tothepoint: Online Fundraising Changes to Make Now
1. CHANGE TO MAKE:
Get online if you aren't already
It's 2010, and I hope you're online. If you're with the times, you're collecting donations on your website with a well-crafted, compelling and consistently branded donation page. You are using an e-mail campaign tool, not Outlook, to communicate with your community of supporters. You have a social-media strategy and are committing the time you need to achieve your clearly articulated, measurable goals. You continually assess how all of these efforts are performing against your targets. Your online and offline outreach is seamlessly integrated.
You need to be doing all of these things. Now. Why? You need to be focused on individual gifts (because that's the source of a whopping three-quarters of all charitable giving). And in focusing on individual givers, you need to realize that more and more of those people are donating and taking action online.
2. CHANGE TO MAKE:
Rethink and restructure your donor relationships
The biggest thing that needs to change this year is how we think about our donors. We are in the midst of an enormous generational shift that has major implications for our work. The greatest generation of older, civic-minded Americans who write checks out of a sense of duty and expect little more than a tax receipt in return is passing the torch to a far more demanding series of successors.
Boomers expect a sense of impact, and younger donors expect engagement and involvement. They are anything but passive. Think of it this way: Just as in marketing we have left the broadcast era where consumers passively take in promotional messages, we have left the low-expectation donor era.
That means it's not enough to declare a need and send a thank-you. Today's supporters increasingly expect engagement that makes them feel seen, heard and involved. They are not walking wallets or ATM machines. They are partners who expect relationships with the organizations they support. They want to be talked to as individuals, thanked and updated.
This is especially true online. With most of what we do online — Facebook, Foursquare, gaming, etc. — being highly personal and extremely interactive, we have to provide a more intimate and involved experience for our supporters with our technological tools. Otherwise, we will alienate nearly everyone.
3. CHANGE TO MAKE:
Do the marketing so the technology works
You can have a huge "donate" button on your home- page or a snazzy Facebook page, but that does not mean anyone is coming or clicking. Unfortunately, a "donate now" button is not filled with donor-attracting potion, and social networks aren't magical money machines. They don't work without great messaging, compelling engagement and marketing savvy. I fear we've gotten so enamored with the tools that are available — and the seeming ease of adopting them — that we're forgetting the hard thinking that has to go into making them work.
This year, make sure that all the online outreach you are performing has the necessary thinking behind it. To compel donors to give online — or anywhere, for that matter — you need to always be relevant, compelling, specific and use trusted messengers.
4. CHANGE TO MAKE:
Get more tangible and impact-focused
Here is another paradigm shift required this year: from need to impact.
Fundraising is not about what you need. Really. It is about what the donor — through you — can achieve. It's about giving donors the gift of knowing they changed the world for the better. It's not about our goals; it's about our donor's aims.
Everyone knows you need money. So do the other 1.8 million nonprofits in the United States — and the millions more around the world. If that's all you've got to say, you are just another organization with yet another appeal.
What is special about you? The answer can't simply be that your programs need support. It must be that with your donor, together you can achieve a difference that no one else can.
5. CHANGE TO MAKE:
Switch up your messengers to attain social proof
Everyone (from your funders to your donors to your volunteers to your constituents) expects participation. No one wants to have you talk and tell; donors want you to listen and enable.
This is an enormous power shift. We are no longer the mission control of our message. Our supporters are building their own centers of control. When they talk about us, act on our behalf or, increasingly, raise money for us, they are creating millions of message outposts for our mission online.
Technology makes it easy to highlight nontraditional messengers. Your website, social media, e-mail outreach all can highlight voices other than your own. In addition, through features like tell-a-friend and personal fundraising pages or widgets, you can even put the fundraising message in the hands of these messengers.
6. CHANGE TO MAKE:
Think portable in all outreach
This is the year you need to think inside out in your online outreach. You've spent the past decade or so getting a website together and trying to drive people to it. Now is the time to drive the content on your site out into the Web — and not just through your own efforts but also through your supporters. Instead of looking at Facebook, Twitter, widgets and other tools as mechanisms for you to start conversations about your organization, also think of them as tools for your supporters. The ultimate power of these applications is not what they can do, but who is using them.
Every single thing you do has to include a way for people to take your message to their own circles of influence. You want people to pack up anything they like and transport it online.
7. CHANGE TO MAKE:
Be generous and lazy
I can hear your thoughts. How the heck am I supposed to find the time to do this?
My first answer is, you will spend more time on all of your work if you don't have to spend as much time on these things. They'll make you far better at engaging people, building a base and raising money — so you'll save time and effort in the end.
My second answer is, you should not think in terms of shortages of time and scarcity of resources. You should approach your donor — and your life — from a place of abundance.
When you do your online outreach, give credit to your supporters instead of yourself. Listen and follow more than you talk and recruit. When people retweet your content or spread the word, profusely thank and highlight them.
Spend more time pointing to the work of others and celebrating what they say than you do talking about yourself. Rather than pontificating on a topic, share the thoughts of others and praise their insights.
The more you do this, the more popular you become. It sounds paradoxical, but it works. Which brings me to laziness. The more you choose to highlight the work of others — and point to their content — the less you have to produce yourself. This is a lovely benefit of being generous — it saves you time.
8. CHANGE TO MAKE:
Overhaul your acknowledgment system
In fundraising, we tend to focus on what we can extract from our donors. Instead, we should focus on what we can give our donors: gratitude, social impact, good feelings. The money will follow.
It is far easier to keep and cultivate a donor than to go find new ones and persuade them to care about your cause. That's one reason to give thanks early and often in your online outreach. Another is that your gratitude bonds the donor to your cause.
And, because most nonprofits stink at online relationship-building, if you are good, you are going to stand out, particularly in 2010. FS