Traditional Versus Modern Outreach — Which Is Right for Your Nonprofit?
It’s true in life, true in fundraising: The one constant is change.
Fundraising methods are in a constant state of flux from year to year, but over the years we’ve seen a real divide come down in terms of more traditional methods (phone calls, mailers, events, etc.) and modern methods of digital outreach. So which one is right for your organization?
Let’s dive into each type.
Traditional fundraising methods are widely used, and often have a return.
Direct mail and similar modes of traditional outreach started after World War II, and expanded in the 1960s, before growing exponentially in the ’70s and ’80s. These methods are still widely used today, and nonprofits that use them do typically see a return.
There are a few issues with traditional fundraising methods though.
Hard to track the true results. There’s no way to draw a direct line between, say, a mailer and a donation. You can make a guess that your mailer led to a donation, but it could just as much be that the person who received the mailer happened to give or gave for some other reason.
Expensive and time consuming. The physicality and analog nature of traditional outreach makes it much pricier than modern methods, and it’s time consuming — the window between sending your outreach and getting a donation back can be months long. This is tough for budgeting, and it means you have to put all of your eggs in that basket because by the time you know the campaign didn’t work, it’s too late.
Fundraising events, like galas, have mixed results. They’re a trusted source of fundraising and awareness-building, but they tend to receive mixed reviews. They also require a lot of planning and resources and don’t always pan out.
Doesn’t appeal to everyone. While older generations still respond fairly well to this kind of outreach, younger ones often don’t. And, as time goes on, this younger cohort of donors is rapidly displacing the older generations and changing the make-up of the fundraising donor market all together.
Modern fundraising methods are newer, but incredibly effective.
The development of the internet changed everything for fundraising, with digital outreach rapidly becoming a popular method of giving. Online giving grew 19% over the last three years, and is popular with all generations, though especially millennials and Generation Z. (Don’t count out baby boomers and other generations though. They’ve responded very well to social media outreach, particularly in recent years.)
Modern fundraising centers around four pillars.
1. Highly targeted audiences
Older methods were focused on getting the same message in front of as many people as possible; modern methods are focused on getting the message in front of the people that matter.
Digital outreach is highly targeted, with organizations doing their best to get in front of people who are already interested in their cause. This is especially important when targeting those from younger generations, who have highly tuned “spam filters” and quickly discount generalized messages from organizations.
These highly targeted audiences are also segmented because even within the same group of people you’re going to have subgroups. Speaking directly to different segments of your donor or prospect pool with campaigns tailored directly for them is key for effective outreach.
Plus, it takes some of the weight out of campaign planning. You’re not sending out a mailer that has to work for everybody. You can quickly tailor an ad for a segment, see if it works, and if it doesn’t, no problem. You can always iterate.
3. Upgrading Donors
Your donor pool is not a static thing in modern fundraising. Rather than seeing each interaction with a donor as a separate event, modern fundraising focuses on nurturing the donors you already have and moving them up the giving table year after year.
This makes it easier to make your numbers, since you can get more money from fewer donors, and you’re not having to constantly hustle for new people.
Above all, modern outreach is personalized as much as possible to the individual who sees it. While it’s not possible to tailor ads directly to one person (yet), widely available technologies make it possible to tailor ads to different segments based on what they care about and respond to. Ads that aren’t tailored come across as tone-deaf to modern donors and are far less effective.
Which Is Right for Your Organization?
People tend to cling pretty strongly to their chosen form of outreach, and that makes sense — after all, it’s familiar. This is especially the case with traditional fundraising, since it’s been around longer. But sticking to one method or the other unnecessarily limits your outreach. Traditional outreach methods plus modern outreach methods become far more than the sum of their parts, allowing you to transcend your fundraising limits and achieve your mission.
If you use widely-accessible technology to approach your fundraising from an affinity standpoint — aka understanding your donors’ wants and needs, and speaking directly to that — you can put some pretty powerful rocket fuel behind more traditional efforts. After all, how much more effective would your mailers be if you only sent them out to people who genuinely wanted to get them?
Similarly, traditional methods can be a great backup to modern methods. If you can coordinate a digital campaign with a traditional phone or mailer campaign for follow-up with your most motivated prospects, that’s a recipe for great results.
Whether you’re currently using digital ads or not, growing your digital presence is key for successful fundraising. It’s the basis of all modern fundraising methods, and it’s key for reaching the kinds of prospects and donors that will keep your organization steady throughout the demographic shifts of the next few years.
Iterative digital ads are a great on-ramp for this, as they’re easily accessible, relatively cheap and very effective when done well. If you haven’t explored them as an option yet, consider adding that to your to-do list. Digital ads are new, and might be different than what you’re used to, but it’s absolutely key for future-proofing your fundraising.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.