If we’ve had a meeting recently or you’ve heard me speak at conference it’s likely that you will have heard me say a version of this.
“The future fundraising model will be more about engagement & community building than broadcast advertising.”
Hardly the most controversial hypothesis, but one that makes a certain type of fundraiser froth, sigh and give me the side eye.
That statement isn’t meant as a channel bash. It’s not a sign that I’ve lost my fundraising mind. And I can assure you that I still understand the principles of response and how to make a compelling fundraising offer.
The thinking that sits behind it, is that we need move away from the models we’ve been relentlessly pursuing for years. Our relentless addiction to monthly giving has driven all of our innovation, strategies, team structures, our budgets and all of our thinking for as long as I can remember. We seem to have lost sight of the needs of the people we are looking to recruit and have instead focussed on finding an ever increasing number of methods to get them to do the thing we want. To give us their bank details and set up a direct debit.
I really think it’s time for us to start thinking about alternative models of fundraising.
How about a model that is centred around a really clear sense of who we are and what we stand for? Where we put forward the very best version of who we are to the public so that we attract rather than recruit support.
How about we move away from the language and practice of ‘two stage’ and ‘long lead generation’ and instead we focus on building a movement? A movement of people so committed to our cause, so proud to be in our tribe, that when we show them a way to help, to give, to sign up, to speak up or to turn up they do something. And when they’ve done it they tell all their like minded friends. So our movement can grow.
How about we start being social in social media? Rather than taking our TV or out of home ad and sticking it in a Facebook post.
How about we think beyond monthly giving? Rather than continually tweak the monthly giving model with the objective of incremental improvements, why don’t we find the time, energy and money to start testing real alternatives to the things we’ve all done for years?
Nonsense right? It will never work. We tried it once….
It’s down to us to change the model.
I know exactly what my focus should be right now.
I need to make sure that every project and strategy I work on has enough space in it to ensure we’re taking progressive steps towards new fundraising models whilst making sure that we get the very best results from the current model.
The two aren’t mutually exclusive. If we only focus on marginal and incremental improvement to the things we’ve been doing for years, we’ll wake up soon and be wondering why nothing is working and ‘our’ audience is supporting and giving to someone else.
So my new (financial) year resolution is to work even harder to find and connect the people who understand that radical change is needed. Because if we’re serious about changing the models and keeping up with human behaviour — that charge isn’t going to happen all by itself. We might need to light a fire under it.
Paul de Gregorio