Friday, January 10, 2014

BIG’s Blog: It’s a New Year, Time to Take Stock: Have you changed?

Do you ever go to work, get to your office, sit down at your desk and think, "what the heck is going on here?" Or maybe it’s when your mind is racing on your commute to work as you are thinking about your "to do" list, and you suddenly think, “wow, I feel like a cog in a big wheel.”

You stop and wonder to yourself or even say out loud, "when did raising funds become such a mechanized method of working multitudes of people through the steps of a process?"

It's beginning to feel really industrialized, isn't it? It's all about the numbers. It's all about the money. Where has the "soul" of fundraising gone? All that we do sometimes feels like a facade doesn't it, as if we are creating another personality just for our job?

Over the years we have become really good at perfecting our messaging, telling our stories, lowering our cost structure, all to eke out profitability. But . . . It . . . All . . . Feels . . . So . . . Industrialized.

We reconcile that "this is just the way it is." Our JOB after all, is to deliver the bucks. Delivering the bucks is what we are hired to do and if we don't deliver, we are out the door.

But then, it wasn't always this way, was it? Remember when you first started? Remember your excitement of doing your first campaign or sitting down the first time with a potential donor, or meeting long-term donors? 

Yes, something has changed. But it isn’t just one thing, it’s TWO things … IT'S FUNDRAISING … AND IT'S YOU!

Societal attitudes towards philanthropy and giving have shifted over the last twenty years but have massively shifted in the last ten years.

And guess what? Your ideas and attitudes have shifted right along with those of society in general. YOU’VE CHANGED, and so has fundraising. What are those changes? Transparency is expected. Accountability is expected. Expectations of potential donors (yourself included) such as more personalized contact, more attempts to connect the supporter to the mission and the people they serve, as well as connecting supporters to each other. 

So even though your attitudes have changed toward what you expect from a nonprofit that you would support, the methods, the way of operating, the attitudes toward donors in your organization probably haven't changed … not that you haven’t tried! 

But it gets worse . . . 

In what appears to be a mere twinkling of an eye . . . things aren't working in your fundraising plan like they used to. Mail responses are down and costs are going up. Some of your donors are giving larger gifts, but overall, fewer people are giving. Trusted long-term supporters are passing, and though a few leave the organization a bequest, year over year your number of donors grows smaller and older.

So you have two HUGE looming problems don’t you? Well, actually three if you count yourself.

Problem Number One: The generational cohorts that have supported your organization for the last forty years and were the vast, vast majority of supporters, are shrinking due to their age and you are not getting enough younger supporters to take their place. Why are you not getting younger supporters? Because the media and the message that worked for your 70/80 or 90-something parents doesn’t work for the vast majority of Baby Boomers [age 67 and younger] as well as GenXers and Millennials.

Problem Number Two: We already alluded to it in problem number one, and that is that HOW people communicate has changed. You’ve all either heard me say this in talks and certainly in my blog posts: The Internet Changes Everything! This is REALLY important; the people you are missing are 100% online. And though you are playing around with online, you haven’t figured out how to make it pay for itself, let alone become the fundraising vehicle to take the place of direct mail.

And Problem Number Three: YOU … you have shifted your expectations of how a nonprofit fundraising organization should be communicating to YOU as a potential donor, and you desperately want your organization to catch up to your expectations!

But you might need a little help. Our company can help, but so can other consultants.

Help is available.

What isn’t available is a lot of time to make the switch.

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