Friday, October 25, 2013

BIG’s Blog: You need to be a New Kind of Fundraiser

The next few years are going to make you schizophrenic, I absolutely get that. Why? Because you will have to manage two worlds: the old direct mail program world for the oldsters and the online relationship-driven world for the young ‘uns. And by young ‘uns I am starting with the baby boomers. Sorry, just the way it is.

You do, however, have a choice.  You can be the livery stable owner who puts in a gas pump and hedges his bet that this newfangled auto-mobile might be the future, or just keep your focus on horses. Your choice. Well, that's not entirely true. Your choice is the choice for your organization and your choice could very well determine if your organization has a future.

Think I'm wrong? How many livery stables do you see today? They used to dot the landscape, now they are gone, gone, gone.

Honestly, I still have fundraisers come up to me after a presentation and ask, "Are you saying direct mail is dying?" 

Why is this even a question? All these fundraisers have to do is look at their donor files. Year over year declines in total gifts, even though some are getting larger gifts. And could it be that some vendors are still flogging "direct mail is alive and well?" 

I see this more and more in some vendor circles and it is becoming scary. In a recent Agitator blog about videos, one particularly agitated and vociferous person named Willis Turner was commenting on the fact that videos, even when they go viral, don't actually bring in donations. 

“As usual, lots of interesting information about engagement but not a word about money. Or about how posting videos of people dancing at your sister’s wedding relates to fundraising.
The ‘norm’ of online communication keeps getting more sophisticated (and more expensive, in terms of time if nothing else), yet very few are bragging about how much cash is coming in.
Sure you can capture all kinds of cool data, but in terms of actual revenue, online is more like advertising than direct marketing. Sooner or later, as the novelty begins to fade, people are bound to start wondering, ‘what’s the real ROI?’”
Who ever said videos were supposed to bring in dollars?
Yet this guy is considered a "professional" fundraising expert. Actually, Willis Turner is an ace copywriter. Problem is, the whole of "push" marketing, of which direct mail is the media and copywriting is the art form, is dying. Not because Mr. Turner isn't good at his craft . . . he may well be one of the best, but it doesn't matter if the media is dying.

I am certain in 1915, there were tens of thousands of blacksmiths in those livery stables who were true craftsmen.

But for him and others to carp from the sidelines that videos don't bring in dollars is like saying auto-mobiles in 1915 made noise and could get stuck in the mud, whereas a horse . . .

And what is our transportation mode of choice today?

Seriously, can you imagine Mr. Turner’s thinking and attitude in the commercial world where companies like Proctor and Gamble, Ford Motor Co., and many others have already figured out that "push" marketing is fading and they need to start using online media (of which video is huge) to connect with their prospective customers?

Young ‘uns just laugh at these arguments. In fact, they do something even worse . . . they quit paying attention. The media and marketing game is over and nearly everyone under 55 understands that just like the phone book, direct mail as a viable fundraising art and media is heading into the pages of history. It’s not an “if,” it’s a “when.”

Are you expecting the auto-mobiles of 1915 to be the automobiles of 2013 overnight or you won't move? And that this transformation to 100% online fundraising is going to come fully birthed with all the whitepapers and scholarly studies done for you or you won't shift?  

Do you really think you have that kind of time?

If that is where you are at, I would say that the uneducated livery stable owner in 1915 who put in the gas pump to hedge his bets on the newfangled auto-mobile was way ahead of you. 

I started this post off by saying that I "get it" that the next few years will make you schizophrenic – managing dual programs. It can't be helped as we are in a crossover time . . . but the public has already spoken; vertical "push" marketing is dying. Relationship-based horizontal marketing driven by the digital, interactive Internet is your future. 

Join us.

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