Deja vu and ePhilanthropy

An old friend of mine, Autumn Porter, sent me a Facebook message last week asking for help reconciling two very different ideas — face-to-face solicitations versus online videos & electronic pledge forms. As I stewed on how to respond to her, it dawned on me that resource development professionals, who have come before me, must have had a similar “moment”. I suspect that this deja vu moment probably occurred at the advent of the direct mail era.

First let me frame Autumn’s dilemma. On one hand, she was told that she needs to get out there, roll up her sleeves, infiltrate professional networks, schedule in-person workplace solicitation meetings, and ask … ask … ask. On the other hand, she has been told by a local employer that they are an “electronic workplace” and really think it would be better to ask their employees to view an online video over the company’s internal network and be given the opportunity to complete an electronic pledge form. Here is Autumn’s question:

“How do I begin to merge these two tangents into some sort of donor-centric approach?  Are there examples of using social media to tie us directly to their heartstrings?  Can we create a lasting connection of the human experience without being in the same square-footage?  If people give to people, how do we continue to reach the people with the capacity to give?”

As I said earlier, “deja vu” all over again! With that being said, I suspect that those fundraising professionals who addressed similar questions during the rise of direct mail would probably stand here today with the same advice … “Know Thy Donor” and solicit them in the manner that they would like to be solicited. I also firmly believe that resource development professionals know that face-to-face solicitation is the most effective, efficient and respectful way to solicit. As such, good RD professionals know that there is a threshold when direct mail, email, social media and telephone calls are not respectful and in those circumstances they reach into their solicitation toolkit and use the most appropriate tool.

So, my best advice to Autumn can be summed up by this YouTube video highlighting a psychic, cosmic conversation between Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi.

All kidding aside, I plan on using the remainder of this week’s blog posts to talk about ePhilanthropy and social media. In the meantime, I am interested in how you would answer Autumn’s questions. Please use the comment box below to weigh-in with your best world-class advice.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

About DonorDreams

Erik got his start working in the non-profit field immediately upon graduation with his masters degree in 1994. His non-profit management and fundraising experience numbers nearly 20 years. His teachable point of view around resource development is influenced by the work of Penelope Burk and those professionals subscribing to a "donor centered" paradigm. Donors have dreams and it is our responsibility to be dream-makers because donors are not ATMs.

Posted on July 25, 2011, in Donor-centered fundraising, resource development and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I guess I don’t understand the issue. I’ve always believed that the most effective way of operating is to engage multiple strategies. In this instance, could Autumn not design 2 approaches…one for the in person relationship building aspect of her campaign and the other for those entities which electronic giving is the norm. These are not mutually exclusive. It may take a bit of research to figure out which strategy or both will be most effective in which situation. But the result will be worth the initial investment of time.

    • Good advice, Danise. However, I wonder about the specific situation that Autumn highlighted with the online video and the electronic pledge form? After securing the original donation, how does the charity effectively steward that faceless donor and move them up the range of gifts chart? I suspect that social media can be a good vehicle for communicating the ROI information as part of a stewardship effort. However, will that employer allow the charity to broadcast that to them? Or do those things need to be sent directly to an email address? And at what point should Autumn turn the donor-charity relationship from an electronic relationship to a personal one. While my advice was to “use the force Luke,” I wonder if there is a brightline threshold for some fundraisers?

  2. I believe there is a place for both, and when married together in a way that is donor-centered (given there is ample information about the donor), it could increase the way we are showing our donors where their dollars have been spent (ROI). Social media is a great tool to showcase, highlight, tell, and shout how non profits are impacting the communities being served by the missions they represent. However, I also believe that there is an inherent risk of “selling” too much to our donors through social media.

    Nonprofits need to be wary of too much to the donors that might impact their other fundraising efforts….so yes, I believe we can use social media to ask, but it is better served – at least for now- to do more telling/showing and less asking… other words…using it for stewardship would probably be the greatest ROI for the non profit.

    unless of course we are talking about texting campaigns…now that is another animal altogether.

    Teri Halliday, CFRE

    • Teri … as we talked about earlier today, everyone is touting a “multi-channel” approach nowadays … social media, websites, email, direct mail, e-videos, PURLs, blogs, etc. Do it all and link everything together including your non-electronic tools like direct mail, etc.

      I hope your travels were safe. I look forward to seeing you again soon!


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