The Future of Fundraising: Technology Raises the Stakes

The following article is a guest post by Tycely Williams, CFRE, vice president of development at YWCA USA.

Seeing is believing. Beliefs alter attitudes, drive actions and are the primary reasons generous people give time, influence, money and possessions to charitable causes. Those of us working within the nonprofit sector fully understand the significance of generosity.  According to Giving USA, 2015 was America’s most generous year; donations from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations reached an estimated $373.25 billion. Individual giving and bequests accounted for nearly 80 percent of contributed dollars.

The future success of fundraising will largely remain dependent upon the generosity of individuals. Yet, how we engage and inspire individual donors will wildly change.  Intuitively, we know if people could see a program and hear first-hand from the beneficiaries their propensity to make a financial contribution would exponentially increase.  However, in today’s fast-paced environment it is difficult to persuade every past, current or prospective donor to see mission in motion.

In order to meet the needs of those we serve, we must rely on technology to connect and inspire donors.  We must passionately create innovative emotional exchanges that enable our donors to effortlessly see, believe and act.

Amnesty International U.K. and San Francisco design and technology agency Junior recently launched a self-guided virtual reality tour (viewable on the web or by virtual reality headsets) that authentically shows the horrific devastation of barrel bombing in Aleppo, Syria.  The virtual reality technology enables Amnesty International UK to take prospective donors directly to the dreadful streets of Syria.

A New York based nonprofit, Charity: Water, recently introduced virtual reality technology at an annual black-tie fundraising banquet. After dinner and prior to the start of the fundraising segment, guests watched, through individual headsets, the transformative power of clean water. Guests were transported from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to a remote village.  That evening they met Selam, a 13-year old girl whose mother died one year earlier collecting water she feared was full of leeches and disease.  Guests could see the profound impact of a sanitary well and consequently believed they could play a meaningful role. After watching the film one donor who committed to give $60,000 increased his investment to $400,000.

Successful fundraising hinges upon our ability to transform the traditional.  Any effective contributed income strategy must identify an unmet need and inspire people to make charitable contributions in order to fulfill that need. As we look to the future, we must creatively and boldly embrace technology. How we raise revenue will constantly evolve—but, why we fundraise must remain rooted in our desire and responsibility to ensure the welfare of others.