Wednesday, July 17, 2013
BIG’s Blog: Is Charity: Water a new fundraising model?
I watched the film documentary Downloaded, which is the story of Napster, the peer-to-peer music file sharing online company that was sued out of existence by the music business. The music executives didn’t want free music. Shawn Fanning was the programming genius behind Napster. Fanning lost Napster, but his genius carried him to start other tech companies.
And what about free music? How about Spotify or YouTube etc.? Once the genie is out of the bottle, you can’t put it back. Today’s teenagers don’t know anything different than essentially free on-demand music. It has shaken the music business to its knees, but instead of adapting to the new reality (you can never go backwards), today’s music executives continue to hold onto the old business model.
But what about fundraising? Is there an analogy that can be drawn to fundraisers? Are there lessons to be learned? Check out Charity: Water. Scott Harrison, the founder of Charity Water, didn’t have a nonprofit fundraising background when he started Charity Water. But Scott is a pragmatic fellow, and he didn’t want to recreate the wheel, so to speak, so he looked at how today’s charities raise money for their organizations, and concluded that their fundraising systems were antiquated and breaking down. So he went his own way… 100% online.
Since most of my audience is of the baby boomer generation, let me ask you, have you heard any really good music lately? Maybe Mumford and Sons a couple of years ago and then Adele came out of nowhere . . . that’s about it. The rest seems to all sound the same. It seems the music business is bankrupt creatively. We all remember the British Invasion of the early 60s and the Motown factory of hit after hit. Today?
So Scott Harrison of Charity Water went his own way. No direct mail, no major gift officers. He just put out his message online and got about spreading it. How’s he doing? Over $27 million raised in 2011, up from $1.8 million, that they raised their first year in 2007. Oh, and wasn’t that during the great recession?
How does that compare to your organization’s results?
Isn’t your mission just as worthwhile?
ANSWER: Yes it is!
So what’s the problem?
If the music industry is bankrupt creatively due to trying mightily to hold on to their old business model in the face of a Napsterized world… maybe the nonprofit fundraising world is bankrupt strategically in trying to hold onto transaction-focused fundraising. If all you’re chasing is money . . . people in the online world are on to you, and they will flee or never show.
Because the new online model of fundraising has to be about Relationships and Transparency. Look at Charity Water’s financial page. It’s all there and an 8 year old can understand it!
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