your donors and supporters in 2021, speak to their renewed awareness of their community. Culturally, we are at a pivotal moment to invest in community awareness and community responsibility. Lean into that. 

Make Your Digital Content Personal. 

Many development officers are confident and excel at listening to donors when engaging in person. Most are good at keeping notes and personalizing their follow up one on one. This is crucial. 

However, for many, personalization ends or becomes severely limited under a certain dollar amount. This is a mistake! The digital landscape provides you with ample and if you want to scale your digital fundraising efforts personalization on a greater scale is pivotal.  

As Gabe Cooper, Virtuous CEO, put it “One of the silver linings of 2020 is that nonprofits are increasingly committed to listening better to donors…we’ve seen a lot of nonprofits pivot in 2020 to really listening to donors and trying to build better relationships.” This is wonderful! Now, continue your trajectory in 2021 with these industry insights. 

Virtual Events [Can] Have Great Impact.

‘Virtual Events’ struck many emotions within donors and nonprofit professionals throughout 2020 – anxiety, excitement, dread, exhaustion, and possibility. As you look to never stop fundraising, cultivating virtual and hybrid events is essential. Many industry leaders speak to lessons learned for peer-to-peer fundraising, virtual galas, and hybrid events.  

Instead of floundering in a virtual year, peer-to-peer fundraising has flourished. We have seen incredible growth in Peer-to-peer fundraising with a huge ROI for nonprofits.  

As you prepare for 2021, you carry almost a year of experience with Zoom and video calls, the capacity of your digital platforms, and the successes and failures covered in Growing in 2021 to propel you and your team to new heights.  

Jenna Jameson of OneCause shares in Growing in 2021 that From the front lines of the largest global fundraising pivot, we’ve seen the acceleration of virtual events and online fundraising. The need to extend beyond the ballroom, the 5k, or the in-person special event to engage and inspire virtual supporters will outlast the pandemic.” 

Change Your Marketing Mindset. 

Whether or not your title includes ‘marketing’, if your work involves connecting and motivating humans – you’re marketing. This is important to understand, because 2020 reminded us quite clearly that human connection is critical. When you are marketing (or fundraising), you must put the human center in that experience. The ask, the conversion, the email, everything else comes after the human. 

January 2021 is when many of our clients are reviewing what worked in 2020 and making plans for 2021. Growing in 2021 challenges you to look at your marketing and fundraising plan with this question: How am I putting the humans behind my impact first?”  

It is all about the relationship. This includes how you message, how you motivate, and how you measure. The setup of your analytics and measurement is just as important as the channel you use to motivate. (At Firefly Partners, we call this “Human 2 Human” because you are using the digital platforms to connect the humans working at your organization with humans who support (and donate to) your work.  

In closing, 

The biggest lesson we learned from 2020 and take into our 2021 growth outlook is this: 

People care greatly about the work that you are doing, and through creativity, an open mindset and personalized experiences you can create truly human connections with your supporters even in this digital world. 

Grab your copy of Growing in 2021

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