Monday, June 2, 2014

BIG’s Blog: What’s the old joke?

What's the old joke?  “Since I graduated (from high school or college) I haven't read a book?”

That was practically me until three years ago when I bought an Apple iPad. Prior to that I read dead tree magazines and newspapers, but very few books. The newspapers I read daily and tossed. The magazines hung around a bit longer. But books? I finished maybe ten since I graduated from college in 1975. Oh, I bought more books than that and probably started 40 or more over the years, but I actually only finished a handful.

Of course we could all say that. Isn’t that what everybody does? Start a lot of books, get the core idea, but never finish them? 

That has all changed for me with the digitization of “information.” That's all books and magazines are anyway, right?

But for me, and I suspect thousands ... perhaps  millions ... of other people, the digital transformation of information has changed our habits, which, in turn, changes our lives.

Today, the better description of my reading habits is more like consuming information.  Funny, I would never have thought to equate reading a book with consuming it five or ten years ago. But consuming is a more apt description for the process I go through now, reading three to five e-books a month, plus at least a hundred articles a month . . . and those hundred articles are just in the fundraising sector. I still read widely beyond our sector as I suspect most of you do as well.  I haven’t even mentioned listening to podcasts on either my iPad or iPhone.

So, basically, I can say that the cloud-connected tablet has changed my life ... for the better. And it's not just me. My sons with mental disabilities’ constant companions are their iPads. And my granddaughter, who is only six months old, is already watching and attempting to play with kid’s games on the iPad. Actually, it’s quite remarkable to watch my boys and my granddaughter on tablets.

My iPad is with me wherever I go. Cooking in the kitchen (following recipes etc.), sitting on the porch watching a movie, navigating to my destination ... I could go on and on.

The tech wizards have absolutely changed our lives … and I haven't even mentioned apps!

So, if it has changed my life, my boys’ lives, my granddaughter’s life (well, she’s barely had a life), and countless others, then what has happened? Answer: Society and civilization are changing.

Are there people who haven't changed? Yes, in fact, many. And of course that explains why your direct mail appeals to current donors still produce excess revenue.

But what about me? I'm 62 and I don't open your direct mail anymore. Notice I said “anymore?” But you argue that you and others do open mail ... and at least so far, enough people are opening to make it pay. 

Ah, but you and the people who are still opening mail are not timeless ...

… but your mission is timeless, especially if your missions or ministries serve people . . . and what mission or ministry ultimately doesn’t serve people? You can count on not running out of souls to serve.

But what if more people become like me and quit reading your mail? What happens to your annual income and, equally important, how do you generate new supporters?

I just told you that I personally "have been changed" by the digital transformation of information. My habits have changed. And guess what, I suspect yours have too.

It's only a matter of time ... and I suspect a short time ... until both of us have stopped reading direct mail appeals.

Then what?


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