Silenced in a Multi-Channel World

Take Away: Study examines trends in multi-channel fundraising but fails to mention a fifth of charities have no fundraising database at all!

The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s report “Fundraising in a Multichannel World: How the Explosion in Technology is Transforming the Science of the Ask,” examines how technology is changing the way fundraisers interact with their donors. Even as those surveyed embraced a profusion of channels, most say they’ll continue to invest in traditional fundraising.

Did you know?

  • More than 90% of respondents use the personal ask, more than any other tactic.
  • 70% of those surveyed found personal solicitation was more effective than in the past.
  • Peer-to-peer campaigns were increasingly successful for 50% of these nonprofits.
  • 87% still use, and 1/3 plan to increase their investment in, direct mail.
  • More than half expect to boost their use of social media.
  • Only 13% used mobile/text messaging as one of their fundraising channels.

Apparently, the more we communicate digitally, the more powerful live, in-person human contact becomes. Study participants found that employing a strategic mix of automated and in-person communication achieved optimal results.

Yet many nonprofits are mute, unable to speak in this multi-channel world.

Under-Developed, A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofits, A Project of CompassPoint and the Walter and Evelyn Haas, Jr. Fund, found 21% of all nonprofits and 32% of organizations with budgets of $1 million or less, have no fundraising database at all.

You can’t solicit donors in person, the most effective approach listed above, if you don’t have their contact info, know what their involvement is or how much they’ve given in the past. If you do manage to ask for and get a gift, any information you gain on your visit will be lost.   The same is true of other channels. You can’t send direct mail or manage peer-to-peer campaigns without Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) software. You can’t monetize your social media followers or ask by text. Heck, you can’t even send thank you notes without a database. And un-thanked donors rarely give again.

To survive in our hyper-competitive philanthropic market, your nonprofit must have a fundraising database.  So, what’s the problem? It’s not the price. There’s basic, cloud-based software that even small charities can afford. Rather, staff who are stretched to the limit just don’t have the band width to choose, install, structure, populate and manage a new fundraising database.

To overcome this, you need an unshakably determined champion. The trustee who brings it up at every board meeting and pays for it himself. The development director who structures it, persuading volunteers, interns and even family members to enter data. The program officer who enters the names of every person she serves, every day, no matter how exhausted she is.

How about you? Have you ever worked without a fundraising database? If you managed to get one, how did you do it? If your nonprofit once had a fundraising database, then regressed to using excel, how did it happen? I’d love to hear your stories, solutions and questions.

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