Thursday, December 29, 2011

BIG’s Blog: You Really Think You’ve Got Time?

Today’s blog is this year’s last blog. If there is a theme for my blogs in this last week of 2011, it is that the “business as usual” fundraising is quickly losing its effectiveness as the fundraising world goes more digital.

But hey, most of your current donors keep giving through the mail and your humongous direct mail programs keep bringing in the dollars don’t they? You’ve got some time to “fix” your fundraising for the younger generations…or do you?

Just like you, I am catching up on my reading over the Christmas holiday and I ran into Bob Lefsetz’s Christmas Eve blog entitled, My Mother Wants An iPhone.

My mother has mellowed. That's one great thing about age, you stop trying to change the future, you go along for the ride. Life is one big amusement park, you think you can get on the Autopia and steer but really there's a rail in the middle preventing you from veering too far, life's more akin to a roller coaster than a free form assault. And once you accept this, you're so much happier.

My dad died before his time. At age seventy. After he passed, my mother told me he never thought he'd make it that far. I thought that was insane, but now I identify. The males in my lineage just don't last that long.

But the females do.

So my mother sold the house and moved into an apartment building that's akin to summer camp. If this is retirement, I want in. Everybody still standing from the area has a unit and my mom is so busy she throws me off the phone, there's bridge and dinner and parties and movies... And my mother can barely walk, she finally acceded to using a walker, which makes us worry less on the west coast, but it's impeded her not a bit. She still goes to the city for theatre, she flies cross-country... Hell, they put her in a wheelchair and escort her through security; it's easier than it's ever been.

So now that my mother has grown into her skin, is comfortable, is accepting her children's lives as opposed to trying to change them, well, not completely, our conversations are totally different. We discuss the movies, the books and the news...and talk tech.

You see in the late nineties all the Gray Panthers got online. Not that they did much. E-mailed at best. They all bought Windows machines, this was before the Apple renaissance, and you need a full time IT guy to make those work.

But in the upgrade cycle, all the octogenarians have switched to Apple. And when my mother gets flummoxed she calls me and I take over her screen via iChat and it's a beautiful thing.

She's got an iMac with a screen bigger than she is, as you age you shrink, a Time Capsule, an Apple TV, I'd be lying if I told you she knew how to work this stuff well, but she's addicted to watching TV shows on her iPad and reads books on a Kindle.

But the questions are not complicated.

Where'd the icon go?

My mother is not mouse-savvy. She's always dragging icons off the Dock.

And Netflix continues to confuse her. It's the menu hierarchy. I try to teach her to intuit how these devices work, but she always wants to write the instructions down.

And she gets frustrated.

As if the device has a personal vendetta against her.

But now, unlike a decade ago, if I e-mail her she gets back to me in forty eight hours instead of a week, she goes online just that regularly, but unlike the younger generation, she's not addicted.

But she soon will be.

You see her brethren are getting iPhones.

That's how it works. There's a wave of acquisition, it sweeps through the building until everybody's got one. Not that they know how to use the device, but they've got one.

It was fascinating to see them all get cell phones. First they declared them unnecessary. But then they became addicted. I think my mother's generation depends on mobile phones more than we do, if for no other reason than they're not that mobile.

So in our conversation tonight, my mother tells me a friend got an iPhone imitation. I winced. You've got to get the real thing.

Another friend got the iPhone 3GS. It was free with renewal. You see the older generation is value conscious. A fourteen year old thinks nothing of blowing $200 on a cell phone, but an oldster...just doesn't see the merit.

So I told my mother if she can use an iPad, she can use an iPhone, they work the same way.

Although there is a learning curve.

And she's got to switch to Verizon... Remember last year in Palm Springs when AT&T had no service?

And she's ready to jump.

I just read 44% of shoppers have smart phones, up from 18% last year (

And the thing about Apple is it's the new Sony, the public trusts it.

And there's the Genius Bar.

And I find it so funny that my mother wants to play.

If you think about it, the entire entertainment business is about not playing, about trying to keep the customer in the dark, back in the twentieth century.

But when even eighty five year olds need the latest gadget you know that philosophy is doomed.

You may think CDs are better than MP3s. That a physical book is better than a Kindle.

But try telling that to the people in my mom's building. They're completely wired and up to date. They want what we've got. And it puts a smile upon my face.

-Bob Lefsetz, December 24, 2011

So, you still think you’ve got the time?

It’s just like President Lyndon Johnson’s comment back in 1968 after watching Walter Cronkite editorialize that it was time America got out of Vietnam. He is reported to have said; “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”  

As Bob Lefsetz’s story of his mom makes clear, you are losing even your oldest supporters to the digital revolution.

2012 is the year to really get serious about transforming your fundraising operation.

The good news is that this transformation will get your organization back on the track of growth and sustainability.

Happy New Year!


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