Wednesday, January 8, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Evolve or Die?

The “heart” of successful fundraising is still relationship.

When I talk to my 80-something mother about the “relationship” she has with the different organizations she supports, and I have essentially the same conversation about the “relationship” my 50-something wife has with the organizations she and I support, I quickly understand that each of their definitions of “relationship” is very different.

With my wife, relationship speaks to whom she knows, where they are working and what they are doing. Whereas with my mother, relationship speaks to the story or narrative she understands about the organization built up over decades.

My mother’s “know” is knowledge, the story, the narrative. No doubt the product of the mass communications paradigm we are quickly exiting.

My wife’s “know” is much more intimate and tied to the people and a particular mission and, yes, is driven by online communications.

We are quickly coming to a time when large monolithic nonprofit organizations like CARE, the Red Cross, and the American Cancer Society (and I chose these organizations because they are very large) are going to be under pressure to connect with new, younger generations of potential supporters in a much more intimate and personal way. And, to their credit, I am starting to see some signs of that move. For instance, following disasters, texting $10 has been very successful for the Red Cross, but the test will be how they follow up and develop these one-time donors into annual supporters … even without a disaster. That will take care and nurturing of the relationship.

It isn’t that my mother’s generation was easy and younger generations (beginning with the Baby Boomers) are hard. Rather, I think it’s more that younger generations are very different in what they look for and expect from the organizations they support today.

It isn’t harder vs. easier … they are just different.

Making a determination of “hard” versus “easy” is really more a reflection on what we know … our experience.

But this much is clear . . . going forward, relationship is going to be defined in a more intimate and personal way.

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