from Mal Warwick’s Newsletter:

Fundraisers’ three biggest challenges

During the next three years, three trends, all currently underway, will gather force and pose big challenges to the nonprofit sector:

(1) The proliferation of new communications tools and technologies that offer new avenues for mobilizing support – and a vast new playing field for nonprofit competition.

During the past two decades, only those who are willfully blind could have missed the virtual explosion of new communications tools and technologies, from email and the World Wide Web to mobile telephones, Internet search tools, and social networking. Adjunct technologies that are less visible have complicated the mix, including encryption and Internet security tools, data mining, micropayments, online microenterprise and small-scale multi-issue giving sites, Webinars, and virtual conferences. Meanwhile, innovation has continued to thrive in offline marketing and fundraising, with face-to-face fundraising, or “direct dialogue,” gaining a firm foothold around the world.

In the 1980s and earlier, finding the optimal balance among direct mail and telemarketing on the one hand and major gifts, planned giving, capital and endowment campaigns, and special events, on the other, was straightforward and ordinarily quite simple. Nowadays, determining the ideal fundraising mix for any forward-looking nonprofit organization is anything but simple. Shrewd and insightful management is required to determine the right balance between short- and long-term investment objectives.

In an era when major corporations engaged on the frontiers of technology are investing billions of dollars in research and development, nonprofit organizations, too, must be ready to risk some hard-earned revenue in exploring new approaches to fundraising and marketing that may not yield substantial cash returns until many years in the future.

[Be sure to check out the newsletter for the other two trends: The need to gain an in-depth understanding of the ways networks work and The growing importance of multi-channel marketing and fundraising.]