Thursday, May 17, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Circling the Drain

We’ve all seen a bathtub drain; the little tornado in the water that forms right at the end as the final water is about to run out.

That’s a good metaphor for what’s happening in a lot of areas today, but hopefully not in fundraising.

Jeremy Lockhorn writes a column in ClickZ, an online publication about technology and media. Last week he wrote about the “mood” and comments of network executives amid the most recent report of declining TV ratings. “Amid rating drops as high as 20 percent, some comments from network executives might even be described as bordering on “panic.”

Although there is a wide variety of reasons for the sudden drop, clearly the underlying reason, according to Mr. Lockhorn, is an underlying theme that has been building for years: the way people watch TV is changing dramatically.

Lockhorn says, “People are sending a message to Hollywood (and the networks including cable)… They’ve been empowered with choice and control by digital technologies like the DVR and increasingly impressive libraries of on-demand content that often have zero advertising… They just want what they want, when they want it, and on the device of their choosing.”

So what does this have to do with fundraising?

The “they” Jeremy Lockhorn writes about isn’t someone else; it’s us. Pay attention to: “They just want what they want, when they want it, and on the device of their choosing.”

Is your fundraising organization set up to allow people to connect with you whenever they choose and on whatever device they choose? Or, are you still dictating the channels and limiting the hours?

We are quickly becoming an interconnected networked society with a 21st century consumer ethos. And if your organization is just set up to produce direct mail, process checks, take donations on your website and answer donor service questions from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, are you really open to the “what they want, when they want it” ethos of today’s consumer/donor?

You work during the day – right? If you have a problem with your cell phone, chances are you’re going to call after work – right? You call at night because it is convenient for you – right? You expect customer service to be there when you call at 7:30 – right?

What if I am one of your donors with a question but I also work during the day. When am I going to call your office? Is there someone to answer my question at 7:30 in the evening?

If you said “yes,” congratulations.
We live in a consumer society. Our changing behaviors of watching TV or what we expect from commercial vendors colors our expectations of even what we expect from nonprofits we donate to.

You are your donor. Your expectations are your donor’s expectations. The key question then is: “Would you be happy with your donor service?”


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