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Donor Participation Project Resources

The Future of Fundraising: Why Community Matters Most

The future of fundraising is all about community.

As traditional marketing and fundraising strategies become less effective, building genuine connections and trust with donors will be the key to nonprofit success.

According to Mark Schaefer, an expert in marketing, “community is the last great marketing strategy.”

Schaefer argues that community provides unparalleled value for both companies and nonprofits. For nonprofits, one of the biggest benefits is organic advocacy. When donors share their experience and passion for your mission with others, it leads to authentic word-of-mouth marketing that is far more persuasive than anything a nonprofit could say on its own.

Community also provides a direct line of feedback to help nonprofits stay focused on what really matters to donors and maintain “relentless relevance.”

However, building community requires a significant shift in mindset for many nonprofit leaders.

There is a temptation to try to tightly control messaging and immediately measure ROI. But Schaefer argues that real community building is about influence, not control.

It requires patience, experimentation, and a willingness to empower community members to shape the conversation.

While it can start small, community has the potential to scale in a big way. The key is finding and nurturing leaders from within the community who can help carry the workload and personalize the experience for members.

For any nonprofit ready to invest in the future, community building should be a top priority. Here’s a brief blueprint to achieve this:

  • Follow the “5 people rule” and start bringing together your most passionate supporters.
  • Give them authentic experiences and content worth sharing with others.
  • And empower them to cocreate and lead in a way that feels meaningful for them.

While the short-term results may be hard to quantify, over time community can become your most powerful strategy for driving real impact and lasting change.

Watch the full recording of this Donor Participation Project session with Mark Schaefer in our Resource Library.

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