9 trends for successful fundraising in 2024

(and should you as a fundraiser jump on the AI bandwagon?)

In this blog, we will reveal 9 trends for successful fundraising in 2024. We will also answer the question of whether you as a fundraiser should jump on the AI bandwagon.

Trend 1: AI and fundraising

These days, the terms ChatGPT and AI are heard in almost every meeting. It makes sense. After all, AI is a wonderful innovation that you can delegate repetitive aspects of your work to. In 2024, there will be an influx of stable fundraising products that were developed using AI, particularly with regard to data (analysis, prediction, segmentation, selection).

At times, it can seem as if AI is taking over everything and there’s nothing left for you to do yourself. The best way forward, however, is to use AI primarily as a tool.

No matter how amazing and shiny the new toy may be, you must still be able to evaluate whether the output of AI is good enough. As the popularity of AI continues to grow, it is paramount that you keep investing in your professional expertise.

“What is written without effort is read without pleasure” – Dr Samuel Johnson

Truly effective and personal fundraising requires knowledge of:

  • the psyche
  • how relationships work
  • how our brain works
  • how direct response marketing works (especially online)
  • why and how people make decisions

Many of these principles have not changed at all in the past decade; it’s just that advances in neuroscience and psychology have given us new insights.

It therefore pays to learn more about direct-response techniques and find out what drives your target audience.   You have to know how these people read and what motivates them. You also need to know how to write and evaluate response-oriented copy. Lastly, you must learn to analyse your data so you can see for yourself what works to bring in more donations and what doesn’t. Learn what works. Do what works. Only then should you ask yourself how you can use AI (or the next innovation) as a tool to assist you with these tasks – not the other way around.

Trend 2: charities will draw up AI policies

Many people within organisations are playing around with ChatGPT and Midjourney. Your own organisation is probably no exception. This is perfectly fine.

However, you cannot expect the companies developing these AI products to be too concerned with the ethical questions concerning themes such as data security, privacy and copyright. AI can also be prejudiced. AI developers only care about developing more and faster products. In order to earn a profit for their shareholders, they have to recoup their investment as quickly as possible.

In the world of charities, however, trust is all we have to go on.

Our donors’ trust that their data are secure.
Trust that we don’t lie to our donors.
Trust that we don’t discriminate.

Trust that we don’t abuse people who did not consent to their picture or texts being used to generate AI visuals or texts.

You should always be careful when using AI. Even Disney will not use AI visuals in its advertisements until the copyright situation has been cleared up entirely. In our sector, we have to be a hundred times more careful.

Responsible AI: develop your own AI protocol

Now that ChatGPT has been around for more than a year, it is time to take stock and think about how (not) to use ChatGPT and other AI tools for your charity.

If you’re smart, you will develop a policy in 2024. You will also be hearing the term ‘Responsible AI’ a lot more. How does your organisation use AI in a responsible manner?

As an organisation, you have to decide how you want to use AI:

  • How can your employees use AI in their work?
  • What is your organisation’s stance on AI and its energy consumption?
  • What requirements does AI output have to meet? (Remember: AI can lie, make mistakes and be prejudiced.)
  • How do you safeguard data privacy?
  • How do you safeguard copyrights?

On the fundraising.ai platform, you can find a framework for Responsible AI. You can use this to draw up a protocol for your organisation.

Trend 3: the growing importance of personal relationships

In our everyday lives, the use of chatbots, automatically generated texts and AI is becoming increasingly prevalent. However, communication – especially in the world of fundraising – is an inherently human process.

We therefore expect personal communication to become increasingly important in 2024.

A handwritten card.
A phone call to say thanks.
A personal email message.

Your donor is sure to appreciate – and remember – these small gestures. The more automatically generated communication you receive, the more it all blends together. Amid all this, a personal letter is guaranteed to stand out.

More attention from your donor equals a higher chance of a donation.

Trend 4: the resurgence of QR codes

We are seeing an increase in the number of online donations made via a QR code. Our own research tells us that elderly donors prefer to make donations via their own trusted bank environment.

The great thing about a QR code is that you can include a wealth of information in it. For example, if a direct-mail donor is making a donation via a QR code, you can prefill their name, address and a suggested donation amount.

Trend 5: new opportunities for recruitment via inserts (including a campaign with a magazine or newspaper)

An insert is a mailing that comes with a magazine or newspaper. This can be successful growth strategy.

Two big advantages of this approach are that you don’t have to pay any postage costs and the average donation value is higher.

Secret tip: a letter in an envelop is more effective than a loose letter or postcard.

Trend 6: more attention for existing donors

As it becomes increasingly difficult to recruit new donors, it is a good idea to pay more attention to your existing donors to retain them and further develop your relationship.

Do not focus solely on recruitment. There is still so much to be gained from your existing donors.

Did you know that it is far cheaper to win back a former donor than to recruit a new one?

Trend 7: people donate as one of their identities

The latest insights in fundraising come from the scientific field of philanthropic psychology.

We already knew that people don’t donate because they like you, but to help others. The latest scientific insights reveal that people donate as one of their identities.

How does that work?

A donor may make one donation as a mother, the next as a Christian and finally as a dog lover.

When you know the identity with which someone donates, you also understand their motivation for doing so. To find out, you can include a question on your donation form: “What is your reason for making this donation?” You can also ask this question as part of your annual donor survey. You can then tailor your campaign and texts accordingly to significantly improve your relationship with your donors and stimulate their donation behaviour.

This is a fascinating new area of expertise that we will certainly be sharing more information about in the future.

Trend 8: the growing importance of your online data

Cookie legislation, spam filters, stricter rules from Apple and Google. It is more challenging than ever to bring your campaigns to the attention of new audiences online.

As a result, organisations are relying more on their proprietary online data. Think of e.g. your Facebook followers, website visitors, people who watch your video and especially your own mailing list.

You can combine these data with direct mail to generate more impact. You can also use them to launch a lead-generation campaign.

Here’s an example.

People can request an interesting brochure via social media. They receive the brochure, followed by several welcome messages via email. You then send them a donation request. You can do so via email, but it is even more effective to use the phone, as this gives you a better chance of turning a prospect into a long-term donor.

Trend 9: direct mail 2.0 – the new online disruptor

As you’ve probably noticed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract attention and earn money online. Fortunately, direct mail is as effective as ever. There’s a reason why online companies such as Google, HelloFresh, Uber, Amazon and Bol.com are making more use of direct mail to generate leads and sales.

In his book, Malcolm Aud calls direct mail ‘the new online disruptor’. Direct mail is still your secret weapon in the digital era.

The data show that direct mail is still a very effective tool for raising donations, building relationships and getting people to include your charity in their will. You can even combine direct mail with email and social media to further boost your effectiveness.

In fact, direct mail is more effective among young people when it is integrated into a multichannel strategy. This can consist of e.g.

  • email
  • direct mail
  • reminder email
  • personalised donation page
  • accompanying post on social media
  • YouTube video

With this, you can boost the effectiveness of your direct mail by up to 30%.

So: make your donors happy

Give your donors the opportunity to do some good and make them happy.

The happier your donors are, the better their relationship with your charity will be and the more donations you will receive.

I want to wish you the best of luck with this wonderful profession.

Bas van Breemen

Senior Strategist

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get fresh insights to help your charity grow.

More fundraising blogs