Future of Fundraising is Hiding in Blackbaud Results
Posted by Allison Fine on March 18, 2009
Interesting article by Stephanie Strom in the Times today about a recent survey by Blackbaud of online donors. Blackbaud, a fundraising and software company, surveyed twenty-four nonprofits to learn more about who their online donors are and their giving patterns. They found that these donors are high-income, high education people who are very attractive to causes, but who are exhibiting a pattern of giving once online and don’t become habitual online givers to particular causes.
No surprises there, that is in keeping with every other survey and all of the other data that I’ve seen about online giving. However, I disagree with the conclusion of the article, here’s the gist:
The findings suggest that while the Internet can be a valuable fund-raising tool for charities, particularly in soliciting gifts after disasters like Hurricane Katrina, it is not a replacement for direct mail or other forms of fund-raising.
Nope, wrong. We are in a period of transition where the old ways of doing things, like direct mail fundraising, may continue for a short time because going back to the old well is easier than figuring out where the new well is and how it works. But when your donor bases average (average!) age is in the seventies that’s not a sustainable way of thinking or working.
Here’s what I would have concluded instead. Online giving works differently than direct mail giving because the people who are most likely to give online, younger, more tech savvy people, think differently than other generations. As donors they are not going to behave like their grandparents and become lifelong members and givers to specific nonprofits. That’s what I found in Social Citizens and what other smarter folks, like Carol Cone, have been reporting for years. So, if young donors aren’t going to change than nonprofit orgs had better – and fast before those donors bases average eighty years old!
Online donors, or you could say young donors it’s the same thing, really, are going to come and go based on how strongly they feel about an event (e.g. a natural disaster) or a cause (e.g. hunger) at that particular moment in time. The job of causes is to continue to build relationships with lots of people over time, and keep lots of access points open for them to participate in conversations, learn about the cause, tell their friends about it — and give when they’re moved to give. Not everyone is going to give to every campaign but they’re not lost to you, they’re busy and moved by other issues at that time. The job of the cause is to continue the conversation over time.
But this won’t happen for more traditional organizations accustomed to living off of their donor bases until they really understand the DNA of younger donors — and change their DNA to match. Easier said than done, of course, but it’s time to get to it, because one thing is for sure: 75 million Millennials aren’t going to change their stripes for you!
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