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What’s Your Strategy?

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a couple of conferences on the topic of E-philanthropy. Both conferences were for fundraising professionals and represented a cross section of different sizes and types of nonprofit organizations. As part of the presentation I asked what areas of their fundraising attendees thought were being touched by “E-philanthropy.”

This little activity of considering what parts of your fundraising are being touched by E-philanthropy proved to be an interesting exercise for attendees. Most discovered that there was often a singular focus to E-philanthropy within their organization (i.e. The website) and a true strategy to fully utilize the capabilities and tools available just doesn’t get much attention.

I would like to make a case that if you haven’t already, now is the time to develop your E-philanthropy strategy.

It’s probably not as hard — or as complicated — as you think. One of the great challenges of successful E-philanthropy implementation has been a tendency to over complicate the process. During our presentation exercise we start by making a list of the different fundraising activities and methods currently in place within your organization. A sample list might include things like:

  • Annual campaign mailings
  • Special events
  • Capital campaigns
  • Planned giving
  • Newsletters
  • Major gifts and prospect research

For each of these you probably have a strategy and a process for how these activities are done. Now think how this process could be expanded and enhanced by using your website, email or new tools. Don’t view E-philanthropy as a separate, or replacement process. View it as an expansion or enhancement. For example, if you do special events, consider how you might promote them on you website. Maybe you want a simple listing of upcoming events with details on how to get more information. Maybe you want a place where folks can actually sign up to attend, participate, or volunteer. If you have newsletter consider the different formats you can offer it in. Some folks might still like the hard copy form. Others may prefer an email format. Some might like to get past copies from your website. Do you ask on every online form, pledge card, or information piece what format they prefer? Go through each of your current activities and see how you can use your website and email to enhance what you already are doing.

It’s probably a good time — or as good as it gets. Yes it’s true that we are always busy. Sometimes the challenges of the day are enough so strategizing takes a back seat. However if you are like many organizations you will do a large volume of your fundraising work towards the end of the year. The beginning of the year is often spent finishing the data collection, receipting, and reporting on the year just completed. So now may be the best time to do your planning. Use the upcoming months to collect email addresses, find donor preferences for contact and receipting (expensive, slow, hard copy mail or inexpensive, immediate, email?), and building options on the website for making gifts or registering for events. Then determine how you will promote these options. Will everyone use them? No, but some will.

Your “market” is getting more ready by the day. There hasn’t been the mass rush to doing all of our fundraising on the Internet as some may have predicted, but the Internet continues to grow in all areas. I was recently told by an organization that they had no interest in using email for their fundraising communications because they were in a rural area and people just didn’t use the Internet much. I was told people in their community were more interested in things like deer hunting than the Internet. I would bet that many of those deer hunters probably used the Internet to research, and purchase, some of the latest equipment for their sport. The fact is, use of online technologies is growing in all demographics.

Global Reach reports that 230 million people now have access to the Internet. They also report that the average American home is online 13 hours per month and the average business user is online 31 hours per month. The Pew Internet Project reports that 60% of Americans are online and 72 million people have made a purchase online. They report that online purchasing is growing rapidly as people discover that it is a safe, fast, and reliable activity. All of this is good news for your E-philanthropy strategy. You don’t have to create the interest, you just have to take advantage of it.

So take a little time and do an inventory of your activities. See if any of them could be enhanced with a few simple web, email, or other Internet uses. It might just be the perfect time to do it.

About the Contributor: Steve Rusche

Steve Rusche is the former editor of CharityChannel’s ePhilanthropy and Technology Review online journal.

He co-founded eTapestry and briefly worked for Blackbaud when Blackbaud acquired eTapestry. He has since co-founded LifeShare Technologies, which provides an easy communication platform to keep seniors engaged with family, friends, and facility staff. LifeShare consolidates various methods of communication (email, sms, social media, web content) and delivers them through a universally used and familiar device, the television. LifeShare’s CommunityShare application allows facility staff to easily manage digital signage and community information using existing public televisions.

Steve is also a board member of Cause.it, which provides schools with the tools to organize their efforts, reach students and understand their involvement efforts across campus.

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