Conference Roundup: The Today and Tomorrow of Fundraising
Every fundraiser’s task for the next few years is to navigate a path between traditional and emerging fundraising strategies.
So says Frank O’Brien, president of the Washington, D.C.-based consultancy OMP, who gave the keynote presentation, “The Six Dynamics Shaping the Future of Fundraising,” at the 2008 New York Nonprofit Conference last week.
“It’s heady stuff when you think about it,” O’Brien said. “We get to practice our craft in a remarkable period of transition. And our actions will help shape a whole new era of fundraising.
“But along with that opportunity comes the challenge of living these next few years with one eye on how fundraising works today and one eye on how it’s going to work tomorrow,” he said.
First, fundraisers must keep direct mail “vibrant” for as long as possible. If not, O’Brien argued, the sector’s old workhorse might stop supporting organizations before a viable alternative becomes available.
Fundraisers are going to have to ask themselves some tough questions if they want to keep direct mail bright and fresh, including whether or not it makes sense to write and design direct mail to look like personal correspondence. Considering that most people receiving direct-mail asks these days have no real experience with personal letters, he says, the answer isn’t as clear as it might seem.
Also, they need to decide if it’s smart to keep writing lengthy direct-mail letters, since e-mail and the Internet have redefined people’s sense of appropriate length, he said.
But the other side of the equation is embracing “new channels, new attitudes, new habits of mind, new patterns of behavior,” he said, adding that there are six dynamics shaping the future of fundraising.
1. Building lists isn’t just about finding donors — it’s about making yourself “findable.”
O’Brien explained that the Internet is shifting fundraising from a system that depends on organizations finding donors to one in which donors go looking for organizations to support.