Thursday, April 10, 2014

Are you caught in an online fundraising box?

Are you targeting your entire fundraising budget to the internet?  Do you think that if it isn’t online, it’s just too much trouble?  Is FaceBook your outreach program? Does the idea of interacting face-to-face scare the living daylights out of you?

This isn’t a rant against technology. It is a rant against boxing yourself into just one fundraising strategy.

Ten or fifteen years ago, everyone was struggling with how to integrate the internet into their fundraising. Now it is often the only fundraising strategy that new nonprofits consider.

I am one of the biggest boosters of an effective internet presence. I probably derive 80% of my business from contacts that originate on the internet. I constantly maintain that having a professional looking, grammatically correct, cohesive and informative website isn’t optional in today’s world. A social media presence is just expected. Online donations may only generate about 7% of nonprofit revenue, but that’s 7% you might not have without online donation capability
What seems to be missing now is that once you engage a nonprofit online, there is often no personal follow-through capability. I see more and more nonprofits that don’t provide any contact data beyond an email pop-up, even on their website.

There are real people behind those SM posts. They may want to shake your hand or visit your offices, if for no other reason than to prove that you actually exist and confirm that their money is actually being used for the public good.

With all the media coverage highlighting how unsafe your data really is in the cloud, many people are becoming street smart about how easy it is to set up a scam online. If the only place they can find you is online, they may shy away from committing to more than a minimum donation.

It is all too easy in our electronically defined world to lose that sense of real engagement. However close you might feel to your online group, when push becomes shove, how many of them could you actually reach out and physically touch? One out of 1,000?  One out of 10,000? None?

Nonprofits are all about people. They are about people that cry real tears, bleed real blood and have real lives. Don’t lose the human aspect of your mission. If you are uncomfortable with or can’t arrange face-to-face meetings, at least consider video chats and conferences that allow for personal interaction. Have a phone number and a real mailing address available. If your charity is still in the spare bedroom, think about having an informal get-together at a local restaurant or coffee shop. Put a real face and voice in front of your message.

The internet can be a wonderful meet-and-greet tool, but it’s just a tool. Don’t let it become a surrogate or stand-in for real donor engagement. You can hire a developer for your online world, but you need to be the one developing your donor connections. 

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