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Digital fundraising trends (and recommendations) for 2022

The velocity of change has increased for everyone in the last 22 months since the pandemic began.

In the wake of that velocity are some accelerated trends in digital marketing and fundraising—which should change the way we think, plan and execute moving into the new year.

Before we get to the trends, it’s worth calling out that I don’t like genericized trends. Yes, they are great for driving marketers to our website to read blog posts just like this one. But that doesn’t help in a practical sense.

And more so—the challenge with genericized trends is that there is a massive range of resources and capabilities across nonprofits in the U.S. and Canada. Before you think ahead to what’s possible and popular in 2022, I recommend you think long and hard about your own nonprofit’s digital marketing maturity.

Take our digital maturity quiz here

Disclaimers aside, here are three major areas of interest to propel your digital fundraising forward in 2022:

Digitization of data

Every marketing channel is now digital, even direct mail and face-to-face. We have new ways to integrate experiences on the front end for users—from QR codes to USPS Informed Delivery—and new ways to unify data on the back end—through the proper integrations of previously disparate data sets.

We can collect untold amounts of metadata. And all of this data should empower us to create even better experiences for donors. The digitization of everything means we acknowledge that we have more data than ever, actively put resources toward unifying data, and make data central to our strategies and decisions.

To best accomplish deeper digitization, nonprofits should evaluate their tech stack and consider what data they have and where it should live. Savvy nonprofits have begun looking to third-party data providers for warehousing and management solutions that equip them with infrastructure to enable data-oriented decisions in marketing campaigns.

Even savvier nonprofits are connecting that data in order to personalize dynamic content across devices. Those organizations are prioritizing data and integrations that enhance donor experiences. They understand not all data is meant to reside in their CRM. Additional data management solutions are needed.

Recommendations:

  • Lean into digitization. Build a data culture through a workgroup that prioritizes data strategy, collection and finding ways to use digital data to enhance all channels
  • Prioritize first-party data—it is the bedrock of your marketing efforts
  • List out the metrics and data points you can capture digitally, map where you are storing them, and prioritize how you can use them to enhance your strategy
  • Keep a pulse on changing privacy regulations. How marketers are allowed to collect data is evolving, and nonprofits won’t be exempt from these changes.
  • Find new ways to integrate your channels—QR codes are a no-brainer test, but there’s also mobile, enhanced out-of-home and the chance to scale connection through programmatic


Experiences, not campaigns


Nonprofits spent more on advertising than ever in the last year, and spend is projected to grow by another 100% before 2024. And digital ads are incredibly reliant on data to automatically optimize—yet the changing landscape of privacy regulations (like Apple’s iOS 14.5 update and cookie-less activations) are forcing marketers to rethink how we stay proactive in a season of impactful changes.

As opposed to just increasing your budget on separate channels, look for ways to tie your campaign (and spend) together to create more solidified journeys for your audiences. Now, more than ever, you need to spend time mapping your donor communication, then optimizing it.

Recommendations:

  • Start by segmenting your audiences based on behavioral interests and topics—not just campaigns. In other words, your ability to be a better marketer in 2022 is partly defined by your ability to manage and leverage data, but also give that data context—so that it can inform your efforts.
  • By segmenting and annotating your data, you can then create a tree of messages to speak to audiences in a specific way. In doing so, you can use data you’ve collected to introduce personalization. Salesforce found that marketers see an increase in engagement (55%) and conversion rate (63%) when they personalize.  
  • Email may very well be a renewed channel of importance in 2022. Personalization, automation and privacy have created space for email to maintain its relevancy in how we communicate. That means we have to do it better, with interactive/dynamic content.
  • Don’t forget about social messaging apps. Over 56% of global messaging app users say they have messaged brands to get more information in all stages of their buyer’s journey. Nonprofits can use message apps to create automated messaging series, extending your team’s bandwidth with technology.
  • If you really want to take the next step, you need to be thinking about intent as a part of your donor experience. Data, modeling and automation can create anticipatory marketing.
  • And if you want to think two steps ahead, you should consider how real-time research can provide you insights on your donor and acquisition audiences. This can further inform channel placement, sequence, cadence and message.

Content strategy

Digital communications can easily become fractured—even if you’re mastering data strategy and integrated thinking. The proliferation of content across email, web, mobile and social should force you to pause and really think about how to tell your nonprofit’s story in a compelling way.

In this case, compelling doesn’t mean analog. Marketers are often caught in the tension of wanting to create content that is 1:1 while scaling to execute 1:many.

This is where you must balance your content strategy with your data and technology teams and external partners. It sounds like a lot of coordination. We never promised integration would be easy.

Your content strategy should reflect your authority in your area of expertise, whether that’s ending hunger in your community, helping the impoverished, providing care for animals or creating a new healthcare vertical. The key to your success here is that the authority must strike a smart balance of the problem you’re trying to solve and the way in which the donor helps you solve it. Don’t lose sight of that.

The earlier trends mentioned in this article can help your content strategy deliver with efficiency, but it can’t be effective unless you work hard on expressing your needs and differentiations.

Recommendations:

  • Yes, data can help you with your content strategy. Remember what we said earlier about annotating and capturing interests in your existing messaging and campaigns.
  • Think about your tone. It’s very likely that your donors regularly experience fatigue based on endless scrolling and inbox bombardment. You can further humanize your message by thinking about your tone and how you express things with greater empathy.
  • Digestible content is extremely important. Notice, I didn’t say short content. Digestible might mean scannable or presented in more compact chunks.
  • DIY-style videos are a no-brainer in your content strategy. 74% of marketers say that video has a better ROI than static imagery.  
  • Also a no-brainer—social stories. You can use stories to engage with your audiences through polls, links, mentions, live video and more. Done well, you can further humanize your cause and call-to-action in a way that meets your donors where they are (on social … a lot).
  • Don’t forget about the power of influencers in your content strategy. Creators are looking for ways to deepen their engagement with their audiences—and it may open doors for you to have a strategic partnership. Podcasts and live social experiences are good ways to get started.

It’s far too easy to get distracted by what’s new. Our take: don’t do that.

Think of these trends less as shiny objects and more as waves or currents that each nonprofit needs to jump on in a place that makes sense for them. In doing so, we think you’ll have a prosperous and more digitally enhanced year to come.

Justin McCord

Justin McCord is the Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at RKD Group, leading the sales and marketing teams. Justin oversees brand management, business development and content marketing for RKD, and he hosts the award-winning Groupthinkers podcast. He is also a regular speaker and contributor to nonprofit marketing events, helping shine a light on current issues and progressive strategies to align channels and improve connection.

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