Right around this time of year the flurry of 2014 trends and predictions begins. While no one has a crystal ball, those of us whose job it is to stay one step ahead of where the market is pointing for clients, can’t help but ruminate on what’s going to happen next year.
For the nonprofit sector, much of what many in the industry predicted last year will hold for 2014. The focus will continue to be on channel integration, big data, and, mobile optimization. In 2014, many of these will come to a head – this will be the year of “making it happen”, when the efforts, investments, and even stumbles of prior years will finally start to result in activities that are built into the way we communicate with constituents on a daily basis.
Channel integration: During the past 5 years, while the whole industry has been talking the talk, only a few have been walking the walk. This was not due to lack of trying – rather the realities of what it means to plan, market and measure in an omni-channel world. While some organizations are just starting on the CRM journey, there is a high enough volume far along in the process – bringing together channels and constituent data – that marketers are finally getting to the point of being able to say: “ok, we’ve made it through the tech deployment, now we get to use this.” Budgets that are less siloed by channel but rather reflect an integrated campaign, significant cross-channel-marketing, and most importantly, outcome tracking will become the focus of standardization by development departments in 2014.
For nonprofits starting on the CRM journey, they are learning from those ahead of them. The industry has found there is no magic bullet solution or platform to channel integration, and increasingly our assumed approach models are being re-evaluated. The standing wisdom that all-in-one solutions are best and offer the best investment efficiency and outcomes is being re-examined as some nonprofits move to a best-of-breed model for integrated channel marketing. In 2014, we’ll see the industry more openly discussing what those mix and match models are and which vendors offer best of breed in a variety of channel categories.
Big data: Big data and channel integration go hand in hand. Our commercial side brethren, many of whom have mastered the fundamentals of big data analytics, are moving into the next phase of what it really means to impact consumer behavior. Some of these models not only analyze past behavior to predict the future, but use live behavioral patterns to serve offers and incentives to influence the purchase, sometimes during the live transaction process. The majority of our industry will spend 2014 getting used to the idea of having so much data access and answering the all-important question of “what really matters?” Data visualization and having staff or partner organizations that can help drive that focus on the most important needle in the data haystack and leverage it for actionable program insight and impact will become more of a serious priority.
With big data all the rage, one thing that will become clear in 2014 is the shortage of talent in our industry that can bring together two key skillsets: a deep understanding and know how in everything data AND knowledge of the industry. The role of Chief Analytics Officer may start to make an appearance at larger organizations, who will compete with some of the deepest pockets for this kind of talent (there is a large shortage of qualified, knowledgeable data ninjas across the board). Organizations will have to rethink the value and incentives for analytics roles and what it really means to get the right analytics talent – those who cannot only tame the data, but tell you what to do with it.
It’s all about resolutions. Mobile is here. In fact, it was here 2 years ago. These days, designers aren’t talking about mobile vs desktop, but rather about the multi-screen experience. With over 200 different screen resolutions to deal with, the user experience has evolved beyond just “mobile vs desktop” and is now focused on adapting to lifestyle. For example, you are more likely to be standing while using your smartphone, sitting while using a tablet, etc. So what does this mean for nonprofits in 2014? Marketers will embrace responsive design. While this was a growing trend in 2013, in 2014 consumers will expect that email, sites, calls-to-action and yes, donation forms, all adapt to their screens. Some in our industry are already moving forward full throttle. However, many are still just starting to think of the digital experience beyond the mobile donation form. Starting with your calls-to-action is certainly the right way to go, but 2014 will be the year that really jumpstarts our industry’s engine in terms of optimizing the media consumption experience for our supporters.
Fund me: Crowdfunding is certainly becoming the industry darling. Having realized the potential of empowering supporters to raise money on your behalf and letting them drive the type of fundraising, many nonprofits are developing creative peer-to-peer campaigns the energize and engage supporters who may not have traditionally given to an organization. Many nonprofits are seeing successes in diversifying ways to get involved and handing the decision-making for how the money is raised over to the supporter. This is not surprising given the general trends in consumer behavior of consumers increasingly demanding to be more fully in the driver’s seat of when and how they engaged with brands. But, as with any new industry darling, Crowdfunding is also having the expected growing pains. Platforms are proliferating. Consumers are using crowdfunders to fund all sorts of projects – not just nonprofit causes, but small business, pet projects, and even, vacations! 2014 will be a year of consolidation and introspection for the crowdfunding model. Consumers will increasingly demand more transparency into how these models work, where the money goes and clearer differentiation between funding a good cause, a business or a personal need. Meanwhile, nonprofits will begin to expect more ownership of the crowdfunding experience and supporter connection, while also adjusting to the reality of giving up some control to supporters in terms of fundraising ownership.
No borders: Affiliated nonprofits are becoming increasingly more connected. While models vary, particularly at the domestic level, national leadership is increasingly focusing on creating a customer-centric experience for affiliates and chapters by facilitating success at the local level – whether that means providing standard creative material, shepherding email campaigns or providing financial support for common platforms. This reflects the global is local trend: global consumers are expecting a local experience that nevertheless reflects a global outlook. As domestic affiliates become more aligned, nonprofits will look across their borders to continue to learn from successes around the world (and failures), and when necessary provide a more unified brand. Leaders are also eager to get more robust insight into overall worldwide operations. Just as the CEO of a major brand wants to understand how his company is performing around the world, so do those who lead internationally-present or internationally-collaborative nonprofits.
In 2014 this will translate into two things: a stronger focus on looking at the networks, platforms and campaigns that nonprofits with presence across the globe are using, and better opportunities to standardize and operationalize that core from the backend of things. Yes, markets will always be different, not just the languages, local issues and what motivates the public, but to the nitty gritty of how money is transacted, converted, stored and delivered to the nonprofit. Understanding this complexity is one of the key reasons the Kimbia team will continue to expand and drive our international offering in 2014.
2014 is set to be a growing-up year for our industry. One where we settle into and mature the best practices of an integrated, on-demand experience for our supporters and constituents. That is not to say we’ll have it all figured out, but it will finally feel like it’s not just a brave few exploring the frontier of digital citizenship and a borderless world.