Interactive Fundraising: 2010 Ushers in Faster Reaction Time for Fundraising
In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, important lessons are unfolding that underscore how the nature of fundraising is evolving as a direct result of technology and social media.
How did you find out about the Haiti earthquake? I first learned of it on my cell phone while checking Facebook, where a friend’s status referenced the disaster. Minutes later, there were more Facebook updates, and word of the earthquake was starting to ripple through Twitter. It was shortly after 5 p.m. on Jan. 12, and news was spreading rapidly.
Speed of information and action is accelerating
The emergence and mass adoption of social media has accelerated the rate at which people discover and share information, and ultimately take action or give. These steps can be expedited with the help of technology. Organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross reacted within mere hours of the disaster in Haiti by offering up-to-the-minute information and donation areas on their Web sites.
Jody Jeffrey, manager of national Web services for the Canadian Red Cross, commented, “Having the ability to quickly share information on the situation and provide a way for people to help was critical in the hours after the earthquake.”
Other organizations that I have spoken with agree that being a trusted conduit of information was a prerequisite for donations. In the 48 hours following the earthquake, the Canadian Red Cross experienced unprecedented Web traffic, and being prepared was essential for them to make sure the outpouring of support was actionable for the relief effort.
When a disaster like Haiti occurs, people tend to ask what they can do to help. Increasingly, donors are willing to reach into their personal networks or pool of employees to encourage relief support. For the Canadian Red Cross, this meant providing individuals the means to quickly extend donation ability to their networks via phone, e-mail and other technologies. Corporate supporters were able to post donation widgets to their own Web sites, and a few even created micro sites with the help of the Red Cross specific to their organization.
After Haiti, many thousands of individuals created online fundraising pages for relief organizations, which they e-mailed to their friends, posted to their Facebook accounts and tweeted to their Twitter followers. Having online fundraising pages for individuals and corporations that are willing to help is becoming a simpler and more important thing to consider as part of any online fundraising strategy. Citizen fundraisers provide many additional points of contact with donors.
The role of mobile
Mobile always has had great potential when it comes to fundraising, but it has been largely unrealized. The promise of mobile giving emerged in the wake of Haiti. The Red Cross TXT-to-Give program was well-promoted and generated a significant amount of mobile-based donations. There also were reports of non-text-based smart-phone giving programs that generated higher average donations than their text-based counterparts but resulted in far fewer donations and less money raised overall. Also, not all organizations had the apparent success that the Red Cross did with text-to-give donations. Much of the success of these programs depends upon the promotion. The full potential of mobile is still yet to be realized, but these success stories help to illuminate the path.
Apply these lessons to your organization
The lessons here are particularly apparent after a disaster like the one in Haiti, but they will also apply to normal, day-to-day online fundraising for just about any organization. The time from information to action will continue to decrease, and friction will be removed from the fundraising process. New ways will emerge for you to reach and enable individual and corporate supporters to help, and mobile will play an expanding role in fundraising. No doubt there will be still other valuable lessons learned about online fundraising in the aftermath of Haiti that will shape the future of fundraising.
Mark Sutton is president of Artez Interactive, U.S. Follow him on Twitter at @marksutton