Monday, September 5, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Back to the Future

Do you remember the Michael J. Fox Back to the Future series of movies a few years back? For those that never saw any of those movies, it was about a young man moving back and forth through time by hopping in a DeLorean car, shooting down the street and being transported back and forth through time.

What if you could hop in Michael J. Fox’s DeLorean and shoot forward in time ten or 15 years? What would your fund raising organization look like?

You might be surprised that you would still have people creating direct mail, but certainly not doing new donor acquisition through the mail. Rising postage and production cost will essentially have negated this form of new donor acquisition and besides, ten years in the future mail, though still a viable channel as part of an integrated direct marketing program, won’t be in step with how the vast number of people communicate.

The Internet changes everything. Today, we are only getting the beginning glimpse of the profound shift in how individuals and organizations will communicate in ten years. Do this. Walk up to any busy intersection where you can clearly see one lane of drivers. As the light changes and the cars roll by; how many drivers have a cell phone to their ear? 25%, 33%, 50%, more? It will surprise you. And, of course, if they weren’t driving, they would be texting. The average 20-something does 30 texts for every phone call they make. And, of course, in ten years, today’s 20-somethings will be 30-somethings. The one thing we can say with some assurity is that in ten years, what we today call Smartphones will dominate mobile communications and mobile communications is already moving to dominate not only communications, but Internet access as well.

And what about your planned giving and major gifts department in ten years?

Today, you hire major donor or planned giving officers primarily for their relationship skills. Two years ago, The Chronicle of Philanthropy ran a series of articles on the prime skills for major donor and planned giving officers in the future. Their contention was that relationship skills just won’t be enough. These officers must be fluent in manipulating data and information. Even before they set an appointment with a potential donor, they must know as much as possible about the person they are meeting with. Knowing ahead of time about the person gives a leg up in how you approach them. In the future, information systems will play a huge role in fund raising.


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