10 Things that Changed Fundraisers Over the Last 10 Years

This year OneCause celebrates a decade supporting fundraisers!  Back on July 24, 2008, we launched the BidPal mobile bidding technology at our very first event, the Handi-Capable Hands golf event near our headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since then we’ve supported more than 15,000 fundraising events, helping nonprofit organizations raise nearly $1.5 billion.

Over the last 10 years we’ve seen many changes in technology and giving behavior that are impacting the way nonprofits approach fundraisers today. Our OneCause team looked back to compile the biggest changes that shaped the new world of fundraising.


1. Evolution of Mobile Technology

One of the biggest changes over the last 10 years has been the adoption of mobile technology. The introduction of mobile fundraising, saw auctions evolve from paper bid sheets to iPod bidding tools, and with the rise of personal smartphones, the move to the widespread adoption of mobile fundraising from personal devices. Mobile technology has brought supporters closer to causes, giving them instant access to year-round fundraising, and making the giving experience simple and engaging. Today, more than 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone, and supporters don’t even have to be in the room to join in on the giving.

2. Extending Engagement Beyond the Ballroom

Fundraising and donor engagement no longer stop at the ballroom door. Nonprofits expanded their fundraising focus beyond just one night and those supporters who are in the room. We now see more emphasis on a year-round engagement, and using event fundraising to build lasting, loyal relationships with supporters. It may start with an organization introducing a pre-event microsite to drive registrations and additional giving opportunities, to a full-blown year-round engagement plan with multiple touchpoints to attract current, new and lapsed supporters. We’ve also seen the rise in virtual fundraisers and online giving, connecting nonprofits to a whole new group of remote donors, and expanding their reach beyond their local base.

3. Heightened Focus on the Donor Experience

Ten years ago, nonprofits weren’t talking about the donor experience. It was common knowledge that when you signed up for a fundraising event, you’d be waiting in lines (both at check in and checkout), racing to that paper bidsheet throughout the night and captive to endless programming. Over the decade, there’s been an intentional shift by nonprofits to emphasize simplified donor experiences. The focus has evolved, engaging participants beyond just the dollars, by connecting them deeper to causes and their giving impact.  There’s also been a rise in donor expectations for more personalized, seamless experiences when interacting with a nonprofit. This has not only impacted the check-in/out experiences at an event, but how giving opportunities are woven throughout a fundraiser and the introduction of technology solutions to simplify giving.

4. Diversifying to a Multichannel Fundraising Strategy

Nonprofits have had to become more creative in how they raise funds. Today we now see more emphasis on a multichannel approach to fundraising where an organization may be running a raffle, wine wall, peer-to-peer challenge and auction all centered around a single event. Fading are the days of a single silent auction or live auction event. The move to multiple revenue streams within fundraisers provides supporters the opportunity to give and engage in the way they want as well broaden the revenue opportunities for the nonprofit.

5. Introduction of Peer-to-Peer and Social Fundraising

As the internet and social media evolved over the last ten years, we’re now more connected than ever to larger communities made up of family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. One of the best opportunities for year-round engagement and online fundraising growth is through the power of peer and social networks. Over the last decade technology has empowered peer-to-peer and social fundraising as more organizations activate their loyal donors into active fundraisers. We’ve seen more causes leveraging social media as a way to amplify their event promotion and engage larger social networks.

6. The Move to Paperless

We’ve seen the rise in popularity of the paperless movement as organizations look to save money and become eco-friendly. More and more nonprofits are opting to forgo the printer onsite at fundraising events, providing digital check-in, mobile bidding and emailed receipts. We’ve also seen the rise in digital promotions for fundraisers and less reliance on mailers, flyers and printed catalogs. Digital promotions driving to a fundraiser microsite increase engagement and giving from the first interaction. Today’s supporters can register for an event, start bidding on items, and share with friends’ weeks or even months before an on-site fundraiser takes place. Nonprofits are also looking to avoid costly signage to promote sponsors by going digital, and providing new opportunities for exposure on digital scoreboards, mobile devices, and microsites.

7. Shifting Donor Demographics

It used to be that nonprofits were laser focused on a specific donor demographic, 40-50s with discretionary income. Today, we see much more effort and strategy spent on reaching a younger donor base and cultivating the lifetime value of those relationships. According to The Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Report, 84 percent of millennials made a charitable donation in 2015. Many organizations are eager to add Millennial donors as they enter their prime earning years and stand to inherit a whopping $30 trillion from their parents in the coming decades. A more diverse donor base has also contributed to the need for more segmentation in communications, understanding donor personas and new channels for engagement opportunities. Younger donors have unique giving behaviors that are changing the way organizations approach fundraisers from the onsite activities to the pre and post event engagement.

8. Increasing Demand for Data and Impact

Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a call for greater transparency from supporters who want to better understand the impact of their contribution. This has changed the nonprofit narrative. Instead of waiting for the annual report, nonprofits weave in scoreboards and leaderboards that drive more excitement and funds, along with tying those donations directly to the impact they will have on the mission. Nonprofits are also becoming more data savvy, looking for insights into what supporters are connecting with and how they can better reach donors.

9. Do-It-Yourself Movement

The DIY movement hasn’t been limited to just home projects and crafts. Advances in technology and user experience have simplified nonprofits’ ability to implement new software and digital experiences into their fundraising efforts. Since nonprofit software and technology have become so easy to use, far less training and support staff is needed, and some organization are opting for a do-it-yourself model. Of course, there are still some fundraisers that require more customization and support, but the DIY model has created greater opportunities for smaller organizations to reap the time, resource and revenue benefits of fundraising software (or technology).

10. Rise in Social Responsibility

We’ve seen the rise in both personal and corporate social responsibility as the internet and social media give greater visibility to the causes in need. Technology has created more opportunities for individuals to connect to the causes they are passionate about, not only in their personal time, but also at work. In recent years, there’s been a growing number of corporate social responsibility initiatives instituted as more employees are demanding it. Today, nonprofits are looking to create opportunities for corporations to contribute through sponsorships, peer-to-peer challenges, and volunteer projects.