Simply Donors No More and
Email is still the Killer App

March 30, 2009

socialmovementQui Diaz, Beth Kanter and Geoff Livingston, conducted a survey to see if there is a future in online fundraising.

Their conclusion is clear:

Tremendous Opportunity for Nonprofits

You can read Geoff Livingston’s report on the finding here.

What we are really learning from studies about online fundraising is this:

Online donors are not just donors They are part of a movement They have a stake in the outcome

And that is where the real challenge lies. Your communication aims to make your readers part of your movement. As Tom Suddes always says: Impact generates Income. Not the other way around.

This is the key to understanding online fundraising. And it is not the impact that you alone make, but the impact that your movement makes. Your “donors” have a stake in the outcome, they are invested in the impact you make together.

With respect to the report on Mashable, Allison Fine gives a great summary of the findings here. Beyond that, she wants to see you take immediate action and has some marching orders:

If you’re struggling with how to manage the transition to the connected age of the future for fundraising, here are a few steps to help you get unstuck:
  1. Keep doing what works but know and plan like it isn’t going to work forever. In fact, you should plan that this is the last year you’ll be able to do what you’ve done before successfully. You don’t want to get caught totally off guard like newspapers that thought they had much longer to transition from old to new than they really did.
  2. Get your conversations going online NOW! Pick one or two places, say Twitter and Facebook, and start talking about your issues and listening to the conversations that folks are having about your cause. Don’t worry if the conversation is small, don’t worry that it isn’t leading to donations right now. You need to practice talking to people online about your cause; these aren’t skills that more traditional orgs have in their DNA.
  3. Find one fundraising event or idea to take online this year. Use Facebook to ask your folks for ideas for fundraisers, should we pick a day and everyone does their own thing like Red Nose Day, or should we have one event in person, maybe a lower key breakfast this year instead of a fancy dinner, or maybe a virtual event or contest? Don’t prescribe, listen and learn.
OK, those are you marching orders – get going!

One thing. There is an unmistakable finding in this report, one that you ignore at your own peril.

Email is still the killer app.

preferredsocialmediatools41As you can see, the vast majority of people prefer email over other social networks to be in conversation with your organization. That is entirely consistent with what social marketing experts know. Those are the guys who always write an ebook for the simple reason that they get you to sign on to their email list. Your email address is valuable to them and it is to nonprofits too.

Even the blog about making money with blogs writes today about the significance of email.

So here is my addition to Allyson Fine’s marching orders:

  • Gather email addresses relentlessly and engage in a conversation with your followers.
  • Don’t limit your conversations to facebook or twitter (which I think is already starting to come off its hinges).
  • Email people, and imagine how you would like to receive email. In other words, don’t bombard, but also, don’t be shy.
  • Write short simple email addresses that have these three elements, which I wrote about earlier:
  1. Ask the recipient to do one thing that day
  2. Show what that will accomplish
  3. Tell them what will happen next.

Online donors are not simply donors. They are part of a movement. They want to have a stake in the outcome and that is where the real challenge lies.

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