3 digital fundraising myths that need to be busted

3 Digital Fundraising Myths That Need to be Busted – NOW

Julia Claire Campbell Fundraising, Nonprofits, Online Fundraising, Soap Box Leave a Comment

So here we are, in the middle of a global pandemic, trying to make sense not only of where we are but how we can plan for the future.

1.5 billion people worldwide have been under stay at home orders, millions of Americans are working from home, trying to navigate this new world where we can’t see each other in person but we can connect with each other online. 

Did you get a chance to check out my brand new training, Your Year-End Online Fundraising Blueprint? It’s your complete step-by-step guide to using your website, email, and social media at year-end (along with tips on integrating online tools with your offline strategy). Get instant access to this course here

In the midst of this new reality we are experiencing, should digital fundraising and digital connection be a priority for your nonprofit?

Before I answer that, I want to share the three most frequently asked questions that come into my DMs and inbox:  

  1. How can my nonprofit reach a new crop of donors?
  2. How can we engage younger people? 
  3. How can our organizations stay relevant, increase awareness, and build our audience organically?  

If this sounds like the questions you are asking and if these are your goals, then creating a digital outreach strategy could be the solution. 

If you are still skeptical about the effectiveness of digital outreach for nonprofits, let’s unpack three popular myths around this topic. 

1. Online giving is just a tiny percentage of total giving and therefore doesn’t matter.   

If you look at data points with no context, I’m sure you have seen the statistic from Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report stating that online giving in the United States represents just 8.5% of total fundraising revenue.

Dig deeper and you’ll find that it’s right on track with other trends in the digital space, namely e-commerce sales. The US. Dept of Commerce estimates that 9-10% of total sales are done via e-commerce. Not surprisingly, donors are acting like everyday consumers – because that’s what they are. 

Donor behavior just like consumer behavior is shifting, and changing in ways that we have yet to fully understand because of the global pandemic. What we do know is that people demand personalized, frictionless experiences, think netflix, amazon. Air BNB

I want to turn this on us – how much of this is OUR fault? Do we make online giving easy for our donors?

For the nonprofit sector, we need to understand this and get our digital presence to follow suit. No more hard to read website donation pages that take forever to load, require cumbersome forms or account creation.

2. Older donors aren’t online.

Your board may be saying this because they themselves are not online, or they believe this myth about older generations. 

Baby boomers (defined by Pew Internet as those born between 1946-1964) are the fastest growing segment joining social media sites. 68% of Baby Boomers and 40% of the Silent Generation (born 1945 or earlier) own smartphones. 

Not only that, but Blackbaud found that online donors 65-years and older have the highest retention rate. And donors that are 55-years and older have the highest retention rates for both online and offline giving. 

We have to understand trends in giving preferences and behaviors generation to generation. 

If we want to continually bring new donors into the fold – if this is one of our goals – we must acknowledge and reach out to five distinct generations of donors. 

Our responsibility is to reach donors where they are. They want to help, so we need to give them as many opportunities as possible. This online versus offline argument is entirely in our own heads and in the silos we put up at our organizations. 

But research has shown that donors do not label themselves as online or offline donors — they’re just supporters who want to help us solve a problem. 

3. Just turn on the tools and money comes out! 

There is no silver bullet in digital fundraising. Oh how I wish there were! 

Just like anything worth doing, your digital fundraising strategy will take time to bear fruit. It will require consistency, persistence, and creativity. (Sort of like your non-digital fundraising program!)

Don’t confuse online engagement with pure transaction. The internet is not an ATM machine. You are not entitled to donations, to attention, to goodwill. You must earn the trust of your donors in order to gain the privilege of asking them for money. 

Remember that any digital approach that doesn’t focus on people first is doomed to fail. It’s not about the tools – it’s about what you do with them. 

In conclusion: 

There is no one size all prescription that will fit all nonprofits, of all sizes and missions. The sector is vast and full of variety.

But one thing is certain – especially now, in an age of physical distancing and social isolation, ignoring digital channels to communicate with your donors is unwise. 

See where your current fundraising program could have an even bigger impact by going digital.

As well as sending it through the mail, can you put your fantastic print newsletter into an email to reach even more people?

Can you adapt this year’s successful appeal letter into a social media post or a blog?  

Shift your digital thinking from a purely transactional standpoint to a community building standpoint.

Think of it as a way to reach donors where they are right now – on their smartphones, scrolling the web – with information that they want and need.    

Be proactive in the platforms you choose and the content you share, not just reactive. 

The next few months will bring about a tremendous transformation in the sector and in the world.

I know that the pull of the status quo is enormous. That fear of change can be overwhelming. 

But it is the nonprofits that combat inertia, that keep up frequent communication with donors during this time who will weather the storm.

Sending handwritten letters and making 1:1 phone calls are huge pieces of this puzzle, but alone they are not enough. 

Focus your attention on telling great stories about your work, on sharing helpful information with your audience, and on leading with compassion and empathy.

People are hurting, but they want to help and to give back. They care about your cause and the problem you are solving.

Give them every chance to connect and to participate. 

Did you get a chance to check out my brand new training, Your Year-End Online Fundraising Blueprint? It’s your complete step-by-step guide to using your website, email, and social media at year-end (along with tips on integrating online tools with your offline strategy). Get instant access to this course here

Do you need a step-by-step guide to creating digital storytelling campaigns?

You are in luck!

Sign up and get a free chapter of my new book, Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits. This book is designed to be a step-by-step how-to guide for small and mid-size nonprofits that want to learn how to set goals, measure results, and carry out amazingly successful digital storytelling campaigns!

When you sign up, you will also receive my free weekly bulletin with tips, tricks, and advice for savvy nonprofits on how to kick butt at online marketing and fundraising.

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