Philanthropy, by its very nature, is a personal business. Experienced fundraisers will tell you that the most effective fundraising method-the method which yields the most expansive, renewable philanthropic investments-is a face-to-face approach preferably from a peer of the individual being asked. We even have a name for it: peer-to-peer solicitation.
When you look someone in the eye, you own your actions. You’ve prepared your case and now you’re ready to place a genuine, and hopefully heartfelt, proposal before a fellow peer. No faking this. It’s no wonder that attention sharpens, respect soars and the probability that an investment in your cause will be made by the person before you becomes triple fold.
The rub in raising money in this way has always been its very nature. It is time and human resource intensive. Getting around to everyone who could and perhaps may make a gift becomes quickly unmanageable as the number of potential donors rises. Even the most expansive campaigns with the loftiest of goals-into the billions-are limited to between two and three hundred potential donors honored with a personal visit.
Enter technology. The digital age has made reaching thousands, even millions, of potential supporters with individually tailored messages available with the click of the mouse. The promise is that a new reality has arrived. Has it? Has human nature changed? I think not.
Digital communication-social networks and the like-does possess great potential to connect people-many people-in ways previously not possible. It has also spawned the ease of “fake.” Easy to keep someone at arm’s length. Easy to be anonymous. Easy to dismiss and avoid the tough questions. Easy to feign interest, passion, sympatico. In a word, easy to be FAKE.
On the other hand, technology can be used to strengthen the authentic and lasting. Donor management systems (known as “CRM’s” in the business community) have embraced this possibility. There is even one that has made strengthening long-term donor relationships their central value proposition.
Principle 5 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® is Work from the Inside Out™. Begin with those closest to you.
When you’re deciding how your organization should “go social” think it through, first. Go ahead, reap the benefits, but just don’t make “social network” just another oxymoron.