Brave New World: Fundraising Technology in 2020

A Brave New (Non-Profit) World

How innovations in technology will continue to change the way donors interact with good causes

The future of fundraising?

Back in 2009, Ken Burnett wrote in his blog ( about the future of fundraising. He gave these thoughts on ‘how donors would be different in 2020’:

“It depends principally on whether fundraisers will get clever and start building more substantial, more meaningful relationships with their donors, offering them more tangible benefits and practical engagement….The emphasis will be on the donor experience – real, useful, regular feedback will be one part of the key to this, consistent, informative, welcome and produced to a very high standard.”

“Donors have gained and will gain increasing control of our means of communicating with them”

Keith Collins from Purple Vision gives some thoughts as to how this brave new world of donor relationships will be made possible by innovations in technology over the next few years.

1.Technology will bring donors and beneficiaries together

Particularly in the world of overseas aid and development, large charities such as Oxfam and Christian Aid have traditionally acted as brokers between donors in developed, western economies and those that benefit from their work.

The good reputations of these large development NGOs has provided the donors with confidence that their money will be well spent, and that the projects receiving their funds will be vetted and regularly monitored so as to be sure that the funding delivered provides for the appropriate outcomes – whether that is the delivery of fresh water to a remote village, or the education of young girls.

However, for the donor the primary relationship has been with the non-profit – even though stories, videos and project updates have been provided that communicate the benefits of the work in the field.Increasingly, technology that helps to bring funders and recipient projects closer together will become increasingly popular to donors – for example, sites such as Global Giving – providing the “real, useful, regular feedback” that encourages the donor to build a strong relationship with the cause.

Integrated social media tools will also increasingly enable relationships to be developed between like-minded donors.

2.Technology will harness local knowledge

Locally based fundraisers – volunteers or paid staff – will wrest control of the supporter database away – forever – from the charity central office ‘mothership’, and use it to “start building more substantial, more meaningful relationships with their donors”.

The days of complex, on-premise databases accessible only from a charity HQ or selectively from some regional offices are over. The best CRM systems – including offerings from Blackbaud, ASI Europe and Salesforce – are maturing – retaining their offering of high-functionality and becoming more fun, nicer to use, platform-independent – and people will want to use them!.

Locally-based fundraisers will engage with supporters locally and capture and record intelligence about them from the comfort of their home office, or by updating the information using their smartphone – capturing an unprecedented amount of what Ken Burnett refers to as the “real, useful, regular feedback” about these supporters – that compliments the information captured at the HQ level about things such as regular donations, major donor approaches, campaigning activity etc.

3.Technology will enable a charity to truly understand what a donor thinks…or tweets!

The smartest charities will be delivering messages and information almost exclusively to a supporters’ web-enabled device – and leveraging their social media feeds to engage with supporters on a one-to-one basis with a deep understanding of that supporter’s engagement with your cause.

Ken Burnett’s assertion that “Donors have gained and will gain increasing control of our means of communicating with them” is correct. Charity supporters can engage with each other Facebook and Twitter – without the charity’s involvement.
Innovative tools such as Faceconnector ( will enable charities to monitor social media, reflect that information in their CRM systems alongside information captured through more traditional means (donations, phone calls, attendance at events) and use it to both engage early on in social media discussions, and leverage that information for identifying and recruiting advocates, campaigners, major donors, networkers etc.

Technology will enable non-profits to deliver very, very personalised marketing messages to their supporters
For a glimpse into the future of advertising, marketing (and perhaps charity fundraising!) we need look no further than the film Minority Report, based on a short story written by the prophetic Science Fiction writer Philip K. Dick.

It may seem scary, as many futuristic things can. It may seem intrusive, and we may, at present, not be ready to embrace it….but the future may well see the most sophisticated non-profit organisations leveraging the data they know about you to deliver more targeted web, mobile-web and DRTV based advertising messages wherever you are in the world – whether you are watching TV, using the Internet, out shopping or even travelling on the tube!

Information that you share freely with your favourite charities – in particular information about your smartphone to establish your exact location – will be used to enable your favourite charities to deliver personalised messages through nearby advertising or media portals

….but maybe they won’t need to do retina scans to achieve it!