Adapt or Die: Fundraising Technology in the Post-Borders World
RIP Borders bookstore. I loved your comfortable sofas, tasty coffee, knowledgeable staff, spacious restrooms and the books, of course. But clearly I, and many others out there, didn’t love you enough to prevent your demise. Ultimately, we preferred the convenience of getting the same books from Amazon.com without leaving the house to buy them.
We might look at Borders and think that can never happen to our organizations — we’re far too savvy, right? But what are the lessons we can learn as nonprofits and fundraisers from this and other sad endings? Are our methods and technology threatening to make us the dinosaurs, while the Amazons of our sector plough ahead without us?
Borders’ mistake, put simply, was an inability to adapt. Or possibly it was a failure to read the signs of the times, which would have told Borders how it should adapt. What matters to consumers most in this day and age is not what mattered in the '80s and '90s when Borders’ brand (its uniqueness) gave it the edge. And that blind spot meant a large, healthy business evaporated in an alarmingly short space of time.
So what about your organization? Does it have an unassailable position in the market? Would your donors vote with their feet just because they couldn’t interact with you online in a way that makes them feel good? Maybe we’d like to think that the donor-charity relationship has a bit more substance than the average customer-supplier equivalent, but we can’t ignore the lessons of Borders and others like it if we want to stay relevant to this and the next generation of donors.
So how do consumers want to transact these days? It may be obvious, but it looks to me like consumers, our donors, are increasingly buying online. They research what to buy online. They have short attention spans when browsing. They like to discuss, blog, share their likes and dislikes, run events to raise money, register for our events, and join our memberships. They tweet, create about 90 pieces of Facebook content each month and are ever more likely to use their mobile devices than PCs.