Taking the Plunge
Wasn’t the AFP conference in Seattle something else? So many people, so little ventilation. But no matter … we all got what we went for — oodles of information about how to manage nonprofits and raise the funds to keep them going and further their missions.
There were some fascinating sessions, many so crowded that the fire marshall was none too happy about it. But not every one was jam packed, and that provided insight into the collective mindset of the nonprofit universe.
The direct mail sessions were so full that people set up chairs in the doorways after the floor space ran out. And for good reason: Direct mail is the backbone of nonprofit fundraising.
But it’s not the only thing that holds it up. That’s why I was disturbed by the fact that the few sessions dealing with technology were not as well attended. Is there something to the perception that nonprofit organizations are reluctant to explore new options when it comes to plugging in? You wouldn’t know it by the plethora of software providers dedicated to dragging nonprofits into the 21st century. These savvy folks don’t throw their money at business plans without feeling confident that there’s a need.
There seems to be an interest on the part of nonprofit managers, but there’s also a lot of fear. In my mind’s eye I see a swimming pool with development heads lined up around the edge, shivering in their trunks and dipping their toes in the water. But only for a second … before retreating to their comfy cabanas built of lift notes, reply devices and No. 10 mailers.
Jump on in, folks. Not only is the water fine, but given the speed at which technology is insinuating itself into every aspect of American life, it soon could be the lifeblood of your organization.
Right about now, some of you are feeling pretty smug: “We’re OK; we have a Web site.” Before you throw out your shoulder patting yourself on the back, ask yourself just how productive that site is. Is it a vital hub where potential donors can get information about your mission and make contributions? Or is it just a pretty page with cool graphics and bright colors? If so … so what? My teenager has one of those.
And it doesn’t stop with Web sites. How are you managing your donors and building those all-important relationships? If you’re relying on a Rolodex and a good memory, you might be screwed. What about wireless credit-card processing? Or online auctions? If your response was “huh?,” you should take a look at our “Are You Plugged In?” feature . It’s a good introduction to the use of technology in nonprofit fundraising, and it just might be the push you need to dive into the calm, cool waters of the future.