Tuesday, January 1, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Big Changes Are Coming

My friend Doris is 96. To put that in perspective, she was contemplating turning 40 (and all that society says about that) before I was born. Yet when I was 14, I could sit down with her and we could have wide -ranging conversations on subjects that interested the both of us. So how could Doris be interested in what a 14-year-old boy found interesting? Because we talked of things of shared passion, and age doesn’t have anything to do with that. Today, our conversations are exactly the same.


I think it is because Doris is insatiably curious and she is not afraid of change, since she has seen so much of it in her life.

For those of my readers who are in the management and leadership of fundraising organizations, 2013 will be an inflection point year. Don’t doubt me on this. What is an inflection point? It is a mathematical term for the point on a curve at which the sign of the curvature changes.

And you thought that geometry, trigonometry, and calculus were a waste of time?

The societal changes in both generational composition and the shift and adoption rate of personal technology have reached critical mass. For fundraisers, this means that the reasons you have been seeing annual fundraising dollar declines is because the former dominant generations that have supported your organizations are declining in number, and the non-digital technology you employed to communicate and develop relationships are becoming less and less effective with younger and potential supporters.

Your reaction will make all the difference to the long term viability of your organization and will follow one of three paths: You will keep doing the same things you have always done and somehow expect the results to change... which is, by the way, the definition of insanity. You will not change the way you practice fundraising but you will bring in digital elements under the guise of modernizing. Or, you will reach out for a new fundraising model that is targeted at younger generations, starting with the Baby Boomers.

Many fundraising leaders are struggling with this. Change is hard…but so is failure.

Need more convincing? Over the next few blogs I am going to cover – in detail - some of the big changes that will re-shape HOW your organization must change to be both relevant and effective in fundraising for the next 20 years.

1. Media Change – This is probably the easiest to wrap your head around because you see it every day.

2. Message Change – It’s not the same letter to everybody.
3. Competition Change – More than ever, you must be laser-focused on your mission and your natural constituency of supporters.

4. Change in Attitude toward Institutions – Starting with the the fact that Baby Boomer generation institutional trust is gone.

5. Change in the Motivation of Philanthropy – What motivates younger generations to social action?

6. Messenger Change – More and more, people look to their peers for recommendations; can you find others to talk for you?

So why did I start this blog about my friend Doris? I introduced you to Doris to illustrate that, although she is of the Depression-era generational cohort, her curiosity and social interaction places her in the same mindset as today’s Millennials. The changes we will discuss in fundraising are not “off the moon.” In truth, they are more human and social in nature than the aberration of third party media communications that have dominated our methods for the past 80+ years.  

Successful fundraising is about people connecting to people around a cause or passion that they both share. Yes, every cause and organization is multi-dimensional, but that just means there are more chances to connect with more people. And that is precisely the Golden Era of fundraising we are headed into. Different? Yes. Better? Definitely!


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