We will soon be seeing and hearing many a synopsis of 2012, and perhaps even more predictions for 2013 as we approach year’s end.  Mine may surprise you a bit because even though I am a current and long-time member of the technology vendor group serving the charity world, my thoughts regarding next year are only partially about technology.

Building Stronger Relationships with Donors

Let’s start with the old in many people’s mind —c the personal side of building relationships.  Since the turn of the century  (seems like just yesterday we had all of the Y2K fears), there have been so many huge leaps in technology, I  felt like many leaders in the nonprofit sector came to believe this new technology could solve all funding issues.

Let’s look at what has been revolutionized in the last 13 years. Among the most noticeable are:

  1. Online giving and online pledging
  2. Disaster and emergency fundraising via the Web and texting
  3. Peer-to-peer event sponsorship and fundraising
  4. Enhanced communications based on:
    1. Sophisticated email
    2. Interactive Web sites
    3. Social media
    4. Video
    5. Podcasts and blog posts
    6. Texting
    7. Social media fundraising
    8. Multi-channel fundraising
    9. Sophisticated predictive modeling in direct mail and email
    10. Drip marketing
    11. 360 Degree constituent view in CRM systems
    12. Expansive wealth screening

It is easy to see why so many leaders and board members thought fundraising might be altered forever since so many of the above technologies gave us indications of such promise, without the old fashioned work of building relationships face-to=-face.  Look at what #3 Peer-to-Peer fundraising alone provided. Event after event doubled or tripled in size and grew even more in terms of the amount of revenue delivered to the charity.

Early Success Is No Indication of Long -term Success

Even though most, if not all, of the technological breakthroughs listed above did enhance key areas such as events, communications and emergency funding, some revelations occurred over time. As we started measuring data, we found the large influx of new donors and funds being delivered via technology breakthroughs renewed at ever decreasing rates. This was startling, if not shocking, and caused many questions  to be considered.  Among the most prominent of those key questions was:

Is this new form of landing first-year donors hindering their advancement up the ever-so-important value segments of the fundraising pyramid pictured below?


Ironically, those very same technology tools are allowing us to ascertain just how many of those initial donors are moving into middle value, high value and major donors. Now it’s time to address these concerns as we enter 2013 and beyond.

Proven Person to Person Relationship Building Steps

It is not hard to predict that those technology breakthroughs will continue to be used and enhanced. I will even allude to a few stellar examples in my summary, however, in order to renew and upgrade this large influx of new donors most organizations will rely on most of the proven avenues of relationship building. Key activities I see making a big comeback this year are:

  1. Outgoing personal phone calls
  2. Personal email messages
  3. More face-to-face meetings (every breakfast and lunch should be utilized)
  4. Small group gatherings such as tours, dinners and events
  5. Handwritten notes (maybe these should have never gone out of style)

These proven methods will be enhanced by CRM functions such as Avectra’s A-Score™  which allows fundraising professionals to accurately determine the best prospects for these personal relationship building steps. Scoring based upon a multitude of factors eliminates the guesswork and allows such efforts to be more richly rewarded.

In this day and age of so many “electronic” touches, I truly believe the personal touches will pay off handsomely. In fact, don’t be surprised, as the return on time and effort is proven, if more major gift officers are added to nonprofit staffs.  Just a handful of major gift donors can equal hundreds of lower level donors in dollars applied to the mission.  Please keep in mind, multi-year lower level donors must be caressed, but perhaps in a more automated manner via technology. Many such donors are active volunteers and strong advocates for your cause.

Bringing the Old and New Processes Together

I alluded to some enhanced technologies which will blend in, enhance, and automate so many of the proven relationship building methods. Most experienced professionals I respect in the fundraising world adore personal fundraising activities and more times than not, refer to them as steps or moves.  The term “moves management” goes back many decades and is so often referred to by successful fundraising veterans. Now, such companies as Avectra have combined the old and new in this critical area of Moves Management.  Avectra offers a white paper detailing how such a marriage of Social Media and personal outreach can produce great results.

How about your organization? Are you combining the old proven relationship building processes with newer technology already?  Do you think you will be doing more of this combining of old and new next year?

Either way, I wish you the utmost in fundraising success in 2013!