Sunday, 2 September 2012

Digital Fundraising - are you ready?

I was speaking to a colleague from NGO-land this week and the chat went something like this.... 

"Print direct mail is dead.  Dead.  Everyone is going digital."

Print media - RIP?


It's times like these that I get keeping-up-with-the-Joneses  anxiety.  Crossing over from voluntary-sector fundraising to university-fundraising is the not-for-profit career equivalent of a North Londoner moving South of the River Thames.  We're rare beasts, we folks who have straddled the divide.  Much of the time it's a case of never the twain shall meet.

In terms of major gifts work, generally speaking universities are the swots in the classes: their programmes are well established, long standing and successful.  It's a very cost effective way to fundraise and it can be transformative.  But compared to say, committed giving, it's also unpredictable and tends to lend itself to organisation's which can facilitate donor-led giving.

Just need a solid stream of unrestricted income?  Major gifts is not your friend.  

Major gifts is the Savile Row suit of the fundraising world - bespoke and tailored to the donor.  It works for places where fundraising isn't bankrolling the photocopier, the data processing and all the other icky bits and bobs required to keep an operation alive and functional.  It's great for universities and it can be great for charities too - but not on its own. 

Bespoke fundraising is what universities do best

Like I said, universities are top performers in major gifts.  But, in terms of direct marketing we're looking at a very different scenario.  Whilst the voluntary sector are streaking ahead with SMS fundraising, contactless payments and integrated digital communications strategies, universities are what might be called late adopters.  

You could argue that the Ross Group universities don't need to mess around with mobile phones.  After all, big gifts work.  Oxford just got £75 million from a donor for a bursaries programme. King's College London was given £20 million for a law school. A couple of years ago, Edinburgh received £10 million to establish a regenerative neurology unit. 

These are transformational, enormous, dramatic.  But they probably aren't cost-relieving. They allow universities to do something important, different and special.  If you're a women's shelter needing to keep your doors open for another six months, that's no good to you.

Broad-based fundraising is important not only because it enables charities to deliver their ongoing, essential work but because it offers financial sustainability.  A fundraising programme based on many is safer than a fundraising programme based on few. 

Obviously, the best idea is to have both.  But I'm straying off the point. 

The point was are you ready for digital fundraising? 

Here's the thing:

  • Digital communications are cheaper. 
  • Digital communications are interactive (mostly).  If we accept that relationship building is the key to successful fundraising, that's ace
  • Digital communications allow us to reach new audiences. 

Digital communications raise money.  Done right, over time they raise a lot of money.  An SMS text donation can turn into a phone call which becomes a monthly pledger.  The donation could come off the phone bill, it could come from a bank account.  No paper is involved.  That's cheap.  It's convenient.  It lowers the acquisition costs. Compare that to street fundraising?  I'm sold. 

Health Warning.  Let's not be too hasty, because as Charlotte Beckett points on out on her most excellent blog:

"In the UK, as we know, 12% of the adult internet population has donated online, and the share of donations from online channels has risen 85% in 3 years. But it’s still 3.7%. "

Accepted.  But the key word here is risen.  This is a trend and in fundraising, we're in the business of horizon scanning, or if we're not, we should be.  It's a competitive business don't you know.  In the last quarter of 201115% of all donations made to UK charities were made digitally (source: IoF).  

Whether you sit in a university development office or a charity fundraising department, digital is coming.  No, not coming.  It's here.  And it's eating the market up with the tenacity of an underfed piranha. 

Digital Communications - nom nom 

So I'm asking you... 

Are you ready for digital communications?  Do you have a strategy?  Do you have the skills?  Do you have the technology in place?

Check out Bryan Miller's 12 Digital Fundraising Trends in 2012.



1 comment:

  1. Actually approaching donors online when they need to raise funds, and utilizing the power of social media interfaces on and off is certainly not the best way to do business.

    integrated fundraising strategies