3 trends that impacted nonprofits in Q1

Grafik’s extensive work with different dot-org clients gives us a unique perspective on how branding and marketing can help build thriving member and donor communities. In an effort to expand the ongoing conversations and research we’re conducting here at the agency, we’re excited to share our first “trend watching” report specific to nonprofits!

Our hope is that these insights will bring a new perspective to a project or task you’re currently working on, or spark interesting discussions with your team. While some of these topics fall outside your specific industry, we believe these macro trends represent meaningful implications and opportunities for the important work you do.

Happening Now: COVID-19

Wherever you are reading this, it’s likely that the coming weeks will be forever present in your memory as coronavirus takes its toll on the global community. Here is a quick look at how brands, big and small, are responding to COVID-19:

Increased spending: eMarketer reports that 42% of advertisers plan to increase spending on mission-based marketing, 41% on cause-related marketing, and 37% on brand equity messaging.

– Museums are going virtual: Although their doors are closed to visitors, these 12 famous museums are offering virtual tours to keep patrons engaged.

Big tech is helping teams stay connected: While the licensing costs for premium collaboration tools may usually be cost-prohibitive for nonprofits, many tech giants like Microsoft and Google are offering extended free trials of their enterprise plans to support the newly remote workforce.

Trend 1: A focus on trust-building

Our 2020 data from market research tool GlobalWebIndex shows that across all demographics, “trustworthiness is the most important quality a charity should demonstrate” (ranging from 66% among 16-24s to 82% among 55-64s).

chart showing most important charity attributes to donors

But demonstrating trustworthiness requires more than simply saying, “you can trust us!” Consider conducting a brand sentiment study to measure where your customer relationship may need some work. Some “drivers of trust include: ensuring a reasonable portion of donations make it to the end cause and having good management practices overall; ensuring fundraisers are honest and ethical; making independent decisions to further their cause; and making a positive difference to their cause.”

chart showing charity donor expectations

Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, it will be easier to outline a plan for the content, resources or marketing materials that need to be created or updated in order to address audience concerns.

Trend 2: Dedication to longer-form content

A trend we’re observing across social media channels is the use of longer-form captions and more in-depth storytelling. The average caption length on Instagram has doubled since 2016, with some predicting 2020 will see an average caption length of between 65-70 words.

chart showing average instagram caption lengths

chart showing how instagram caption length impacts engagement

For dot-orgs, we think this represents an opportunity to tell more emotional, personalized stories through social media. Marketing and fundraising tactics that are highly personal, whether that be detailed stories about those you serve or the downstream impact of a donor’s gift, will prove effective in forging stronger connections with your audience in 2020.

Trend 3: A shift from me-centric to we-centric discourse

Online communities like Reddit have emerged as the go-to platforms for user-generated content. While we have seen the sheer volume of posts, photos, and reviews published on social media platforms increase exponentially, the frequency in which individuals are sharing has decreased over the past few years  (from 27% in 2014 to 20% in 2019). People are moving away from the “broadcasted self”, a marker of social sharing transitioning from “me centric to we centric.”

This shift in behavior creates an opportunity to engage with your audience on a new platform. Reddit and GWI found that 82% of community site users would be receptive toward brands participating on these sites. What does this mean for you? Find where your audience is having these conversations and join.


Want to contribute to our ongoing research about nonprofit branding and marketing? Respond to the survey link below, and we’ll share the results!

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