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Electronic Communications Pays Off: How to Get Returns

January 6, 2009 By Robin Fisk
If fundraising is the communication of a need in order to elicit a philanthropic response, then it’s obvious that in order to raise funds, you need to get the communication part right.  The digital age was supposed to make things easier, but are we taking full advantage of electronic communications?

The fact that you can process a donation electronically makes it more convenient, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in donation revenue. This was the first mistake by the sector — we thought that opening up donation pages on our Web sites would attract large numbers of new donors. But apart from isolated cases, that didn’t happen. And while e-mail also has become part of our communication strategy to existing supporters, we’re still struggling to see the digital age improve donor acquisition.

Maybe what we failed to realize is that the greater benefit of the digital age comes from how it can improve communication. Whether on the Web, via mobile devices or through other means, communication tells our stories; it helps to garner support for the cause, which only then can stimulate the flow of new income.  

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whatever the medium, it’s communicating the need that matters. The ask comes later.

Nonprofits have invested a lot in electronic communications and so-called new media in the hope of future returns, but the truth is that many organizations have yet to see the full benefit of the digital age. Of course, technology is constantly evolving, and what was difficult and expensive yesterday is easier today — and may be redundant tomorrow. But surely now is the time when that technology has to pay off. Here are some tips that will help you get those returns:

1. Explore Friendraising. Your donors are potentially your best fundraisers; they’ve got friends you don’t know about yet — and built-in credibility. Why not give them the online tools to create their own fundraising microsites to which they can attract their friends to give to your cause or sponsor them in a fundraising event for your organization?

2. Add social-networking capabilities to your Web site. If supporters can log in, organize their own events, blog, communicate in forums and more, it can increase a sense of connection to your cause. But don’t forget the 1-9-90 rule: 1 percent contribute a lot and 9 percent contribute a little, while 90 percent just read. Be ready to participate yourself. You’ll need to encourage and moderate community input. Even get your CEO to post a personally oriented blog to which supporters and staff can relate.
 

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