The Evolution of Multichannel FundraisingMarch 14, 2012 By Mark Sutton
The concept of multichannel fundraising isn’t new, but it has certainly evolved to new levels of relevance as the result of the recent advances in and proliferation of mobile and social media. Traditionally, multichannel refers to "offline" as well as "digital" channels. However, the evolution of digital tools and social media has not only redefined the role of these channels, but also the way people seamlessly and instantaneously move between channels. The three phases outlined below highlight the evolution of multichannel fundraising.
Phase 1: Channels as islands
Previously, multichannel referred to methods by which a nonprofit reached its supporters: mail, phone, face-to-face and online (the Web). In this context, multichannel fundraising employed individual strategies for using some, or all, of these to engage supporters. Usually these channels were handled with separate strategies and very often regarded as "islands" separate from one another — and in many cases, they were even "owned" by different groups within the organization.
Phase 2: More digital channels and your donors decide which ones
Over time and with the continued development of technology, multichannel transitioned from focusing on how you reach your donors with your messages to how they connect to your organization and brand. Increasingly, the donors control the channel, not the organization.
The development of digital media has brought forward a myriad of channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, mobile apps, mobile Web, etc.
With each of these channels comes opportunity for connecting your organization more deeply with your donors. A relationship and dialogue can occur more easily and in a way that is in tune with how your donors want to engage. There is now an emphasis on creating strategies for using multiple channels as well as connecting how they work together. Most recently, multichannel fundraising has begun to focus on connecting various channels. For example, inviting people to "like" you on Facebook from the website or incorporating a QR code in your direct mail or print advertising. Even in this scenario, the channels continue to work as individual entities to a large degree.
It’s in phase 3 where the promise of these channels working together makes the sum greater than the individual parts.