A Realistic Look at Annual Funds
This history, these progressing chapters — volunteers, direct mail, telemarketing — overlap each other and have long declining tails. But, though all continue to be used, their rises and declines are largely sequential and the history is pretty clear, if we pause to think it through. Mass solicitation is under a great deal of stress today.
The paradox: More is ALSO less
We, along with our trustee friend quoted earlier, are searching now for another new approach, the next technological chapter that will again vault annual giving to new heights. We’re turning our attention toward social media. (We almost skipped completely over e-mail, though it had some currency and is still used for ancillary purposes. But its impact was not especially notable — certainly not yet comparable to any of the big three: mail, telemarketing or volunteers.)
Social media seems now to be the next chapter of technological advance. Our hope is that it will, once again, take mass solicitation to a bigger, better, broader, more personal, more effective, cheaper and more lucrative place.
And, after all, doesn’t Obama’s presidential campaign fundraising phenomenon of 2008 strongly suggest the potential for this?
Maybe. The responses to several natural disasters suggests also that there is potential in social media and online giving. But, before we jump to conclusions, consider another theme that winds its way, largely unseen, through a second telling of the history we just reviewed. This theme relates to the paradox we noticed back at the beginning of our discussion. We tend to miss it because we’ve focused on the radial growth in participation and dollar results and on what looks like the success story here.
Over time, the universe of mass solicitation — though it was exploding in real geographic terms, in terms of numbers of donors and prospects, and in terms of dollars — is distilling itself into a smaller and smaller space: the psychological real estate the charity owns in the donor’s mind.