Social Fundraising: Where Donors become Fundraisers
We’re entering 2013 observing another year where online shopping demonstrated yet another impressive growth spurt. Online shopping is now so big, 2013 may be the end for notable brick and mortar merchants like Best Buy, JC Penney, Sears and Radio Shack.
But there’s one spot where online and dollars haven’t shown the same match made in heaven: fundraising.
Sure, online giving has grown steadily and according to Blackbaud’s 2010 report showed a modest 13% gain over the previous year (2009). The totals for 2012 aren’t in yet, but in the 2nd quarter, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported a 10.9% increase over the same period in 2011 and a ho-hum 8.9% increase in the 3rd quarter.
None of these numbers are eye-popping or likely to shake the foundations of the nation’s largest fund raising consultancies.
Nor are they likely to make the agenda at [fill in the blank] University Office of Development staff meetings.
That’s partly because online and social have been dismissed and downplayed from the beginning by face to face Development Officers and those in the business. Similarly, online retail was celebrated by some, loathed by others, and written off completely by the very folks who should have paid more attention.
Do you think Sears or JC Penney worried when Amazon launched? Did Best Buy or Radio Shack even know what “showrooming” was when smartphones hit the market?
It’s [past] time for Development offices and major gift officers in the non-profit world to get smart on what online fundraising can do to help put dollars in the coffers of smaller, but no less effective causes across campus.
What’s in the way? Two things in my mind: ‘marketability’ and ‘truisms.’
You know the programs….those that $25,000 or $50,000 would be a game-changer, but are a struggle to put in front of potential donors in the old, “personal visit” model. These programs, while valid and important, are so niche or narrow focused Development Officers pay lip service to their promotion, and therefore squash any chance of earning a donor’s passion.
Then, there are those ‘truisms’ which get touted whenever you hear dyed in the wool fundraisers wave their hand at online giving and fundraising:
- The number one reason people don’t give is because they weren’t asked
- People give when they believe you have needs. People invest when they believe you meet needs
- People give to people
And although this one isn’t a truism, I’ve heard more than one well-placed consultant or Development guru say, “no one is going to ever make a major gift because of Facebook.”
Their argument boils down to no online platform is going to replace the need for shoes on the pavement, ears to the phones, door to door fundraisers.
I’m not here to put those folks out of business. They have a duty. Most of the ones I know execute that duty with passion and purpose. They raise much needed money for their Universities, Schools and Colleges. A well built relationship between door to door Development staff and online giving can complement and even significantly enhance total dollars raised and the focus of even the most average fundraiser.
I’ll start by discussing the social equivalent of the above Top 3 Truisims and where online can help:
- Name a better platform at reaching connecting with large numbers of people who are already interested in your cause than social networks? You have to have a connection of some type before you can ever ask for the money. Online and social networks give any cause that scale — provided they take the right steps to cultivate their audience.
- To me, social networks are the easiest way to show stewardship of gifts received and cultivate interest in causes and programs that when funded, show needs are being met. Similarly, the effective utilization of social networks, dedicated landing pages and other online platforms are a great way to showcase needs. Stories can be told, images and videos can be shared, calls to action may be expertly placed and more than anything – prospective donors can, (a) find it on their own, and (b) seek the advice of their friends by easily sharing the site(s).
- I’ll take it a step further: people give through people for things they believe in. I almost have a different usher every weekend in Church. Am I giving to him, or through him? Likewise, your development officers may have the most charming personality this side of Tony Robbins, but their donors aren’t stroking the check to the officer – it’s going to the University. The proper research, setup and ongoing management of a social fundraising campaign puts the donors directly in touch with what they believe in!
Listen, individuals represented 73% of the total giving in 2011 clocking in at over $217 Billion. There’s clearly untapped interest there to earn the attention of their friends and networks!
Just like online merchants solved the riddle of how to avoid the crowds, offer more stuff to more people at lower prices, and in some cases market that stuff better, someone is going to solve for how to connect causes to individuals online (outside of annual giving).
Once that tipping point is achieved, individual donors can avoid the calls and emails (and even postal letters) from development officers – skipping the numerous and expensive personal visits which lead to ‘the ask’ – and go straight to the cause they feel the most vested interest in.
When that happens, the donors become the fundraisers. You already see it now when people give small amounts to a cause and then recruit their friends to join them.
All we really need to disrupt the whole fundraising ecosystem is a platform that ratchets up the marketing and visibility of the programs on campus your development officers can’t (or won’t) relate to. You have them – everyone does. And very soon, your donors will be doing the fundraising for those very same programs, touching non Alums via social networks.
Social fundraising is already here, growing and poised for tremendous growth. Are you ready to turn your donors into fundraisers?
NOTE: For those of you expecting a review of some of the now popular online crowdfunding platforms, take heart….that will be a later post. Stay tuned.
Author: Don Crow is Founder & CEO at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media
assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative
Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team
chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a
mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.