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How digital disrupts our relationships with donors

Published by Beate Sorum on

How digital disrupts our relationships with donors

Beate will be speaking at Fundraising Online 2019 (#FRO), a free conference taking place on 12 & 13 June 2019. Find out more and register here.

Digital channels have certainly changed the ways we work with fundraising.

But I wouldn’t say it has disrupted it.

We’ve gotten new channels and new skills, sure, but largely we’ve been able to go on they way we always had.

However, I think losing “ownership” of the donor relationship has the potential to being ourdisruptive moment.

Facebook Fundraising (people have raised over $300 million in the last years on birthdays alone!) and other new payment channels are becoming immensely popular among donors.

Charities raise a lot of money. But get little to no data.

Current fundraising practices rely on us knowing who the donor is, and creating a good, long relationship with them, where they give many times over a lifetime.

But we can’t do that if we don’t know who that donor is.

Digital platforms and channels that are gaining popularity as payment processors put their users first.

And they don’t necessarily agree that it is a good thing for the donor to have their data given to the organisations.

So we are facing a situation where potentially over time a huge chunk of our income comes from donors we do not have the ability to communicate with

In a sector where the business model is based on creating long lasting relationships with donors, losing this relationship would be fairly disruptive, I dare say.

There are mainly two things we can do about this:

  1. Fight to keep our old business model. Try to persuade the new actors that they need to share data with us. We need to be able to build relationships with our donors – and they want a relationship with us.
  2. Adapt and change our business model. Accept that (a lot?) fewer donors want or need a relationship with us. We must deserve their attention on a case-by-case basis.

We’ve seen other industries try the first option. It hasn’t ended too well for them.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it can’t work for us (I’m not being snarky – I mean that).

The second option means changing the way we work and think – drastically. Are we up for it?

Developing digital relationships with donors

Until spring of 2018, I always talked about how cases of fundraising gone viral wasn’t something you could plan for. 

It was luck; not professional fundraising.

A really nice thing you should always be ready for, but not something you could put in a strategy.

I don’t think that’s the case any more.

You still can’t plan on going viral of course, but our strategies need to adapt to make sure we deserve a top of mind spot with our chosen target audiences.

We have to constantly prove our impact, being relevant, always ready to respond to supporters and give them a hand in helping us.

That’s harder to do when you can’t build individual relationships, and it’s sure to require different skills. 

Tomorrow’s fundraiser may look nothing like today’s.

Maybe they’re robots. 🤖

P.S. I don’t think the sky is going to fall, and I don’t think paper will die in the foreseeable future. But I’d rather be ready and adapt than be caught off guard in a “Kodak moment“.


Beate Sorum

Beate Sorum

Beate is a well known international public speaker. She runs fundraising consultancy b.bold out of Norway, but works globally. Beates particular passion is everything digital - she loves to design a donation form just right and watch the money roll in. Before starting b.bold, Beate worked on fundraising and digital communication for the Norwegian Cancer Society.

1 Comment

short life · October 10, 2019 at 10:49 am

Your points are motivated me to move on.

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