Why Digital Skills are Important to Fundraisers

Published by Paul C. Nazareth on

The social-profit sector needs fundraisers to dive in to a digital way of living and thinking more than ever. And in 2016 if you aren’t,  you’re going to get left behind.  Here’s 3 reasons why digital skills are the must-build, right now:

1.Transparency and Passive-Engagement. It used to be that if a major donor wanted to know about a fundraiser they would ask around before the big gift. Today, we turn to our trusted peer Google. If all a donor finds is your name on a website, is that really building trust? Can you meet face to face with every donor to build trust and engage them? Sure the head of the organization has the usual bio online and maybe the “blog from the top” which is fine but that’s not the voice that is reaching to them as part of the ask. As a fundraiser, having a digital profile that is transparent and clear is a matter of integrity in a 101Blog2transparent age. After all, how can a donor engage you if they don’t know who you are, what you do and where to find you? That last one is actually quite bizarre. In working with donors and funding organizations that are trying to contact a fundraiser to make a gift you would be surprised to know how hard it is to actually find fundraisers. Front desk phone numbers and info@ email addresses just don’t cut it in today’s connected culture. And when the head of marketing starts to get itchy that every staff person is going to “have a voice”, consider that this is now a vital listening tool. Yes, you don’t have to SAY anything. Social is a powerful way to listen to your donors, volunteers, stakeholders and valuable partners. Donors at the $100 million + level are on Twitter now, are you listening to what they value in a charitable partner? Here’s an interesting read from the accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP on charities and social media that can help your leadership understand the need to engage in a digital age.

2. Online donations are more than annual gifts now. Consider the senior leadership of this Hospital Foundation announcing that their leaders are online, available and listening. A bold move and yet it’s really like a 24-7 AGM that can provide real-time feedback and content for fundraisers to use in their work. Not every fundraiser has access to their own C-Suite, consider this a newsfeed from the top and replaces the often over-edited, boring and trite boss-blogs of 2011. This is as much employee engagement as much as it is an external opportunity.  Most importantly, major donors are online and are looking to leaders to share their vision, thoughts and the direction of the institution in a medium where they can engage, comment and yes, give! Major gifts and even planned gifts are transacting online now. Professional advisors in law, accounting and finance are getting over their own fears of digital media and using digital tools to engage, listen, learn and serve their clients who make charitable gifts. Are you reading to engage your biggest donors and their advisors in a digital conversation? It won’t happen overnight so start building your skills and voice online today. Prospect researchers have been using it for years, it’s time for front-line fundraisers to jump in too.

101BlogNazareth3. Networking for mentorship, education and career development. It’s not about getting your next job. How would you like to finally get that executive mentor you have always dreamed about? What about one from another continent? What about the fact that there isn’t budget for more professional development this year but your country’s tax department is tweeting charity-law updates? How about having access to a global network of fundraising experts to reach out to with questions 24-7? I myself have formed relationships with many of the experts from this very blog  who have helped me with fundraising strategy time and time again. Consider the words of online expert Martin Jones about which networks can help with your past, present and future contacts. Or the Wharton Professor, author Adam Grant who talks about the power of connection for yes job search but in fact, fundraisers need a vast and wide network to draw on to keep in touch with the many skills needed for our work like marketing, management, communication skills, online giving, major gifts, planned giving and the list goes on and on. The value of networking to a fundraiser is about doing your job better right now. Having strong digital skill will only amplify this ability.

Now, I get it, you’re the choir and I’m preaching to you so…I can’t believe I’m going to say this but…..please print this post. On paper.

Put it up on a bulletin board in your charity’s office or at the very least email it to an analog leader in your life. Because it’s these leaders who while being the most resistant, can bring the most value! Their experience and wisdom is much needed in this digital world. Please share this with someone you know whose voice would add value to our professional community online. Is it one of your peers who should share their great ideas on LinkedIn’s easy and free blogging platform? Or maybe that charity finance expert who could be tweeting each governance paper they read so all the staff can benefit ( because hey, who actually uses the company intranet anymore?

See you online.

Paul C. Nazareth

Paul Nazareth is Vice President of Community Engagement with CanadaHelps.org, Canada’s largest digital charity that brings together charities, donors and advisors online. He has worked as a fundraiser with charities large and small as well as a financial institution in Donor Advised Funds in philanthropic planning. Paul is Chair of the Humber College Postgraduate Fundraising Program Advisory Committee, teaches fundraising with Georgian College, is an instructor with the Canadian Association of Gift Planners who speaks and writes nationally.


Jill Nelson · February 11, 2016 at 15:14

Great thoughts Paul, thank you for sharing!

Rickesh Lakhani · February 12, 2016 at 13:05

So glad to see Paul published on 101! Excellent post.

You’ve been talking about digital for years and warning those who do not get up to speed that they will be left behind. In fundraising or anything else, you have to go where your customers, clients, advocates, and even naysayers are to engage them. Play where they play. Be where they expect you to be.

I remember securing a well-known speaker (pro-bono) for an event – I reached out through a couple of channels and she responded to a Twitter DM in 15 minutes! I know she is really busy. She said she has Twitter open during meetings and is responding.

It’s not about whether or not you want to be in the digital space, you just have to be. It’s gotten to a point where if you don’t have a digital profile people wonder what you are hiding!

Nicely done, Paul.


Martha Asselin · February 12, 2016 at 17:07

Great Paul! Very glad to read this and see the good work you are doing!

Beth Ann Locke · February 12, 2016 at 21:19

100% Agree with you Paul! This is our public face to the community and just as we would want to be at the top of our game when we meet with donors, we need to feel the same way with our digital calling cards.

Your online impression should be that you are proud and happy to be doing the work you do – I think one of the biggest mistakes is only updating your online profiles when you are looking for a job.

Thanks for sharing all your experience, Paul. Fab post to share!

Why Digital Skills are Important to Fundraisers | Nonprofit Newswire from Imagine Canada · February 29, 2016 at 19:24

[…] The social-profit sector needs fundraisers to dive in to a digital way of living and thinking more than ever. And in 2016 if you aren’t,  you’re going to get left behind.  Here’s 3 reasons why digital skills are the must-build, right now. (101 Fundraising) […]

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