The list of social media tools and resources is almost inexhaustible, but there is still a tremendous need to build old school relationships with donors. Don’t misunderstand, I am not a technophobe, and I do understand the intrinsic value of social media, communication tools, and online resources. These tools can streamline communications, build capacity, engage a new generation of donors, but just like the military there is a point in every campaign where you need boots on the ground.
We are currently living in an era that is looking at the largest wealth transfer in the history of mankind. The Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy indicates that $59 trillion dollars will be transferred between 2007 and 2061 with approximately $6.3 trillion dollars being given to charitable organizations. These donors grew up and lived under a different set of rules. They understand the value of sending a hand written thank you card when someone does a kindness or sends a gift. They value the time spent with a good friend, sitting on the porch drinking a glass of sweet tea. Most importantly, they appreciate when an organization is more than just a series of emails, letters, or impersonal communication – there is behind all the work, effort, and good deeds, a person who is as interested in them as they are the good works that are being carried out by the charity.
An effective development department places a high priority on the old school methods of fundraising. Their development staff know their donors personally. They interact with them at events, they learn their names and the names of their family members, they remember relevant events in the life of the donor. In other words they make the donors feel like friends and family, not simply a check book.
I recall one elderly couple I had come to know over the years. They always gave $100 or $200 at our events, but they had a unique story. The husband had been widowed a few years earlier and was seated with a lovely woman at one of our events. She had never married, but the two struck up a friendship and eventually married late in life. From that day forward they never missed our annual fundraiser and took great pleasure in telling me the story (year after year) of how they met. Our event was their “anniversary” and I never forgot it. I also remember the year that they made an annual gift that surprised all of us.
Now to be fair, I do track this information in a online data management system. I use technology to remind me of visits and when letters, calls, and other contact is to be initiated, but the bottom line is building personal relationships with donors and that requires getting out of our offices and visiting people, making contact in the community, and serving as the face of the organization