3 Non-Obvious Trends for Nonprofit Fundraising

3 Non-Obvious Trends for Nonprofit Fundraising

December 2, 2020

How can nonprofits stand out from an overproliferation of information and connect with their ideal donors? According to international best-selling author Rohit Bhargava, the answer is understanding and leveraging three non-obvious trends. In his keynote address for WE Prosper Summit 2020, Bhargava discusses these three trends and how nonprofit fundraisers can use them to their advantage. 

Click here for a replay of WE Prosper Summit 2020, a virtual conference exploring trends and best practices for finding high-potential donors in the COVID economy. 

Why Nonprofit Fundraising is More Difficult Than Ever

Take a look at these three headlines. Can you identify whether each story is real or fake?

  • Chemical in McDonald’s Fries Could Cure Baldness
  • Bumblebee Vomit: Scientists Are No Longer Ignoring It
  • Sassy Seal Accidentally Slaps Man Across Face With an Octopus

The answer, according to Bhargava, is that all of these headlines are real. “My point with doing this exercise was to share with you that we live in a world where we don’t know what’s true,” he explains. “When we don’t know what’s true, we lose a little bit of faith in the idea that anything’s true.”

This makes it increasingly challenging for organizations to appeal to prospects. Fortunately, Bhargava’s research for his book, Non Obvious Megatrends: How to See What Others Miss and Predict the Future, can help organizations stand out and reach donors who would otherwise remain skeptical.

3 Non-Obvious Trends for Nonprofit Fundraising

  • Human Mode

“A human mode is the idea that when we have more and more technology surrounding us, we greatly value the human interaction,” explains Bhargava. 

Nonprofit fundraisers know the value of face-to-face interactions and in-person galas. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations need to foster donor relationships digitally. 


A quick way to implement our first non-obvious trend and keep communication authentic is to use a real background when meeting prospects on Zoom. The initial urge to conceal a cluttered home office with a virtual background is understandable. However, giving people a peek into your unscripted life is better for cultivating connections.

  • Instant Knowledge

“Instant knowledge is the idea that because we have all of these tools at our fingertips, we expect to be able to learn anything and get smarter, faster,” notes Bhargava. 

To take advantage of this non-obvious trend, Bhargava advises nonprofits to try to “connect people with the knowledge to inspire their beliefs.” When your marketing or donor cultivation efforts provide massive value to prospects, they’re more likely to buy into your mission and vision. 

  • Revivalism

“Revivalism is a trend that is about bringing the past back,” explains Bhargava, “because when we don’t know what to trust, we turn the clock backward so we start to listen to analog, like music on vinyl.” 

Nonprofits should consider ways to implement this non-obvious trend and how they can appeal to this kind of nostalgia when engaging with donors. This could include explaining how your organization honors the past or giving your gala a vintage theme. 

Actionable Tasks for Non-Obvious Trends

  • Be Opportunistic

Nonprofits should always have their finger on the pulse and be ready to jump into the conversation as it’s happening. 

For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, people began hoarding toilet paper and paper towels. “Then they realized, ‘Oh, I don’t actually need this much toilet paper,’ and they tried to return it and they couldn’t,” notes Bhargava. “There’s an opportunity if your nonprofit provides items to people who really need them for you to step in and say, ‘Look, you bought all this stuff. Now you can’t return it, donate it to us.’”

  • Engage the Unreachable

With COVID-19 canceling productions, actors are recording custom videos for people through Cameo. “They’re open to doing stuff like this that perhaps they wouldn’t have been otherwise,” notes Bhargava. “That might be an opportunity for your nonprofit as well.”


Consider that when donors hear a message about your nonprofit from a figure they know, like, and trust, they’re more likely to be receptive to your ultimate ask. 

  • Go Behind the Scenes

At the end of every film Jackie Chan does, he shows outtakes of his stunts. This humanizes him and shows audiences how much hard work goes into his craft. Organizations can borrow this technique to better connect with prospects.

“We have to take people behind the scenes of our work,” explains Bhargava. “[We] show them the amazing things we’re doing, show them what their money is going towards because the more we can do that, the more people are likely to give more, [and] they’re likely to feel good about what they have given.”

  • Master Technology

The pandemic has increased our reliance on technology to do business. As such, you either need to improve your tech skills or prepare to get overtaken by the competition.

“We do not live in a world anymore where you can just give up and say, ‘Oh, I’m no good at this technology stuff, I can’t figure it out’ or you just wait for the IT person to show up,” explains Bhargava. “Guess what? We’re at home doing this stuff. We are our own IT people.”

  • Pivot Fast

Flexibility and creativity are the lifeblood of any organization during a crisis. Those who can quickly adjust their strategy are more likely to survive.


“There was a bookstore in Texas that when the pandemic hit, [they] immediately pivoted and [turned] their bookstore into a travel agency,” notes Bhargava. “When you went to book a trip, essentially what you were booking were books about the place that you wanted to go.”

  • Don’t Panic

No one is sure when things will go back to the way they were or if they will at all. In the meantime, organizations can’t give up or try waiting things out. Instead, you need to think carefully about your strategy for reaching new donors and consider the non-obvious trends.

WealthEngine can help. With tools that zero in on the prospects most likely to give, your team can spend time connecting with the people who most want to hear from you. Get in touch today for a free demo. 

Adapted from presentation by Rohit Bhargava.

Rohit Bhargava Bio:

Rohit Bhargava is an innovation and marketing expert, skilled facilitator, and keynote speaker. After a successful 15 year career as a brand and marketing strategist at two of the largest agencies in the world (Ogilvy and Leo Burnett), Rohit became an entrepreneur and has since started three companies. He is the Wall Street Journal best selling author of six books on topics as wide ranging as the future of business and building a brand with personality and has delivered sold out keynote presentations and workshops to business leaders in 32 countries. His signature book Non-Obvious  is updated annually with 15 new trend predictions, has been read and shared by more than 1 million readers and is translated in ten languages. Rohit has been invited to share his insights at some of the most forward-looking organizations in the world including Intel, NASA, Disney, JP Morgan Chase, LinkedIn, Microsoft, American Express, BP, the World Bank, Coca-Cola and hundreds of others.

Outside of his consulting work, Rohit also teaches his popular signature course on storytelling and marketing at Georgetown University in Washington DC and has been invited to deliver guest lectures at many other prestigious schools including Stanford and Wharton. For the past 14 years Rohit has also been writing his personal “Influential Marketing Blog” which has been featured in global media and named one of the top 25 marketing blogs in the world by AdAge magazine. He is regularly interviewed and featured as an expert commentator in global media including Harvard Business Review, The Guardian, and NPR. Rohit also writes a monthly column for GQ magazine in Brazil on technology and trends.

Thanks to his many years of sharing insights, Rohit has been recognized alongside visionary business leaders like Sir Richard Branson and Tom Peters as a “Top 100 Thought Leader In Trustworthy Business Behavior” and was named by global recruiting firm Korn Ferry as one of the “Most Influential South Asians In Media and Entertainment.”

On a personal level, Rohit is married and lives with his wife and two young boys in the Washington DC area. He is a lifelong fan of anything having to do with the Olympics (he’s been to five so far!) and actively avoids anything having to do with cauliflower (yuck!). Outside of work, Rohit believes that the most entertaining and impactful job he will ever have is being a great dad and teaching his sons to be kind when no one expects it, curious about the things others take for granted, and confident enough to change the world.

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