Fundraising Into the Future – and BEYOND! (Part 2)

Published by Mitchell Hinz on

Last week I blogged about the digital revolution in fundraising, and asked whether it has “changed the game”, or only the “rules”.  (Or, as I would argue, not even the rules, more like the shape of the playing field and which ball gets kicked, hit, chased, or fielded).

Having finally gone Twitter (I know, I KNOW…) I’d say the biggest ‘revolution’ that social media has brought to the industry is… how many people without other jobs are now claiming to be someone “connecting donors to their causes” and “helping charities use social media to raise awareness and funds”.   In other words, biggest winner so far?  The industry.  But let’s see….


Ok,  here’s where we left you.  The dramatic (relative) growth of online giving has had everyone in a twitter (pun intended) since 2005.  But that’s a key thing to remember: Web  giving has grown RELATIVE TO ITSELF.  Compared to overall giving, it has peaked and dropped, but not really moved the BIG dial on giving.

Look again at the Sichwan earthquake.  Was having a billion dollars pop up out of nowhere a game changer? Certainly it was for China.  In fact, in  many ways it woke up the Chinese government to the power — both good and bad — of charity giving, especially if that funding comes from outside the country (it all but stopped progress on new charity registration laws following the quake; most INGO’s still cannot raise public funds there).

But one billion dollars is only .3% of all charity giving , from one market alone.  If I told my boss I was going to increase my revenue goals by .3% next year, I would get fired.  If, on the other hand, I told him I was going to raise a billion new dollars, I would get a raise.  If I told him 68,000 people had to die to make it happen, I think he would give it some more thought.  In truth, we don’t drive crises issues, those issues drive us.

Fast-forward forward to 2012:  enter the smart phone.  We can text money directly to Haiti, or Japan, or via Avaaz, we can support the uprising in Egypt or the Brazil forest law campaign in South America.  It’s amazing.  And for the donor, its *empowering.*  You really do feel that you can make a difference.

We now we have digital armies, who can cough up a million dollars in an emergency situation.  But  are these “issue” givers, or crisis givers?  Will we have to make more ‘crises’ out of what we do, if we want to raise more money in the new digital medium?  Or, perhaps, we have to evolve “life-style giving”, where people give in order to make sure they are the kind of person they think they should be, which is someone who cares about something other than themselves (maybe I’m a bit cynical).

And now what about the new, new digital medium, social media?  Facebook has causes, its given a huge boost to peer-to-peer fundraising, and it seems that every business with any business sense is showing its “caring” side by offer donations or ways to engage.  Are we heralding a new era of social (and financial) generosity?  Again, hard to say, but the numbers are still fairly thin.

Mark Zuckerberg himself said Facebook was relevant because “You might care more about the cat starving in front of your house than kids that are starving in Africa.”    I think that kind of sums up the challenge we face, as the Web itself evolves, and mobile phones overtake laptops as the number one way people access the Web (which is due to happen this year).

Social media is the ultimate self-centered experience, which is why it is so powerful. Thanks to both Facebook and Google (by tailoring searches to “you”, and believe me, they know who you are and what you usually look for, and “like”), social media giving is going to be “all about” not the cause, but the donor.  But is this really a new game? Or is it just the new rules of how to talk to the “me” generation, with an attention span of only 145 characters?

Too soon to tell.  But not too soon to test.  Let’s hear your thoughts.

(For more back up data, review Blackbaud’s Online Giving Report, which reports that most organization have experienced double digit growth in digital fundraising over the last few years, but not necessarily double digit growth in fundraising.)

Mitchell Hinz

Mitchell has more than 25+ years of fundraising and communications experience at NGOs, the first 20 in the USA and the last 5 globally in Europe, East and Southeast Asia and South America. Currently, Mitch is based in Singapore. Experience in all forms of private sector fundraising including Individual, Corporate, Major Donor, Special Event and Legacy. Specialist in individual and membership programs, public direct marketing of all types.


Tero Pesonen · April 12, 2012 at 19:57

I think it is indeed more and more about the donor. However, that does not need to be a bad thing. I am convinced we humans are sufficiently versatile that there are always some people out there that feel strongly for the cause one is highlighting. So far many these people have not been addressed at least to the level that a generic cause would have moved them. Instead, many – maybe even most -have been overwhelmed with all kinds of could-not-care-less suggestions. Maybe soon the first reaction of a donor-to-be is delight as the cause is so close one’s heart.

Richard Turner - ifundraiser · April 13, 2012 at 09:24

I enjoyed your thought piece Mitchell. I do think digital requires a paradigm shift. Now our audiences can have a key and visible influence on their peers. Their opinion count. So rather than just broadcast a message we need to engage audiences more, better still get them to participate. That’s both the impact and opportunity that digital provides.

    Mitch Hinz, WWF · April 13, 2012 at 09:39

    Richard, I have agreed with that all along! Thanks for emphasizing it. And I’m glad you enjoyed the thought piece – the one thing I do want people to keep thinking about it that, as I have been trying to argue in Part One, it is a new piece of turf, but it is — for now — still a relatively SMALL piece of the fundraising arena. Blackbaud’s newest study shows it still only generates about 6% of ALL funds raised, globally.

    I think the key to its high visibility is HOW digital funds are raised (i.e. as part of media, which is why it gets so much attention, its called social “media” because it is, already “media”); secondly how QUICKLY a small – or even (relatively) big amount can be raised; third, how QUICKLY and WELL-TARGETED the money can be used; and lastly WHICH groups can do it – again, the Blackbaud study showed that it is SMALLER organizations that are really making use of very creative digital fundraising campaigns, since they were never able to fundraise directly to the public when it required large direct mail, TV or face to face budgets.

    I hope that makes sense. Thanks for checking in!


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