Giving Trends for Social Justice Organizations and 8 Ways to Leverage Them

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Support for social justice nonprofits has been growing in recent years. This is due to conversations sparked by current events and generational shifts in attitudes. Studies suggest this increased interest is here to stay, which is good news for organizations dedicated to achieving lasting systemic change.

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Support for social justice nonprofits has been growing in recent years. This is due to conversations sparked by current events and generational shifts in attitudes. Studies suggest this increased interest is here to stay, which is good news for organizations dedicated to achieving lasting systemic change.

This guide takes a look at current top giving trends for social justice causes and explores what the donor landscape might look like in the future. This article also covers six data-driven methods for attracting new donors to your nonprofit. Even if you’re a small organization with limited resources, focused action can radically impact your fundraising efforts.

Following the senseless murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other Black Americans, there has been a significant increase and sustained awareness of and passion for social justice issues. Organizations across the United States saw a dramatic increase in donations throughout 2020 and into 2021. This was especially true for grassroots nonprofits and crowdfunding campaigns, with both receiving record amounts of gifts.

While donations poured in for national organizations like Black Lives Matter, awareness also grew for local nonprofits such as Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective. Together, these two organizations received a combined $30 million in gifts as of June 2020.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund received an additional $30 million in donations, which is 300 times its annual budget. Meanwhile, the GoFundMe established for George Floyd received the most donations in the platform’s history. The fundraiser for the family of Breonna Taylor has raised over $6 million.

Calls demanding social justice reform have spanned across multiple generations. However, it is worth noting the impact of this movement has inspired younger generations to passionately advocate for the advancement of this cause in the form of ongoing efforts to support race-based causes and nonprofits dedicated to social justice. 

A decade-long study conducted by the Case Foundation found civil rights and discrimination were among the top causes Millennials in the United States care about. Younger Americans also prioritize these concerns. Data collected by the Pew Research Institute shows that Generation Z and Millennials have similar viewpoints when it comes to racial issues.

If your organization focuses on social justice issues, there are several ways to increase donations by leveraging trends in donor behavior.

1. Target Young Donors With an Annual Giving Campaign

Meet Generation Z and Millennials where they’re at financially. This is easily done by asking them for small gifts during your annual fund campaign. This type of fundraiser is vital because it keeps donors engaged from year to year while generating unrestricted dollars that help you achieve your core mission.

Over time, donors who contribute to your annual fund year in and year out will deepen their connection with your organization. Long-term nurturing builds trust between you and your supporters. This increases the likelihood they’ll contribute a major gift once they’re financially able.

If you don’t yet have many younger donors in your database, consider investing in a tool that searches for prospects by demographics. WealthEngine, a software platform for researching prospective donors, comes equipped with such a feature. It pulls data from 60 sources to analyze 300 million individuals.

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WealthEngine then creates ultra-targeted audience lists using the parameters of your choice. Filter by age, income, organizations, and causes they already donate to, and more. The software also provides up-to-date contact information for every individual on the list, so you can reach out to prospects with ease

2. Focus Your Digital Marketing Strategy

No doubt you know the value of having an informative website for your nonprofit. An active online presence helps build trust between you and potential donors. It also facilitates communication between you and your community.

However, the number of potential digital marketing channels can often feel overwhelming, especially for smaller organizations. Are you really expected to have a website, email list, Facebook page, and keep up with the multitude of other social media platforms including Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and TikTok?

Fortunately, recent data shows how you can focus your efforts for maximum impact. Abila, a fundraising software company, conducted a donor engagement survey that found younger generations prefer to donate online. The research also shows Millennials like brief forms of communication such as short emails or texts. 

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These findings emphasize the necessity of maintaining a website that is easy to navigate and a donation page that is user-friendly. You should also plan to send weekly or biweekly emails updating supporters about the organization’s projects.

As for social media, small organizations with limited time should think strategically about who they want to reach. For example, if you already have a sizable Boomer donor base but want to attract more Millennials, consider focusing your outreach on Instagram, where Millennials are the largest group of users.

3. Tell Donors Exactly How Gifts Help

Transparency is vital for building trust between your organization and its supporters. One way to achieve this is to show donors what you can achieve with their dollars. 

An abundance of research has found that maintaining a policy of transparency is essential for retaining your donor base. A Case Foundation study found that three-quarters of millennials would stop giving to an institution if it wasn’t clear how their contributions make an impact.

The solution is simple. Consider this example from the Network for Social Justice, an organization seeking to increase equity in Winchester, Massachusetts, and beyond. Their donation page includes a graphic describing the impact certain gift amounts can have.

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A graphic like this shows supporters how even the smallest gifts can make an immediate difference. It also gives people a better idea about what your organization does on a daily basis.

4. Offer a Membership Program

A nonprofit membership program incentivizes giving while also increasing engagement among donors. Benefits of being a member may include receiving gifts or attending events not available to non-members.

Membership programs are common among museums and other cultural organizations. For example, check out the National Museum of African American History and Culture:

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Even the smallest gift amount—$25 dollars—gives donors a 10% discount at all Smithsonian gift stores. Meanwhile, the largest gift amounts come with perks like a members-only breakfast with a museum curator.

Aside from creating a steady, recurring stream of funds for your organization, this also keeps supporters involved throughout the year. That way, when it’s time to renew their membership, they’ve already been sufficiently nurtured and have no problem recommitting their support.

This guide from WealthEngine goes into more detail about membership program strategies. One of the most crucial techniques is to conduct regular surveys asking members why they chose to renew their support or leave the program. This will help you refine your incentives and increase retention.

5. Encourage Growth Through Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing can’t be underestimated. Consumer brands know this well. Referrals from friends and family drive an estimated $6 trillion annually.

This marketing strategy is just as powerful for nonprofits. The Case Foundation study found that Millennials were more likely to get involved in an organization if their peers recommended it. 

Many social justice groups experienced this firsthand in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Before national media outlets featured them, support for Minneapolis organizations like Reclaim the Block grew through social media networks.

There are several ways to encourage these kinds of referrals. The first is to simply ask. In a follow-up email thanking a supporter for their donation, write a line or two requesting they tell a friend about your organization.

It’s possible to automate this process for your donors, too. Many online donation platforms, such as JustGiving, automatically prompt users to share a campaign on social media after they make a gift.

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Another low-tech method is to put a button at the bottom of your e-newsletter encouraging subscribers to forward the email to a friend. The key is to make the action effortless for donors.

6. Plan Ahead for Year-End Giving

Nearly one-third of all giving happens during December. Not only that, but 12% of giving occurs in the last three days of the year. However, this doesn’t mean you can put off planning for the holiday season. More than half of all nonprofits start prepping for year-end giving as early as October.

Having this head start lets you remind donors a few times about holiday season gifts. You can also leverage Giving Tuesday in November to build momentum. For help designing a year-end giving campaign, take a look at this guide.

7. Connect With High-Quality Leads

High-quality leads are potential donors who have an interest in your cause, the means to donate, and a history of participation with similar organizations. In addition to making donations to your nonprofit, they may also be vocal supporters who attract more people through word-of-mouth.

However, finding and attracting these leads can be challenging. A tool like the  BoardEx Diversity Network can help. BoardEx tracks senior leaders and decision makers across the globe who are part of 2,600 ethnicity-based membership associations. That’s over 18,000  executives, board members and senior managers who are or have been active in efforts to champion diversity and social justice causes.

As for getting in touch with these leads, forget about cold calling. Through BoardEx’s relationship mapping tool, you can see exactly how you’re already connected to these business leaders. Using your existing contacts and relationships, setting up warm introductions is simple.

BoardEx can also help diversify the executive team or board of your nonprofit. By selecting leaders who are already involved in ethnicity-based organizations, you gain access to their network of potential donors. BoardEx includes profiles of more than 1.5 million people across more then 2 million different organizations. 

8. Nurture Planned Giving

Planned giving is a gift made during a donor’s lifetime or after their death. This is usually a large gift or portion of an estate given to a cause with which the donor had developed a long-standing relationship. Combine this with the fact that people usually begin thinking about planned giving when they near retirement age, and you’ll see that nurturing these prospects is a long-term endeavor. 

The first step is to create a profile of your ideal planned giving donor. If you’ve received planned gifts before, you can use those supporters to create a look-alike model with WealthEngine.

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Look-alike modeling uses characteristics of your current donors to search for prospects with similar traits. Even if your database has spotty data, WealthEngine can draw on its sources to fill in the gaps. 

Once you have a list of prospects, make it a priority to schedule one-on-one interactions with them. Annual events like galas are great for cultivating these sorts of relationships. For a comprehensive look at how to nurture planned giving donors, check out this guide.

If developing this process seems overwhelming, it’s helpful to remember that things you already do are likely nurturing planned giving. Even your youngest donors may be future planned giving candidates, which is why retaining them is essential. 

The greatest wealth transfer in history is currently happening, with Baby Boomers and older Americans giving $30 trillion to their children, many of whom are Millennials. At the same time, Generation Z—the best education generation —is graduating college and entering the workforce. 

Final Thoughts: The Right Data and Tools Pave the Way Forward

Don’t expect gifts for social justice issues to taper off any time soon. While events in 2020 and 2021 have galvanized support for diversity and race-based organizations, studies show there is long-term interest in these causes. Millennials and Generation Z are committed to supporting social justice nonprofits and are gaining access to wealth that makes their donations possible.

Using tools like BoardEx can help you make the most of your network and find new connections to potential donors. If you are ready to see how BoardEx can help, get in touch for a free demo.

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