Hey, all. A great group gathered to discuss gift and data management issues at the #CASEgpw conference in Providence, RI. My prezis from my sessions (best-in-class and privacy and regulations) can be found via these links.
During the St. Louis Planned Giving Council meetings, we spent some time discussing the challenges (and, as some call it, strangle hold) that cost-per-dollar-raised measures place on great fundraising. The “overhead myth” approach aligns nicely with the notion that we are under-investing in our fundraising efforts. We emphasize efficiency over effectiveness and often miss out altogether on the notion of impact and net gains.
We can start to change this. Of course, some donors would like us to do more with less. However, donors that are focused on the long-term impact of their giving understand the value of investing in broad gains, much of which requires patience.
Thanks to all who attended the Blackbaud Higher Ed Forum. We covered one of the most vexing aspects of higher ed philanthropy–getting and keeping investment in our hard work. Check out the session here.
Good luck with dialing up the investment in the months to come!
….You should have your talented team move your WordPress site into the 21st century. That’s what I did.
Thanks to my colleague Geof Landgraf for his excellent work in combining my WordPress site with my fundraisingoperations.com site. You can expect some fresh blogging in the next few weeks on: alumni participation; mergers and acquisitions, nonprofit-style; and, triggers to change your ERP.
In the meantime, consider whether you’re doing all you can with your digital real estate and assets. A consolidation like Geof provided or other refreshes might be just the trick to get your onsite profile noticed by more constituents and donors.
Every team needs great reports. Successful and effective reporting is essential to advancement efforts. Your team’s report framework may be different than others, but you should have some set principles. I’ve written about the critical importance of great reporting for operations efforts.
A simple way to determine if your team’s reporting environment works is to determine if it is FACTual. In this approach, reports should be:
Formatted. Users trust data (and experiences overall) that are consistently delivered. Just as a brand promise helps ensure that, say, every Coca-Cola will taste the same as the next (and apparently make the consumer happy), the report consumer should trust the facts and understand the familiar formatting.
Accurate. Users must receive accurate reports. In addition to reports relying on tested programming to yield consistent results, “accurate” reporting also requires that all users share common definitions and understanding.
Complete. Reports (and the reporting environment) must contain all records and details expected by the user and defined in the parameters of the report. This principle requires that data be reported from a central, comprehensive source.
Timely. The ideal reporting environment requires that information be readily available. In the absence of timely reporting, many offices will resort to highly inefficient, hybrid reporting solutions that increase room for error and inconsistent formatting.
Want to see how your reporting environment stacks up? Check out my “confidence calculator” to test whether your reporting environment is FACTual.
The trend toward online, and more specifically, mobile direct response fundraising continues. My colleague and mobile strategist, Molly Kelly, blogged about this very point recently (click here for Molly Kelly’s Mobile Donation Form Blog). Of course, big campaigns are still won with the biggest of gifts. However, if you’re strategies aren’t engaging 20- and 30-somethings who are immersed in mobile access and apps, your current participation rates and future campaigns will suffer.
If you’re having a challenge getting investment into mobile technology, take a look at Molly’s piece. Mobile donations: no longer a fad; they’re a fact!
In the last few weeks, I’ve been interviewed regarding trends in our industry’s technology sector and how this will affect the future of fundraising. We have a challenge: we don’t have the funding for the technology we want to use for fundraising. It’s a market issue. At the same time, we are faced with changing trends among 20- and 30-something donors, new, innovative, and possibly disruptive technologies, and a concentration and transfer of wealth that’s nearly unique in human history.
Have a look at this article in TechTarget to get a sense of how our industry is shaping up. And, be on the lookout for additional posts on these vitally important topics.
Check out this fun session here. We covered a number of nuanced situations that affect our ability to handle data more securely. Those little computers people carry around in their pockets–with access to, more or less, the entirety of human knowledge via tools like Google–create some unexpected issues. Breaches and data sharing complicate matters. It’s a fast-moving world we are trying to control, and this session pin-pointed a few tricks to put in place.
$1 Billion Reasons You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
$1 billion–it sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But, we have a problem: fundraising technology demand (in the form of fundraisers’ expectations) is much greater than fundraising technology supply (in the form of vendor offerings). Put another way, our industry’s annual $1 billion fundraising technology budget doesn’t get us what we want.
This demand derives from consumer experience. On our way to work, we all have computers in our pockets and access to billions of dollars of free technology, software and online experiences from the likes of Facebook, Amazon, and Google. Then, we clock in, boot up, and, voila…1997 is delivered by our 6-year old computers. We suffer from what I call the iPhone problem: we want work resources based on our consumer experiences, but these are far too expensive to replicate given our fundraising technology market and budgets. It’s relative deprivation at a high, costly level. It results in wasteful workarounds, decentralized data and systems, and dissatisfied end users. And, in the end, these things keep us from raising more money.
Why are we in this predicament? The short answer is there is not enough incentive to supply great fundraising technology that matches consumers’ expectations. Why don’t we have enough incentive? That part is a little more complicated. One might charge (as I did in February) that our industry is hamstrung by narrow thinking around investment. Another might suggest that, while the industry appears quite large, it is unsophisticated and relatively immature. A third might notice that our industry isn’t really large enough as a market sector to warrant the kinds of innovation our colleague-consumers would like.
All of these observations inform the infographic above, which depicts the problem: we are typically a $300 billion industry per annum that can only spend about $1 billion on technology each year. When we consider how much fundraising is done without the benefit of technology (referred to here as “plate and gate” efforts that reflect more grassroots, manual efforts prevalent in certain religious organizations and new and smaller nonprofits), then calculate what we get to spend, then determine where we get to spend it, the market just isn’t that big because our budgets are so small. Note that even a very strong 2014 is likely to bump up available dollars by around $250 million…$1.25 billion is better but still not enough.
Of course, there are some exceptions. Leading software providers do their best and it is, frankly, often good enough. I’ve helped organizations leverage nearly every fundraising system and they are all passable. These systems collect addresses, store gifts, provide institutional memory, and support programs. Are they efficient and user friendly? Not particularly. Are their add-ons, such as reporting tools and online functionality, what we’d like? Not usually. But, behavior and poor user adoption are often bigger problems than the technology itself.
The issue is not with the core functionality supplied by the market; these tools do what is “necessary”. However, they tend not to deliver on what we define as “neat”. What’s “neat” is shaped by what Apple, Google, and a bunch of other billion dollar corporations bring to the market. It feels like we are destined to have a large gap between demand and supply.
While it’s unlikely you will be able to re-direct the market’s “Invisible Hand”, there are three steps that can help:
Manage expectations. You need to persuade your users that you don’t get to invest like a Silicon Valley start-up, so the tools are a little less nifty. But, they still (should!) work. Convince team members that what you have supports their programs or make commitments to better align what you have with current needs.
Illustrate value. Where you see a gap in programs or productivity because of a lack of functionality, quantify the real and opportunity costs. Are donors failing to complete online transactions because of poorly designed forms? Are reports re-worked in Excel at the cost of hundreds of hours a year that could be focused on new donations? Show how the gap deserves to be filled with better technology.
Do-It-Yourself. Out-of-the-box solutions will solve some needs, but not all. You may need to partner with specialists and experts to address an opportunity that vanilla systems can’t handle. The market for innovative solutions in between and beyond core systems functions may be in reach, but the same vendor that delivered the vanilla solution may not be able to deliver the customizations you need.
Our industry is trapped in a Catch-22: to get funds, we need appropriate technology, but we can’t get the technology we need without these funds. Or, more simply: $1 billion isn’t enough. The fact remains that many of us will have to make the most of what the market has to offer. Those of you with means and vision to implement more custom solutions will likely need to create your own solution when expectations are high and ROI is clear.