There is nothing better than a razor-sharp focus on the “right things.” And the beginning of a new year is just the time to sharpen that focus. Which is why Jeff and I have assembled what we believe are the six non-profit leadership trends for progressive and effective leaders to follow in 2022.

We are sharing them with you with the hope that they will be helpful to you as a leader and manager during the coming year to be the best you can be in delivering good to the planet, your donors, and your employees.

Here they are:

Understand the dual purpose of fundraising — Fundraising is not just about money. It is so much more than that. The enlightened and progressive leader will understand that fundraising is about securing funds for program AND fulfilling the passions/interests of donors.

Understand the economics of fundraising — There are several points here as follows:

  • Every donor must deliver net revenue, except for those donors coming in through acquisition where, in the first cycle, they usually lose money. But the principle here is that this is the economic part of the dual purpose and that is to deliver net revenue to the organization. If a donor does not do that, then the organization cannot, in our judgment, spend time and resources on them.
  • Economic value increases over time. If the donor relationship is managed properly, the economic relationship will get better over time. Poor economics are symptomatic of poor relationships.
  • Not all donors are the same. They have different needs, values, communication preferences etc. And they give different amounts and have different feedback needs. All of this needs to be taken into account when managing donors.
  • You must have a balanced pipeline. This means that donors are regularly coming into the organization via acquisition, then moving into the general direct marketing portion of the pipeline, then mid-level, then major gifts, and finally planned gifts. Every segment of the pipeline must have donors in it with some of them proactively moving into higher levels. Your strategy must show movement of donors through the pipeline.
  • Return on investment (ROI) is different for every part of the pipeline. And it gets better as donors move through it.

Diversity will help you achieve your mission — Progressive and effective leaders will know that our world is changing and that managing diversity values are important. Diversity will help you by:

  • Improving the quality of your decision making. You will have different voices and views.
  • Encouraging a more creative and innovative environment as you allow people from different backgrounds and cultures to “sit at the table.”
  • Fueling new ideas to solve the problems you are addressing.
    Here are some questions to ask yourself and other leaders on this subject:

    • Is your board representative of the people you serve?
    • Is everyone in your organization regularly in touch with those you are serving?
    • Are you diversifying your donor base?
    • Are you seeking the opinion of those you serve as you create and develop your programs?

Make employees your priority — Employees are the engine that drives your organization. It follows that they should be valued and cared for. But 51% of fundraisers expect to leave their current job in the next two years. 3 out of 10 expect to leave fundraising all together in the next two years. This is not good.

Here are the key things you can do to demonstrate how you value your staff:

  • Allow remote work and flexibility. This is a trend in the for-profit world as well. Think about doing this more in your organization.
  • Pay fairly and competitively. An age-old principle, yet one that is often ignored at non-profits. But fair and competitive pay is a fool-proof way to show how you value your employees.
  • Make sure culture is focused on employee well-being. This not only means providing solid health care benefits, but also a culture and environment that is safe physically and emotionally, policies that allow for leave for the major life circumstances a person faces, etc. If you say you care about your employees, then show it.
  • Listen to employees – value their opinions. There is wisdom everywhere. Even from those you might think about as the “little people”. They are actually not little – just in your own mind. Seek wisdom from everyone. It is good for you and good for them.

Create a culture of learning and adaptability — This is about adopting a change mindset – being open to change, promoting change, and helping your employees embrace change. It is also about supporting learning in every way and rewarding curiosity. On the curiosity front, this means allowing employees to ask why – to search for answers – to wonder. It also means encouraging them to challenge authority and speak up. All of this creates a culture of learning and adaptability.

Cultivate more authentic relationships with donors — Jeff and I have talked a lot about this. In fact, it is a core pillar of our mission – to help others develop authentic donor relationships and to make all the donor connections meaningful vs. transactional. There are several important elements to this trend:

  • Make donors a part of your mission: See them as partners. Look at fundraising, as I said earlier, as having two objectives: to secure funds for program AND to help donors fulfill their passions and interests. When you make donors part of your mission to elevate them to their new and, in our opinion, rightful place.
  • Be obsessed with reporting on impact: We don’t do enough reporting back to donors on how their gift made a difference. This is why so many donors are not satisfied with their relationship with their non-profits. This is a key part of authenticity – giving feedback on the good that has been done through the donor’s giving.
  • Devote time and resources to identifying donor passions and interests: When you dedicate time to this, you are truly changing how you approach fundraising. You are moving from a transactional strategy to a relational strategy. Donor’s passions and interests need to drive your donor messaging and relationships.
  • Make sure everyone in the organization has a relationship with donors: Jeff and I find that many managers, leaders, and employees of non-profits do not have a clear understanding of where the money they spend comes from. Yes, they know that fundraising is doing its job. But they need to know more than that. They need to understand and value donors.
  • Boldly asking donors for support: You can boldly ask a donor for support when you understand that an ask, based on the donor’s passions and interests, is a gift to the donor, not an irritation. It is a gift because it is helping the donor do the good they want to do. When you understand this, then you can be bold. If you fear asking, examine how you are thinking about fundraising and donors. That is the cause of your fear.

There you have it. The six non-profit leadership trends we believe will be playing out in 2022. Pay attention to them in your operating style and practice. It will be good for you, for the important cause you serve, and for your donors.