Will the computer and smart phone kill fundraising face-to-face solicitations?

kids1Last week, I wrote a blog titled “How do you network?” which was based on a conversation I had with Henry Freeman, the owner of H.Freeman Associates LLC. That post was well-received by many of you, and afterward Henry followed up with a nice email thanking me for his “15 minutes of internet fame.” LOL  Of course, in that correspondence, Henry said something that struck me as interesting, which got me wondering about face-to-face solicitation techniques and the future of fundraising.

Here is what Henry wrote that got me thinking:

“One of the things that scares me about the vast amount of technology that enters children’s lives at a very early age is the impact it may have on their ability to grasp the deeply important human skills involved in simple face-to-face communication that involves far more than the words we speak and the facts we share.”

This paragraph formed a mental image in my head of my nephew and niece with their faces buries in their smartphones during a recent family holiday gathering. There were adults everywhere and none of the conversations were kid-friendly. So, they were bored and their phones were entertaining and full of interesting things like texting, emails, Snapchat, etc.

What got me thinking even more about Henry’s concern was a “Tech Shift” radio story I heard on Chicago’s WBEZ 91.5 FM today while driving to Indiana for a site visit with a client.

The interview was with Nick Bilton, who is a tech columnist at NYTimes.com. He recently engaged in a social experiment that yielded an interesting conversation about smartphones. Click here to listen to that interview. It is definitely worth the click.

In doing a little research for today’s blog post, I stumbled across another post “Picture or it didn’t happen” from Leah Pickett at WBEZ. In this article, she talked about her generation being brought up exclusively on technology and social media and the social behavioral changes that have ensued. This is also definitely worth a click.

As these things rolled around the inside of my head, the Illinois and Indiana snow-covered landscape passed by in one white blur, but the one thing my mind kept wandering back to was this simple question:

kids2I wonder if these influences on the next generation of donors and fundraising volunteers will have an impact on the art of face-to-face solicitation and the future of philanthropy?

The reason why this question is so important is because (as Henry so aptly points out all the time in his trainings) face-to-face solicitation is the most effective way to engage a donor. Good fundraising professionals know there are no other solicitation techniques (e.g. mail, email, telephone, etc) that come close to the level of effectiveness as a face-to-face visit with donor.

I honestly don’t have any answers today, but I think it is something worth thinking about because the answer could impact your organization’s approach to fundraising.

How? Here are just a few ideas:

  • re-investment in face-to-face solicitation training
  • investment in online “personal page” solicitation
  • inclusion of a variety of ePhilanthropy strategies (e.g. email, website, social media, crowdfunding, etc) in your annual resource development plan

I really don’t know. Maybe I’m just showing my age? But I think this is an important enough idea to spend a little time contemplating and asking the simple question of “What if?

What are your thoughts? Do you think the upcoming generation of fundraising volunteers could be impacted by the tech they’ve grown up with? If so, then what do you think the effect could be on resource development? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

On a different subject, I’m pleased to announce to the DonorDreams blog community that Henry Freeman is letting me share his fundraising videos with you. My plan is to share one video per month throughout 2015. If there is good viewership, then I’ll continue sharing even more of his videos in 2016. Henry is one heck of a great fundraising professional, and I suspect you’re gonna love his training videos.

Thanks for being so awesome, Henry!

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

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 February 3, 2015, in Fundraising, nonprofit, resource development, technology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Erik,

    I don’t think we have to wait for the next generation of fund raisers and volunteers to over rely on social media and other forms of indirect communication. Today there is so much e-contact in so many charitable environments with so little return on investment. In a world where 2% reply is considered a success, I’ll take a good face to face visit any day.

    Jerry Fazio
    San Diego

    • Jerry . . . I second your thoughts, but I really want a side of caffeine with that face-to-face visit. 😉

      To be clear, I’m not opposed to ePhilanthropy, computers and social media. I am just interested in the “cause-and-effect” aspect of everything I see going down in the world around us.

      I’m glad you’re doing well and thanks for your readership.

  2. This is a great topic, Erik, and a good reason for concern. But I believe there is hope — as witnessed by some gentle pushback on electronic technology. A case in point is my favorite small sandwich shop/ice cream parlor called The Chocolate Moose in the town of Farmland, Indiana. Each week they have “Talk to Me Tuesday” when they place a small basket on each table and ask patrons to keep their cell phones there for the balance of their meal. They then reward the customers who comply with a free scoop of ice cream! What a great way to encourage real conversation!

    • Mike . . . I always loved the fact that you were always about “Hope and Opportunity” as a fundraising professional. I hope all is well and look forward to the next time we see each other.

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