Special Report
A special report is content that is edited and produced by the special reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report but do not have editorial control.

Five trends for future fundraising

The not-for-profit sector continues to evolve with technology and social change

The not-for-profit sector is not immune to trends, but the pandemic has served to accelerate many of these and fundraising into the future will look markedly different. Here are five trends in fundraising as charities seek to shake up how they engage with their donors and the wider public

1 Going contactless

One of the casualties of the Covid-era has been the disappearance of charity bucket collectors from our streets. This was an easy way to donate – and invariably a huge moneyspinner for deserving charities. But social distancing and an increasingly cashless society has meant that major fundraising days as we know them are no more.

Yet contactless devices are beginning to take the place of the humble bucket, and this means of fundraising is growing exponentially.

One provider of technology to the non-profit sector reported that contactless donations to charities had doubled in the past two years. The devices can be found at the tills in a wide variety of shops – you’ve probably already seen them – and look set to be increasingly embraced by Irish charities as they make small donations even easier.

2 Artificial intelligence

AI has revolutionised almost every area of society, so why not the non-profit sector? With traditional methods of fundraising either paused or passé, the use of AI to enhance a charity’s fundraising efforts is swiftly becoming the norm.

For example, chatbots are becoming more common on charity websites as a means of engaging with would-be donors. They are programmed to understand questions, share information and perform simple tasks. Charity WaterAid ran their “Talk to Selly” campaign using chatbots, allowing potential donors the opportunity to chat to someone who would benefit directly from the charity’s support.

In addition, many aspects of fundraising can be tedious and time-consuming, and AI can help to speed these processes up significantly for non-profits, freeing up time for their precious people.

3 Hybrid events and campaigns

Charities coped admirably well with the switch to online when all in-person events were cancelled. Auctions, gigs and galas were conducted via the medium of Zoom as digital fundraising efforts were accelerated by necessity. But while virtual events and campaigns were relatively – and often surprisingly – effective, as we move into a different phase of the pandemic, charities are seeking to bring people together again. As a result, hybrid events incorporating both live and online elements look like they are here to stay.

Seen as the best of both worlds, these allow charities to broaden their engagement and also act as a contingency pending the introduction of any lockdown measures or potential Covid outbreaks. Achieving the right blend may take a little more imagination but will be crucial for the non-profit sector in reaching as wide an audience as possible as the pandemic continues.

4 The new social media

In recent years, social media has become a vital cog in any fundraising campaign. Post-pandemic, charities are learning that their social media presence can’t just be an afterthought, with authenticity and innovation appreciated online. The enormous popularity of video app Tik Tok among younger age groups means charities are getting more creative with their social media content.

TikTok offers embedded donation stickers, which allow for easy donations for users, but it also enables charities to engage with multiple generations on serious issues in a joyful, light-hearted way.

“Hashtag Challenges”, whereby users create their own content to show support for campaigns, have been hugely popular; UK charity Youth Music saw their “Music Shaped Me” campaign achieve more than 15 million engagements over three weeks on TikTok, compared with just 16,000 on Twitter. TikTok also likes to get involved in fundraising themselves, for example, donating £1 for every “Movember” challenge video posted to the app.

5 Sustainability

The not-for-profit sector is not immune to the wider emphasis on sustainability and climate-friendly practices. Discerning consumers are already showing their preference for sustainable businesses, and this will be reflected in the charity sector, with donors keen to support charities with impeccable climate credentials.

The term “green fundraiser” is being heard more often; it has a broad definition, where it can mean the event or campaign has a direct benefit for the environment, but it can also mean the materials used are eco-friendly and sustainable.