Thursday, February 2, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Finding a 21st Century Roadmap

Let’s be honest, this change is massive. It’s bigger than just one thing, which is why we blog each time about just one element. We do this so that rather than “gulping” the elephant, you can eat it bite by bite.

Today I want to elevate one sub-group of my blog audience which is . . . interestingly enough . . . the oldest group of fundraisers in the nonprofit sector; they are the Catholic religious communities.

But secular nonprofit groups should still pay attention; there is much you can learn.

I am highlighting Catholic religious communities because virtually all of them were raising donations before direct mail fundraising became common fundraising practice. In fact, some of these religious communities pre-date the Postal Service.

Before mass marketing fundraising, individual members from these communities would travel out to churches, groups, and events, connecting with individuals by way of sharing stories about who they were and what their communities were about. They developed supporters one at a time. They kept in touch with these supporters. Over time they formed deep relationships with these supporters.

You could say that direct mail supplanted this personal contact methodology and you would be correct. And as direct mail fundraising evolved, the personal communication gave way to the “mass” communication. The process of acquiring supporters, thanking supporters, and just communicating with supporters evolved into a “mass” process. And insofar as all other fundraisers followed the same process, it worked for all. But that didn’t mean it was the most comfortable for the religious communities.

Today through technology we have evolved personal and interactive ways to communicate using the Internet. Many Catholic religious communities are seeing the connection to the “old ways” of connecting as becoming the “new way” of personally connecting to their supporters; returning to a more comfortable approach to developing relationships with supporters. One joked with me the other day that the past 80 years was a small aberration for her group and they wanted to return to their roots and connect personally with their many supporters. She viewed the Internet as allowing them to develop the depth of relationship they used to enjoy between themselves and their supporters.

Catholic religious communities are drawn to this more personal person-to-person contact methodology, but are struggling for a 21st century roadmap.

Many of these groups are engaging with us and it is exciting! Collectively, we are integrating the new technologies with the “old ways” of personally connecting and communicating. Very exciting indeed!


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