At today’s Development Executives Roundtable meeting in San Francisco I heard a solid presentation by Claire Light http://www.kqed.org/arts/profile/index.jsp?essid=21804. Her topic, “Your New Year’s Resolution: Figure Out Online Communications and Fundraising” intrigued me in it’s simplicity.
Among the many points she made to this audience of nonprofit fundraising professionals, these were my three favorites, paraphrased:
1. To understand all the Internet offers to non-profits, organization leaders must cultivate a high-level understanding of all the tools — and how they might support their organiztion’s goals. Note that basic understanding, not mastery, is the idea here.
Some non-profit leaders may be burying their heads in the sand about how to maximize web-based tools because they don’t want to deal with the overwhelming amount of work it would take to learn them all. This is a mistake. Leaders should know what the tools are so they can make decisions on which to use and which to avoid. Leaders don’t have to personally master how to use each one — that’s what paid and volunteer staff are for.
2. Social media should be the least important tool for most non-profits. Yep. That’s right, mastering how to build fan pages on Facebook and crowds on your Twitter page isn’t your top priority. So let out that breath of fear you’ve been holding and think about what really matters most: mastering the basics of email communications, database management and online fundraising.
3. Related to #2 is that most fundraisers are asking the wrong question. As in, “How do I get rich people to give to my organization on line?” The right question is, of course, “How does our constituency use the Internet and how can we use their preferences to more effectively engage them?”
I’d summarize Claire’s main points this way: Don’t let shiny new tactics drive your communication and fundraising decisions. As with your off-line strategies you must think about your goals and how best to achieve them, rather than frantically trying to fit new tools into your plan. There are some Internet strategies that will serve you well in meeting your fundraising and advocacy goals. Use those. And leave the rest until they actually add value to your constituents or really make your life easier.
Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.
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