Monday, January 21, 2013

BIG’s Blog: A Real Crossroads

Who are you going to believe?

As if its not hard enough to actually do the work to get your fundraising organization on a path to grow revenue again, you have to contend with conflicting advice. This is even harder to figure out when differing advice comes from equally “credible” sources.

This is a big problem for fundraising leadership. To help clarify the conflict and hopefully simplify the options, I am going to list the two worldviews that the two major camps of fundraising Thought Leadership fall into.

The first camp is that of the “Transitionalist.” The Transitionalist believes that the foundation of how we think about and practice fundraising is fundamentally sound, but the tools fundraisers use are changing... and those tools will slowly alter some of our practices. This camp believes that you will somehow transition your fundraising organization to success once again. The Transitionalist sees the rise of online media and all the Internet tools, and they know, because they really are bright people, that you will soon be using these new tools in fundraising. They also clearly understand that what you’re doing today isn’t working. Their counsel is just to incrementally transition these new media and tools into your fundraising mix: “Begin integrating your marketing,” “Create a social strategy,” “Make certain your content is friendly to smartphones and tablets,” “Make certain your online presence is Search optimized.” Do all that and more and somehow these incremental changes will transition to successful fundraising numbers once again.

The second camp is the camp that I am firmly in. This camp is called the “Transformationalists.” Transformationalists believe that the very foundations of the way you practice fundraising must change.

A confession: I was once a Transitionalist. At one time I believed that all established fundraisers could transition their organizations into greater profitability if they just added online tools and techniques. But then I hit a wall. My problem was that I could not find any established “commercial” organizations…and the commercial marketing and communications world is always way ahead of the nonprofit fundraising world… successfully transitioning into the online world. And the keyword in that last sentence is “established.” Oh, to be sure, virtually all commercial companies have been using online tools for sometime, but at that time I was hard-pressed to find ANY that were successful at what they were doing.

So what was happening out there? One word…disruption. Brand-new companies were seemingly coming out of nowhere and successfully competing with the industry giants in sector after sector of the economy. These new Internet-savvy companies were upending long established business models in industry segments that had enjoyed, in some cases, near-monopoly power and influence for years. And here is the secret…these new companies operated completely differently than the entrenched industry leaders.

Which leads me to the question I will close with today.

I would bet that most of my blog readers are “Transitionalist” at heart. You see the rise of online tools and you believe you have to incorporate these new tools into your fundraising mix, but do you see any one of the Thought Leaders in the Transitionalist camp offering a unified theory or plan to get you there? Or, is it just all incremental additions to your current business model?

But you know what? If you are a Transitionalist, you’re in great company. The problem is…you’re dead wrong.

More in my next blog.


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