Fundraising Into the Future – and BEYOND! (Part 2)

Last week I blogged about the digital revolution in fundraising, and asked whether it has “changed the game”, or only the “rules”.  (Or, as I would argue, not even the rules, more like the shape of the playing field and which ball gets kicked, hit, chased, or fielded).

Having finally gone Twitter (I know, I KNOW…) I’d say the biggest ‘revolution’ that social media has brought to the industry is… how many people without other jobs are now claiming to be someone “connecting donors to their causes” and “helping charities use social media to raise awareness and funds”.   In other words, biggest winner so far?  The industry.  But let’s see….


Ok,  here’s where we left you.  The dramatic (relative) growth of online giving has had everyone in a twitter (pun intended) since 2005.  But that’s a key thing to remember: Web  giving has grown RELATIVE TO ITSELF.  Compared to overall giving, it has peaked and dropped, but not really moved the BIG dial on giving.

Look again at the Sichwan earthquake.  Was having a billion dollars pop up out of nowhere a game changer? Certainly it was for China.  In fact, in  many ways it woke up the Chinese government to the power — both good and bad — of charity giving, especially if that funding comes from outside the country (it all but stopped progress on new charity registration laws following the quake; most INGO’s still cannot raise public funds there).

But one billion dollars is only .3% of all charity giving , from one market alone.  If I told my boss I was going to increase my revenue goals by .3% next year, I would get fired.  If, on the other hand, I told him I was going to raise a billion new dollars, I would get a raise.  If I told him 68,000 people had to die to make it happen, I think he would give it some more thought.  In truth, we don’t drive crises issues, those issues drive us.

Fast-forward forward to 2012:  enter the smart phone.  We can text money directly to Haiti, or Japan, or via Avaaz, we can support the uprising in Egypt or the Brazil forest law campaign in South America.  It’s amazing.  And for the donor, its *empowering.*  You really do feel that you can make a difference.

We now we have digital armies, who can cough up a million dollars in an emergency situation.  But  are these “issue” givers, or crisis givers?  Will we have to make more ‘crises’ out of what we do, if we want to raise more money in the new digital medium?  Or, perhaps, we have to evolve “life-style giving”, where people give in order to make sure they are the kind of person they think they should be, which is someone who cares about something other than themselves (maybe I’m a bit cynical).

And now what about the new, new digital medium, social media?  Facebook has causes, its given a huge boost to peer-to-peer fundraising, and it seems that every business with any business sense is showing its “caring” side by offer donations or ways to engage.  Are we heralding a new era of social (and financial) generosity?  Again, hard to say, but the numbers are still fairly thin.

Mark Zuckerberg himself said Facebook was relevant because “You might care more about the cat starving in front of your house than kids that are starving in Africa.”    I think that kind of sums up the challenge we face, as the Web itself evolves, and mobile phones overtake laptops as the number one way people access the Web (which is due to happen this year).

Social media is the ultimate self-centered experience, which is why it is so powerful. Thanks to both Facebook and Google (by tailoring searches to “you”, and believe me, they know who you are and what you usually look for, and “like”), social media giving is going to be “all about” not the cause, but the donor.  But is this really a new game? Or is it just the new rules of how to talk to the “me” generation, with an attention span of only 145 characters?

Too soon to tell.  But not too soon to test.  Let’s hear your thoughts.

(For more back up data, review Blackbaud’s Online Giving Report, which reports that most organization have experienced double digit growth in digital fundraising over the last few years, but not necessarily double digit growth in fundraising.)

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