Friday, June 6, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Interesting time of year

This is a really interesting time of year. Well, actually, there are two interesting times of year: the months of June and December. See, our online program that runs 18 weeks and ends with a field trip to Las Vegas begins twice a year, in January and July; two terms a year. This is the program that teaches professional fundraisers in their 40s, 50s and 60s (who are “immigrants” to the brave new online world) what they need to learn to acquire the next generation of supporters.

Throughout the rest of the year I am speaking to groups, at conferences, and doing Webinars. These are good venues to share our insights about what is really happening in fundraising today, and how fundraisers need to be intentional about moving their fundraising activities online with a business model that drives engagement and dollars.

Throughout the year we are sending out Program Overviews for our Acquiring the Next Generation online program. But of course we are all busy, right? So making the decision pops to the top of the "To Do" list typically in either June or December . . . about 30 days before the program begins.

After doing this awhile, I have seen that the people who are considering our program and requesting a Program Overview fall into three categories.

The first category is "the long-term successful." If you are a board member of an organization or in leadership, these are the people you hope you have leading your fundraising organization. They are all smart, results-oriented, and totally pragmatic. They probably have a successful direct mail program today but are not fools; they clearly get that the future is online. They just want to invest in a plan to get them there.

The second category is also made up of extremely smart people who are primarily trained in theology, human services, the liberal arts, or are pastors. Pastors typically don't learn business or fundraising in seminary. Now they find themselves making business-like decisions about marketing, budgets and income projections and, frankly, spending money is not in their comfort zone. They tend to spend a lot of time on costs, even a relatively inexpensive program like ours. It is understandable, but the good news is that our program is essentially education, and they connect with that.

The third category is by far the largest. Again, these are really smart people (are you seeing a trend here?). These are people in the fundraising organization (sometimes the Development Director and sometimes a subordinate position) who inherently believe the future of fundraising is online, but face difficulties like getting their leadership to seriously consider a model of fundraising other than what everybody knows and what they have been doing for years. They desperately want their organization to go through the program, but have trouble getting leadership to agree.

There is a fourth category, but I hesitate to share it. These are the leaders of fundraising groups who do not request our program overview. Many read my blog and attend industry conferences where they always take my call or greet me. In truth, they are genuinely nice people, but as a group, they are what I call the "Excusers." They always have a different excuse for passing on our program. They tell me that they couldn't agree more that online is the future, but the time just isn't right. They also tell me their direct mail programs are producing better than ever. They all assure me that they will be calling. But of course they never do. As a group, they obviously know something I don’t.
But then for every Excuser I know, there are leaders who are the opposite of the Excusers, like Debbie Korzak who is retiring as a Development Director next year. She clearly sees that the future of fundraising is online and is making certain their designated new Development Director takes our courses so their organization has a future.

Interesting time of year is right …


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