Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's next?

So much of what we do in annual giving is working to create the impression of a 1:1 relationship with each of the folks we are soliciting.  That effort may be in the form of a direct mail appeal that starts off with a personal salutation, reflects donation and attendance history and ends with a custom ask based upon amount, recency, and frequency of support.  Or it may be an email that reflects, often behind the scenes, the online engagement and activity that constituent has engaged in.  This may include variable images, text or even entirely different cases for support defined virtually by that constituents online behavior.  The phone program has always provided that 1:1 interaction, in fact that is why that aspect of our profession had such huge success from the 90s through the 00s.

So where do we go from here?  The "next big thing" in marketing has been social media.  That is not about emulating a 1:1 relationship, that is a 1:1 relationship but the parameters of that conversation have changed.  Instead of a 1:1 engagement that is driven by the institution, it is a 1:1 engagement that is completely equal.  Both you and your constituent can start, stop and control the conversation.

This transition has been a boon to admissions and other sales professionals but fundraisers continue to struggle with how to transition this engagement into dollars.  Among the many challenges for much of this is that in typical fundraising engagement precedes solicitation while in social media, thus far we have found that solicitation results in anger as opposed to funding.

It seems to me that a huge part of this is a relative perception problem.  If you had called someone at home in 1965 and asked them to support your cause, odds are good that they would not only not have given but would have reported you to the authorities as a scam.  It just wasn't done and as a result, wouldn't work.   We need to keep that maturation of program and approach in mind.  Back in 1965, if you wanted to raise money, it was local and face to face - door to door actually.  Carrying that analogy forward with social media fundraising, we need to identify who/what a door to door fundraiser is in this environment.  It is my suggestion that this is a volunteer role to start and that we need to identify the tools needed for those volunteers to have success.  I don't know what those are yet but am starting to play with identifying volunteers willing to help me figure it out.


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