Net Gain: Not Fade Away
Trends, by definition, come and go. Some are worth more time and money than others, and some can be just another … well … trend.
Fundraisers don’t have the time or money to spend on just another trend — they need results! For most nonprofits, resources are at a premium, and organizations have to figure out how to make the most with the least.
Below are trends that we hope will stick and that warrant consideration by fundraisers:
Most nonprofits know they need to demonstrate financial accountability to their board of directors, but many forget to expand accountability — including how specific gifts are used — to donors and constituents. Due to numerous stories about financial mishandlings at nonprofits in mainstream media, the demand for social accountability has grown rapidly. Constituents want to know where their donations go, how they’re used and what impact they make.
For fundraisers, this becomes a primary component of an organization’s message. It’s this message that keeps existing donors and encourages one-time supporters to become consistent, lifelong contributors. It helps transition a constituent from casual to connected to committed. By being open and forthcoming with constituents, nonprofits can build the trust that is the foundation of long-lasting relationships.
More and more nonprofits are beginning to use wealth-screening data to determine appropriate ask amounts in fundraising initiatives. It makes much more sense to ask someone capable of donating $500 to donate that amount than it does to ask the same person to donate $5.
The concept is simple, yet its execution has been challenging. Wealth-screening data typically is used by large nonprofits whose mission depends on the generosity of major-gift donors but, more often than not, the data is used solely for major-gift campaigns and not shared across the organization. Now, thanks to technology, nonprofits of all sizes can discover the power of wealth screening in all fundraising initiatives.
For example, donor-management systems now are incorporating automatic wealth scores into constituent records, making it possible to ask for an appropriate amount from each member of the database. This data is an easy way for nonprofits to increase fundraising results without increasing expenses or efforts.
Social networking has swept the nation and is moving into the nonprofit world. Nonprofits across the country have been able to increase awareness, grow supporters and further their cause by effectively incorporating social networking into their Web strategies. For example, Life Rolls On, a San Diego-based nonprofit dedicated to raising money for spinal cord injury research, found 14,000 “friends” by using MySpace as a communication tool.
The social-networking phenomenon shows no signs of stopping. New sites will spring up and the social-networking giants might change hands a few times, but the concept of online communities and social-networking sites will continue. In a few years, it no longer will be just another way to reach a younger generation; it’ll become a primary way to reach donors. In fact, the average age of MySpace users already has increased. A recent study by comScore Networks found that 68 percent of MySpace users are age 25 or older.
There are more reasons why this trend won’t lose steam anytime soon. First, it’s free. Nonprofits can create a presence without any charge. Second, content-management solutions now have tools, such as a fundraising thermometer or honor roll tracking tool, that easily are incorporated onto social-networking sites to enable constituents to become true advocates of the cause — and raise more money.
Moving a constituent from casual to connected to committed is no easy task, but nonprofit organizations understand the value of taking the time to build relationships.
There are a variety of tools, tactics and strategies that nonprofits can employ to guide a constituent from first-time supporter to long-term donor.
One such strategy is simply to know the constituent’s preferences in-depth. What does he like? How does he communicate? Does she prefer phone or e-mail? What does she read? Is he focused on one issue or multiple issues?
Answers to these questions are not hard to find. A simple analysis of a constituent’s online behavior can answer some of them. Additional information gathered from constituents’ offline behavior will help answer even more. What nonprofits are left with is a complete understanding of their constituents. And understanding is a key component of a committed relationship.
John Murphy is vice president of professional services for Kintera.