Fundraising is in a time of change. Some of it absolutely fundamental to the way we think, work, and connect with donors.
If someone tells you "social media" is the name of one of those changes, they don't know what they're talking about. It's is a small, peripheral factor; it will be years before it has a significant impact, if ever.
The top change that we all need to pay attention to, that's already upon us and turning our world on its ear, is this: Donors are scrambling our communication channels.
Most often, they're responding online to appeals we've made through traditional media, like direct mail. This makes it more difficult to know how well our fundraising campaigns work. What may look like a disappointing response to the mail could actually be a wild success that's split between the mail and the web.
If you don't know this is what's happening, you're going to cut spending on the "under-performing" direct mail -- and end up losing both mail and online response.
The Donor-Central blog, at In: Macro Reporting -- Out: Campaign Reporting, notes that anywhere from 2% to 40% of online donations can be attributed to direct mail.
Many organizations have a structure that block clear thinking about this issue:
Nonprofit organizations are still extremely siloed organizations. The people doing direct mail want credit for this behavior -- since their efforts are triggering online gifts. But generally speaking, the digital department does not report to development but to marketing. So the digital departments get to make statements like "online revenue is up 50%." When they should be saying, "online revenue cannibalized direct mail revenue by 20%."
We can't stuff this genie back into the lamp. This is the way donors want to behave. If you think you can somehow prevent it, you'll just chase them away.
Here's what every nonprofit must do to survive this change:
- Put all fundraising functions, including online, under one authority and accountability structure. Traditional media can no longer survive without the web. And the web is fed by traditional media. The channels must work together.
- Get professional help analyzing your results across media. I'm talking seriously math-intensive, propeller-beanie professional nerds (like Bill Jacobs). If you don't, I guarantee you will make self-destructive decisions about how you raise funds.
This revolution is upon us. You won't survive if you leave the silos intact.
See also Are Online Fundraisers Stealing Credit? at The Agitator.