The Not-So-Great Divide
This month I want to discuss a troubling digital divide — and it's not the kind you think. I'm not talking about the fact that some people are wired while others lack access to technology — though that's certainly true, and it's a real divide. I'm talking about a phenomenon within our own organizations: the fact that the people who do online outreach often are separated from those who do offline fundraising. It's not unusual for online and offline efforts to take place in parallel universes, with virtually no integration.
Fundraising studies repeatedly have proven that engaging donors through multiple channels in a coordinated way — online and off — yields the best results, with donors giving more, more often. Unfortunately, most of us work for charities structurally and philosophically unprepared to do that. Folks, this is a problem.
Donors give online and offline. Sometimes they give one way, sometimes another. At times, they may want to read an e-mail bulletin. At other times, they may want to read our printed newsletters. They don't define themselves as living on Planet Online and Planet Offline — nor do they stay in place on one of those outposts — yet we often treat them that way.
In an ideal universe, we would tear down the walls of our organizations' technology, marketing, fundraising and communications departments and rebuild them in a way that creates a completely donor-centric experience.
But given that a complete reorganization is impossible for most of us, we must at least consider how to reorganize our fundraising efforts with a focus on the constituent experience at each touchpoint with our organizations, wherever it may occur. And we want to plan each campaign with a mind to all the ways it will live online and off. In other words, we must close our own digital divide by fully integrating our online and offline efforts. Here are some steps to get started: