Guest Post by Jeremy Silverstein, Vice President of Operations and Vehicle Dispatching, Goodwill Car Donations. Silverstein has handled tens of thousands of donated vehicles, becoming quite an expert in the industry in the past five years he’s been with the organization. 

The landscape for nonprofits changed a lot in 2016, not only due to the sea change that swept through Washington, D.C., but also due to the continuing influence of cultural and technological changes that have been rolling on for years now. Nonprofit and charity marketing professionals are acutely aware of these trends, but they may not have a clear strategy for addressing them. Here are four trends that could present a real challenge to nonprofit and charity marketing efforts in 2017, as well as some basic strategies for overcoming them.

  1. Engaging with donors is more difficult. It’s easier than ever for nonprofits to reach out to potential and existing donors, thanks to the proliferation of social media. Yet the ironic truth is that this has also made it easier for the market to become saturated with nonprofits and charities all reaching out to the same donors. Standing out in this crowded environment can be difficult, but experts agree that finding ways to humanize your message is highly effective at cutting through the crowd. An emotional connection created through storytelling, user-generated content or live video streaming can be a powerful motivator for donors.

Engaging with donors also has become more difficult due to the decline of print. Mass mailings still have resonance with older donors, but connecting with younger people means ramping up online efforts.

  1. Donations are harder to come by. Even though the millennial generation is highly motivated to donate their time or money to charitable causes, they have less money to donate to charity or nonprofits than their parents did at the same age. This is compounded by the fact that the recession has made many Americans stingier and less likely to part with their money for any reason. Because of this, marketers working for nonprofits and charities need to work harder in 2017 to forge close bonds with potential donors before reaching out to them for donations.

There are numerous ways to solicit active participation from people without directly asking them for money. These include petitions, advocacy opportunities and engaging them to spread the word through their social networks. By building an emotional attachment between a cause and a potential donor, they become much more likely to donate money when the opportunity eventually presents itself.

  1. Trust in nonprofits is lower than before. One needs only to look at the scrutiny both presidential candidates faced in 2016 to see that there is more skepticism surrounding nonprofits these days. With stories alleging misappropriations of funds coming out about politically connected charitable foundations as well as other groups in recent years, some people are unsure about giving to any charitable group, and that creates a cynicism that can be nearly impossible to break.

This is another area where creating emotional connections to potential donors can be highly beneficial for a nonprofit marketing professional. When donors have an opportunity to work with an organization and/or see the tangible results of its efforts firsthand, it creates a stronger feeling of trust than if the organization relies on impersonal outreach. It’s also important to remember that the relationship between donor and nonprofit is a two-way street, and an organization must be accessible and willing to give feedback at any time.

  1. Nonprofits are torn between engagement methods. The slow decline of print and the rapid rise of digital platforms put nonprofits in an awkward situation right now. Compounding the problem is that digital and social media platforms have become more focused on ad purchases and a pay-for-play model that stretches marketing budgets even further. Nonprofits can’t afford to ignore traditional or digital methodologies in this turbulent time, so they have to be focused on determining who their donors are, finding out who they want to donate, and targeting them with the methods that are most likely to gain their engagement.

These and many other trends are sure to have an impact on nonprofits over the coming year. Knowing even the most basic strategies for overcoming them can make the difference between a nonprofit having a successful 2017 and chalking it up as a rough year.