Making Fundraising Free
More and more things are free. You can download software, music, get advice, see a movie—all for free. The internet has created what is now called the "copy economy."
You can now get just about anything for free—or nearly so.
Some are fighting it. Taylor Swift, for example, launched a war on YouTube for posting her music videos. She’ll lose, however. She may win a battle or two but the outcome is decided. The audience pyramid has flipped—for music, for film and for advice.
Now the copy economy is coming to a nonprofit near you. It may even be your own.
We hear a lot about "competition" among nonprofits. More organizations competing for scarce dollars. Yada, yada, yada. There is competition—and it’s growing fiercer by the month. But it’s not in the way the conventional pundits have pitched it. It’s not about money. It’s not about scarcity.
In the copy economy, it’s about free. It’s about abundance. Your organization offers a solution to the—you name it—problem. So does another in the next block. And on and on. To the potential investor, the solution to the "problem" you’ve identified is free. It’s everywhere.
Well, you say, that’s made scarce dollars even more scarce. Philanthropists are being less generous and more restrictive, you say.
Wrong. Pure and simple, wrong.
Principle 1 of The Eight Principles™ is "Donors are the Drivers®." Donors are in the driver’s seat in philanthropy. They always have been. Until recently, however, well-meaning nonprofits could ignore this principle and still raise funds.
In the copy economy, disregarding the fact that donors are in control will spell the end of your organization. Predictions of nonprofit closures in the next five years run as high as 50 percent of current organizations.
In the copy economy—in the world of "free"—the things that are valuable are those things that cannot be copied. Your treasured mission, your lofty idea can.
So get over it.
Donors are focused on making it personal—to them. And they want to know now. Making it personal and immediate is right up there with trust.
So, isn’t this just another way of saying "donor-centric"? No. Definitely not.
In the donor centrism way of thinking, you seek out the donors’ preferences and concerns to gain an inside track or leverage on their philanthropy. Yes, there’s "concern" for the donor. It’s concern for their money.
Making it personal requires an ongoing conversation with your investors. These relationships are deeply generative, reinventing themselves and renewing themselves over and over. Both you and your investors become deeply intertwined toward a purpose that is a common one at the very highest level—self-actualization. Think Maslow’s hierarchy.
There is an incredible opportunity to build strong bonds with your investors by providing them something they really value. And are willing to pay for. To be a part, to achieve the fulfillment of one’s personal values and visions is worth a lot. Philanthropists willingly will invest heavily in your organization if you provide it.
This is what marketers often call "stickiness." These investors will stick with you through thick and thin. Think about that when the next recession comes along.
You have a choice. You can continue to fight the losing proposition of scarcity and hoarding. You’ll even have some good company—like Swift—along the way. But you’ll lose.
You can take the side step of donor centrism and hope your donors don’t get wise. Philanthropists are on to this.
You can also think relationship not copies. Will you offer your potential investors what they’re seeking? If you do, you’ll be handsomely rewarded—experientially and financially.
Success is waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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