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Industry Insights: 3 Key Lessons on Post-Pandemic Engagement

Here at the Donor Relations Guru Group, we love good data, research, and analytical insights into our industry – and that’s why we created the Pulse of Donor Relations and why we appreciate the recent publication of The Fundraising Outlook Report from our friends over at OneCause! Packed with interesting insights on NPO event trends, post-pandemic engagement opportunities, technology investment shifts, and much more, it proves to be a great read no matter if you are in donor relations, events, IT, or fundraising leadership. Here are three key takeaways that we found especially interesting – and will be using in our own work as well!

  1. Hybrid event experiences grew by 3x in the past year, and 69% of organizations surveyed will retain some hybrid component to their event strategy in the future. This is a significant, long-term shift that was not imaginable in the industry even 5 years ago. The over-reliance on in-person events and belief that donors don’t engage virtually has finally begun to crumble. Organizations are having success in their fundraising and engagement efforts with new, innovative methods and are not looking to abandon them as soon as things “return to normal.” Core beliefs have changed, and organizations that have adapted with technology and innovation will continue to move forward further and faster than those that do not. Of those surveyed, 75% of organizations will be back to in-person events by spring of 2022, but half have plans to incorporate their virtual supporters – which is vital!

  2. While the report doesn’t tell us how the participating organizations are engaging and retaining their donor base during this time, 56% shared their retention rates are up, they are reaching a greater percentage of first-time donors, and are re-engaging more of their lapsed donors. This tells us that we must double down on the importance of donor relations and stewardship at all levels and ensure that donors starting from the annual giving level are being properly acknowledged and recognized. It’s wonderful that these donors are choosing to give—now we must report impact and foster the relationship, so they stay. We can do that through broad-based impact reporting, behavior-based recognition programs, thoughtful communications, and more!

  3. When it comes to engaging virtual donors post-pandemic, the report made one thing glaringly obvious—we are not prepared nor thinking about the long-term needs of these donors. Only 38% of organizations surveyed reported they had plans to build new hybrid experiences to engage donors who choose to continue to engage in this format (i.e., those who will never be coming back to in-person events or meetings). Nearly 1 in 4 organizations have no plans at this time for this critical population. Without a plan, creative thinking, or dedicated strategy, these donors will certainly disengage in the long run. You are choosing one donor segment over another instead of creating avenues in which donors can choose their engagement method. While we may be adapting to the short-term needs of the pandemic era, we have to prepare to shift our business models long-term for the needs of virtual donors.

We hope you enjoy this read as much as we did! Share your reactions and takeaways below – we’d love to hear from you.


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