If anything, the last few weeks has taught us that we shouldn’t be naïve to think a new year means a fresh new start. Aside from COVID-19, what else should we be paying attention to?

Things that can affect fundraising in 20212020 in Australia finished exactly as we should have expected. With fresh COVID-19 cases popping up in New South Wales and then spreading to Victoria and Queensland, border closures were re-enforced, gatherings limited, and La Niña put a dampener on our festive spirit.

Only one week in and 2021 is promising to give 2020 a run for its money. So don’t cancel your Zoom subscription anytime soon. But, what other trends, shake-ups or learnings should we be keeping an eye on for this year?

Here are our top left-field predictions that will influence fundraising in 2021.

Bitcoin’s bull run

Things that can affect fundraising in 2021Blink and you might have missed the coverage, but Bitcoin has been on a bit of a bull run for the last few months. While this latest charge is breaking a new record seemingly every day (it’s currently sitting just under $50,000AUD), it’s flown relatively under the radar compared to the hype created when it last took off in 2017.

While the upward spike still shows the hallmarks of a highly volatile market, it’s proving that cryptocurrencies may have more legitimacy than the cynics first decried years ago.

But what does this have to do with fundraising, do you ask? Bitcoin, decentralised finances and the blockchain overall, can play a role in an increasingly unstable global economy and our evolving relationship with money.

In the U.S., over 20% of all U.S. dollars were created in 2020, pushing more people towards Bitcoin out of fear of inflation. In Australia, businesses refused cash in favour of contactless payment options in an attempt to help stymie the spread of the coronavirus.

Faced with constant scrutiny and demand for traceable donations, decentralised, distributed ledgers can provide the transparency and clarity donors demand from nonprofits. There are some real-world examples of how digital currencies are being used to bank the unbanked, store personal documents such as birth certificates for those in war-torn regions and prevent voter fraud.

And while, we’re not recommending you all go out and open wallets and start accepting crypto donations (although, some NGOs are doing just that), we recommend keeping one eye on the movements of the cryptocurrency market, especially with the unrest in America.

QR codes and 5G

Two big stars in the COVID-19 saga were QR codes and 5G. Once on their way out, QR codes have been brought back with a vengeance, thanks to the pandemic. Now, it’s safe to say that most people know their way around near field technology.

What could this mean for fundraising? Near Field Creative emerged in the market long before COVID-19 offering QR codes linking to donation landing pages that can go on t-shirts, lanyards and even *cue collective aww* guide dog vests. Essentially, it’s a contactless, cashless donation mechanism – perfect for a world reeling from a global pandemic. People not only expect to scan those funny, square boxes but do so without instruction nor question. We predict this increase in usage outside of the sector will only be a good thing.

It wasn’t just QR codes, but mobile phone usage, gaming and fast, reliable internet that took precedence in 2020. With more time at home with not much else to do, the world took to video games. The wholesome world of Animal Crossing provided some much-needed escapism, and the new PlayStation 5 sold out in Australia within minutes.

Things that can affect fundraising in 2021The 2020 Global Giving Trends Report released at the end of last year reveal donor enthusiasm and appetite for mobile-based apps that allow gamified fundraising and donating. Fundraisers take note, after last year, donors will be busy levelling up and searching for Easter eggs.

Community centricity over donor centricity

With racial and political unrest across the world, and even in our own backyard, there is a movement towards community centred fundraising, pulling away from the sector commandment of donor centricity. Community centred fundraising focuses holistically on the sector as a cornerstone of society, rather than a series of transactions or individual relationships.

Grounded in equity and social justice, it aims to champion fundraising principles that build power and voices of communities of colour. It also works towards unifying the sector as whole with all organisations working together for greater social impact. This could mean declining funding and allowing it to go to other organisations, valuing smaller gifts the same as major gifts, and understanding that donor expectations perpetuated by larger organisations can ultimately inhibit smaller – but just as important – organisations.

Community centric fundraising believes current practices can perpetuate a saviour complex, while ignoring the needs of marginalised communities by putting the donors’ needs above the needs of beneficiaries.

Our own communities are becoming smaller. Unable to travel overseas we’ve lost elements of globalisation. Even restrictions on interstate travel means that our universes have shrunk even further. And within these communities, many are struggling financially, emotionally and socially.

It’s never been more important to listen to the needs of our communities, to prioritise their needs over donors, and to view our fight for social and economic justice through the lens of equity and diversity. As the sector faces ongoing strains from the pandemic and recession, this is the time to band together.

The new wave of publishers

In Australia, the pandemic was a kiss of death for some regional newspapers and media outlets. Many journalists, writers and Subject Knowledge Experts migrated over to platforms like Patreon and Substack to begin their own subscription newsletter services, allowing followers and readers to pay for content they valued. Traditional media’s obituary has been written for a while, but its successor hasn’t been crowned yet.

How we use social media is changing, too, as the tidal wave of backlash against big tech and oversharing reaches an all-time high. When Twitter banned Trump from their platform this month, they declared themselves – unintentionally or not – as a publisher. However, this also pushed those on the fringes into the arms of alternative channels such as the now offline site Parler. How will this change how organisations use social media?

The rise of opinion over editorial, echo chambers and a growing distrust of authority will change how we promote campaigns and communicate to audiences. And most importantly, it will change how we hold those in power to account. Mass reach will become virtually impossible, media outlets will become decentralised and content won’t have to depend on advertising for viability.

Fundraising will have to look beyond sponsored content or influencers to get reach and cut through. Facebook ads simply won’t be enough to gain traction. Encouraging supporters to post and share on social media may fall on deaf ears. Nonprofits will need to keep attuned to how people are using different platforms, and created specialised, genuine content to deliver cut through in a saturated market.

Another lesson we’ve learnt from 2020 is that any and all predictions and plans can be thrown out the window without a hint of notice. Plan for the above, or not! Who knows what we’ll be able to achieve in 2021? But above all, don’t forget about the lessons we’ve learnt in 2021, be kind to yourself for not being able to do everything, or taking that much-needed time off. We’ve got a big year ahead of us.

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