Seven Ways to Leverage Sustainable Development Goals to Attract Support

By Matt Nash

In 2021, U.S. charitable giving by individuals, foundations, and corporations totaled over $484 billion, and Americans volunteered 4.1 billion hours—equivalent to an estimated economic value of $122.9 billion. A majority of this support comes from donors who are passionate about causes like quality education, well-being, and zero hunger—causes that are aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 global objectives to address the most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges with key indicators that measure progress.

Aligning work with specific SDGs can help nonprofits attract support and build relationships with partners with similar values. In addition, measuring impact against SDGs enables nonprofits to demonstrate the tangible results of their work, enhancing their credibility and attracting donor support.


Here are seven ways nonprofits can leverage their SDGs to attract and retain support:

1. Measure impacts. SDGs have key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure the work toward achieving these goals. Nonprofits should measure impact using these KPIs to understand how they are making a difference in their communities or to create a new action plan to achieve their goals. By collecting and analyzing data related to their SDGs, nonprofits can provide concrete evidence of progress and outcomes, enhance its credibility, identify areas for improvement, refine strategies, and align resources for even greater success.

2. Showcase impact. One way to maximize and highlight impact and attract support is to organize data to showcase the progress and outcomes of programming. This information should be prominently featured in messaging, including newsletters, social channels, website, giving platforms, etc., and updated regularly so current and potential supporters understand how the work benefits communities in need.

3. Promote goals. Effective communication is vital to promoting your organization’s aligned SDGs. By clearly articulating their mission, objectives, and impact, nonprofits can engage and inspire support. Utilize social media, newsletters, giving profiles, website, events, and public speaking opportunities to spread awareness about progress on and the importance of your SDGs. Tailoring messaging to resonate with different target audiences and using storytelling will further illustrate the impact your organization is making.

4. Be empowered by supporter data. Nonprofits should use data to understand their supporters better. For example, in 2021, Gen X was the leading generation in volunteerism. With this information, nonprofits should consider creating volunteer events to attract this age group and make measurable strides toward specific goals. Identify ways to tailor volunteer and donation experiences to engage active supporters and develop communication that resonates with each audience to promote your work toward specific SDGs.

5. Cultivate long-term support. According to the Global Trends in Giving Report, 76 percent of volunteers in the United States and Canada donate to the nonprofits they volunteer for. This is a huge percentage of active supporters that nonprofits should leverage to make the most of their relationships. Fostering connections and developing ongoing communication strategies to showcase the importance of working together toward the nonprofit’s SDGs can help turn an active volunteer into a volunteer and donor.

6. Put SDGs to work. Workplace giving is a powerful fundraising tool for nonprofits. Many programs utilize platforms that allow potential donors to filter donation and volunteering opportunities by SDGs. Nonprofits should use these resources to their advantage and regularly check and update their searchable profiles to prominently showcase SDGs, the progress made toward achieving goals, data that support the importance of these SDGs, and more. Including up-to-date and relevant information on these profiles can go a long way in attracting and retaining support and encouraging donors to become committed, recurring supporters—ensuring long-term and sustained support for their mission.

7. Collaborate with partners. By working with other organizations and businesses, nonprofits can pool their resources, expertise, and networks to achieve greater results. Collaborative partnerships can lead to innovative solutions, increased funding opportunities from a broader range of stakeholders, and expanded reach. Contacting local companies or organizations to identify ways to partner or offer employee volunteer opportunities can help create long-term relationships. Researching and identifying organizations whose values align with your own can help nonprofits initiate meaningful partnerships.

Leveraging SDGs is essential to achieving success. By closely aligning and promoting their work with SDGs, nonprofits can attract donors and volunteers and build relationships with partners who share the same goals. Identifying key ways to leverage SDGs can help attract new and ongoing support from workplace giving, community members, businesses, and individuals which can help nonprofits achieve their mission and create tangible, lasting change in their communities.

Matt Nash is executive director of The Blackbaud Giving Fund, where he leads the organization’s mission to unleash generosity by connecting people to causes they care about around the world.