Marc Ralsky, Director, Community and Donor Development
“We paid our dues from back in the day.”
“I am 10 or 20 years into my career.”
“I don’t have to talk to donors or see them or call them.”
“We can just shoot them an email.”
My sense is a lot of us in the sector have forgotten some of the basic components of making a connection and raising money:
- Talking to people in the flesh, or a novel approach – on the phone!
- Writing a handwritten note (have you seen your handwriting lately?)
- Speaking to a donor or potential donor face-to-face, even if we are not the major gift officer or planned gift lead
We have all embraced the digital age – integrating this, integrating that, adding SEO and SEM to optimize and measure clicks and visits. We have multi-channel campaigns that are supported by social media, emails, maybe some telemarketing and then followed up by a reminder email or two. We have organizational websites that rarely link to people – though some in the sector have now added a “Click here to speak to a live person!” – a new experience!
Of course digital fundraising and all its associated activities provide us with great tactics that work. They raise money efficiently and effectively. I know they do – my team has won international integrated marketing awards. So, am I contradicting myself? No. But I realized there is a piece that was missing.
It ‘clicked’ for me during a visioning session with our vendors in a meeting before the holiday break. We came up with a key value in the animal welfare sector: the human-animal bond. It got me thinking while walking my dogs before work on these past cold dark mornings: What about the human to human bond? What are we doing with that in our nonprofit charitable sector? Where did it go?
We rarely hear about our sector holding events that are not fundraising events anymore – events that plainly are designed so people can talk to others with interest in the same cause. Instead we invite our stakeholders to join a Facebook page or a private password protected microsite where people can download materials to read about their cause of interest, alone in their own space. We have removed the human bond obtained through direct in-person interaction.
I recently suggested the idea of holding education open house events in one of our centres that wants to re-invigorate its connection to the surrounding community. The response I received was WOW – what a great idea! They will come to us? Yes, I thought, just like they did before. Remember when people called into to charities asking for educational brochures to learn about various diseases and treatments? I think it’s now called inbound marketing…
We all attend conferences or breakfast meetings and more than 75% of the sessions talk about creating a relationship with your donors. Usually, the presentations focus on how to email them or get them to like and share your social media page. We spend more time at conferences with like-minded colleagues then we probably do talking to and mingling with donors and stakeholders at all levels of our organizations. And yet, we have somehow decided that it is no longer efficient to meet and interact with our donors in person.
People love people. Our worst fear as humans is being alone or feeling like we are the only one with a specific problem or interest. We like affinity groups! How about making strong in-person connections with people and keeping them on file longer?
My challenge to our sector is this: let’s get back to basics. Let’s integrate some real human to human bond back into our integrated inbound marketing strategies. Imagine what will happen if we do all the digital channels and add in some real opportunities to talk to our donors, stakeholders, clients and the public. Try chatting about why your charity was originally established and how the work you do is made possible each day. Think about the opportunities that will present themselves when people meet and find others who have the same issues or challenges or likes. Doors will open. People will see the faces behind the names and endless emails and texts they receive from us.
As our moms told us: Try it, you will like it!
Marc Ralsky is Director, Community and Donor Development at Ontario SPCA. He is a seasoned fundraiser with close to 20 years experience working with organizations and volunteer groups to achieve successful outcomes.His practical streetwise common sense approach to peer to peer, event management and fundraising in general allows him to innovatively offer knowledge and experience to develop insights and recommendations that will help not for profit and volunteer groups to achieve measurable growth.