FYI Blog

Top 8 Fundraising Lessons from 2017

As I look back on nearly 12 months of 2017, I’m choosing to focus on the silver linings in this year of turmoil.

Right from the start, we learned a lot about our resiliency and how to weather frequent storms; our ability to change tactics on the fly; and the pressing need to focus on how to effect change and make a difference when so much is beyond our control.

Here are the top fundraising lessons we learned this year:

  1. Everyone is an advocate. In the Trump era, every organization and individual can and must be an advocate for their cause—even if that cause isn’t traditional advocacy. This includes nurturing the “rage donors” who are giving in response to the constant chaos in Washington. These donors represent a huge windfall for many nonprofits this year, and it’s a challenge and a priority to resolicit and renew them.
  2. Second gifts can reveal a lot. And getting that second gift opens up a treasure trove of information. We uncovered the power of the second-gift rate metrics and how they correlate to first-year retention, giving us a way to dig deeper into our stats with real-world implications for moving forward.
  3. Co-op lists are killing it. For Avalon’s clients, co-ops are outpacing non-co-op outside lists, both upfront and over the long haul. We analyzed six fiscal years of results to back up this claim.
  4. Don’t ignore mid-level donors. This year reminded us that paying attention to mid-level donors really pays off. As long as you approach them with a respectful and compelling case for support, they will make a huge difference to the bottom line. Check out Avalon’s analysis on these donors.
  5. Elections matter. The impact of the 2016 election on fundraising to this day cannot be overstated. Avalon Analytics compared the window prior to the elections with the period after. Not surprisingly, our political advocacy clients saw a clear boost before and after the 2016 election compared to previous years, with the post-election window being the strongest. But interestingly, our non-political advocacy clients also saw a boost during the same period. It’s clear that, at least during and after this past election, donors were paying attention to what was at stake for the nonprofits they care about—and giving accordingly.
  6. Database conversions can be fun! I learned from our roundtable of experts that database conversions don’t have to be harrowing nightmares.
  7. Those who adapted to the volatile environment raised more money. Strategic investment AND dramatic political times equal record-breaking opportunities for growth. A whopping 65% of Avalon clients broke fundraising records in this unprecedented year with an overall revenue increase of 19%. And it was a balance of thoughtful strategy and capitalizing on the windfalls resulting from a charged environment. Now, the name of the game is to focus on good stewardship to keep these super-motivated donors energized and giving.
  8. Direct mail may be in a museum, but it’s not dead! Nestled among the Smithsonian’s 156 million artifacts, works of art, and specimens are several Avalon direct mail packages! We are thrilled and honored that the American History Museum’s Giving in America exhibition includes samples of Avalon’s work among a selection of direct mail fundraising packages.

As Avalon’s 20th anniversary year comes to a close, I want to thank you for being a loyal reader of our FYI blog—and for helping me find the silver linings as we start Year Two of Trump and our ongoing efforts to protect our democracy and change the world!