Dear Fundraiser, like it or not – you are now a digital fundraiser. Our world has changed rapidly in the span of only a couple of weeks, and just like you may never have planned on working from home for an extended amount of time, a successful fundraiser now has no option but to add ‘digital fundraiser’ to his or her resume.
The transition has happened stunningly fast. First, fundraising events of all types – the active walk/run/cycle style event, the formal annual gala, the casual happy hour – were the front lines for disruption. With the unwelcome introduction of the term ‘social distancing’ to our lexicon, the cancellation of events drawing large groups of peoples impacted development offices immediately and dramatically.
Next came the stock market drop – more than 35% for the Dow Jones in only a matter of weeks. We know from history how this type of volatility creates considerable risk in foundation, corporate and major gift fundraising.
Then, my mother called me this week with a dire warning – sanitize the mail before you open it. I’ve been social distancing, washing hands and following all other protocols but this one was new for me. I had to look this up and from what I’ve seen there is no cause for concern, but I’m not sure that will convince my mom to open her mail any more quickly. We won’t know for some time if there will be any impact to direct mail fundraising, but direct mail takes time to roll out and comes with an incremental expense for each additional letter sent. It is often not practical to ramp up direct mail to fill an urgent fundraising need.
So that brings us back to digital fundraising. For those of us who have worked in digital fundraising for years now – we have always felt our work was the future of fundraising. We have seen online fundraising growth outpace overall fundraising for years (10% online giving growth compared to 5% total fundraising growth in the last three years). Despite that growth, online giving still only makes up 8.7% of total giving.
I can’t predict the long-term impacts of disruptions from COVID-19 on nonprofits, though I suspect it will accelerate the trend in online giving growth. However, I can guarantee that that over the next several weeks and yes even months, digital fundraising is going to be a key component in fundraising success for nonprofits.
Over the coming days, every fundraising should be prepared for their own crash course in the key elements of online fundraising, familiarize themselves with new tools, and be prepared to think creatively and ambitiously about how to engage people online.
For more on fundraising trends, download our free guide: A Look at the Evolving World of CRM through the Lens of Fundraising Best Practices