“How do you make real for donors what we do in Sudan or Uganda?” De Galan asks, and then answers his own question: “We need to be pushing hard and using a combination of Internet, video and really good storytelling to make experiences real without donors actually going to those places.”
If Mercy Corps has been innovative in any way, De Galan says, it’s been in demonstrating how fundraisers can use speed to make their strategies more successful.
“Total preparation and total speed have been our contributions,” he says. “Every time there’s a disaster, our radio and Internet ads are out first, way ahead of any others. We learned to use speed effectively because ours is a fast business, and the Internet has been key to making the speed work for us.
“We married Internet fundraising to disaster relief in a way that few others had done,” he says.
It’s all about the DRM
But soliciting and processing gifts through creative use of technology is only the half of it. As any fundraiser knows, the other half is all about good old customer service. Fundraising, after all, is still about building relationships with donors.
“In football you can put in a lot of fancy plays, double reverses and flea-flickers, but if you don’t block and tackle, you won’t win a lot of games,” De Galan says.
“It’s the same way in fundraising. You can have a really great Web site, and you can be doing mobile-phone giving — and we’re absolutely investing in that — but if you’re not doing basic, strong relationship building, especially with major donors, getting out and talking with them, having a cup of coffee with them, you’re not going to have a lot of success.”
David McKenna is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer who last wrote for FundRaising Success about emerging trends in e-philanthropy.