IT Guy to Fundraisers: Partner With Us
Who was the last person who asked you to donate to a cause? Was it a direct request from an organization? A friend on behalf of an organization? A Web site? A Facebook request? And how much did they know about you before they asked? Was there a gradual build up to the ask, or was it a simple plea?
Technology has had a major impact in the way fundraising is managed. We have moved to the Web and e-mail to communicate with our prospects and donors. We have sophisticated databases to track donor information. We have access to a whole new world of resources on the Web. We are able to reach greater audiences quicker within social networks. We are able to give our supporters access to technology to do the ask for us.
In my experience, the YMCA has historically relied on a person-to-person ask. Over the years we have created some great methods to run fundraising campaigns with lots of campaigners. We separate them into teams, set goals and provide prospect information. It’s an effective system, but it can be people- and time-intensive. The challenge is that the way people communicate, share with each other and ask friends to support a cause is changing for many.
What seems to be missing is the ability for us to just restructure how we fundraise; we would rather slowly blend in the new stuff. We might have adopted newer databases, slicker software and started online donations, however we might still be running our fundraising in the exact same way we used to. I would venture to say that to realize the possibilities available with new technology we have to reinvent our fundraising.
What is the relationship between your fundraising and technology staffs?
What is the mix between communications, marketing and IT with your fundraising staff?
And what about the rest of the organization?
Is the fundraising campaign run by a small group of staff with very clear goals, deep expertise and fantastic connections? All the while this small staff is isolated from the work, communications and involvement of the rest of the organization. I would agree that these experts can be effective and critical, but you are missing out on a couple of key opportunities. Those opportunities include empowering all of your staff and your constituents to do the ask.
I suggest fundraising, technology, marketing and communications need to lead a collaborative effort to:
- Create a communication plan leveraging social media, Web sites, e-mail, person to person, phone and print media that incorporates fundraising, news, storytelling, promotion, etc.
- Challenge everyone to excel by leveraging the expertise of each department. Marketing might bring design, segmentation and media connections. IT staff can offer process improvement, tools and project management. These skills could exist in your fundraising staff, but there’s power in differing opinions to improve and implement a plan.
- Spend some time finding out what interests people. IT has some great tools to help you collect, analyze and make decisions based on data. Too many fundraising staff gather transactional and personal information about donors but never use it. IT staff can be your friend to make data your friend as well. With new visualization, mapping, targeting and publishing tools, you can enhance every part of fundraising.
- Shift the ownership of fundraising to all staff and your biggest supporters. Keep those fundraising experts, but let them drive the strategy and people instead of acting as the single campaigner.
This might all sound like fluff and dreams, but it can be reality. I have approached this at a very high level and made it simple. But as I have been told, doing something simple isn’t always easy. As fundraisers, I encourage you to reach out to your technology staff and form a real working relationship. We are here to be your partner, not just provide the tools.
Steve Heye is Web project manager at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. He co-presented a session on aligning IT with your mission at the NTEN Online Technology Conference held Sept. 16-17. Click here to check out Steve's blog.