Technology to make fundraising ‘good to go': New report by Network for Good

Lori Halley 30 October 2007 1 comments

Network for Good released a new report called The Wired Fundraiser: How technology is making fundraising 'good to go'. The report written by Katya Andresen and Stacie Mann covers what happens when people with a cause take it to cyberspace; why marketers and fundraisers like us should care; and what we should do about the phenomenon. The full report can be downloaded here.

The report starts with a profile of the two types of Wired Fundraisers. 

Type I - The Personal Fundraiser

These individuals are passionate about a cause due to a deeply personal experience. That emotional connection to a cause gives these fundraisers the energy to be effective and active connectors online. Technology enables these types of fundraisers to extend their reach and amplify their message. When these cause champions go digital, word of mouth is exponential.  In general, their passions center around health causes, the environment and disaster relief.

Case in point - "For instance, we saw various students and alumni eager to raise funds for the Virginal Tech Memorial Fund in the wake of the shooting in April. Nearly $10,000 was raised through charity badges of people that felt an immediate connection through their affinity with their school."

Type 2 - The New Fundraiser

A new group who weren’t fundraisers before. Now that evangelizing has become as simple as posting a widget on a MySpace or Facebook page, they are promoting causes. They tend to be dabblers in fundraising, with their degree of effectiveness contingent on their level of passion.

Both groups of Wired Fundraisers skew young, ranging from 20 years old up to 40 years old. Many of them are tech savvy, but the ones who are not are able to use the most basic forms of online communication like email to support their cause online.

And here are the key findings:

1. When Wired Fundraisers Talk, People Listen:

The messenger matters even more than the message. When personal fundraisers reach out to their social circles to ask for support, they are uniquely effective for three reasons.

  1. First, personal fundraising is based in a two-way relationship, not a one-sided promotion. The act of giving becomes an attractive way for the audience to play a role in the relationship – to show that he or she is someone who cares about doing good, who wants to be a supportive friend, and who is a part of something larger then himself/herself.
  2. Second, the personal fundraiser is an authentic and authoritative messenger. People listen to other people. They look to human beings, not corporations or causes, to communicate and connect with. Messengers from outside an organization are often more credible than the organization itself. That’s why an outside messenger – a donor that fundraises for an organization – has the potential to cut through the communications clutter.
  3. The third reason people listen to personal fundraisers is that their message is based in story. There is no more powerful form of communication when it comes to moving people to action. Storytelling often comes more naturally to supporters than to charities themselves. Donors tend to talk about their personal experiences with a cause, which makes for compelling stories on a scale that individuals can relate and respond to. Charities, by contrast, often focus on larger, more global needs, which can be less compelling
    to many audiences.

As recent research shows, “Most people are caring and will exert great effort to rescue individual victims whose needy plight comes to their attention. These same good people, however, often become numbly indifferent to the plight of individuals who are “one of many” in a much greater problem.” (If I look at the mass I will never act by Paul Slovic, Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 2, No. 2, April 2007, pp. 79–95.)

2. Not Every Wired Fundraiser Is a Champion:

The successful Wired Fundraiser has a relatively rare combination of true passion and a means to lend a sense of
urgency to their cause. At Six Degrees, on Facebook and in benchmarking work, it’s clear that there are a small number of extremely successful Wired Fundraisers who put extraordinary energy into their efforts – and often have a catalyzing event (such as the possibility of a matching grant or a major news story) that makes them far more effective than anyone else. About twenty top fundraisers who were highly motivated to compete for matching grants account for about 30% of total dollars raised, followed by thousands of people who raised well under $100.

Causes on Facebook – an application from Project Agape that allows anyone to create and/or feature a favorite cause on their Facebook page - has 10,000 Causes and 300,000 active users. It’s a highly effective model because it is all about relationship - the Cause appears on an individual’s page, where friends and family
naturally flock to communicate and share. Further, members are prompted to recruit other friends and family to the shared interest in a Cause. Justin Perkins took a sampling from all of the Causes and found a similar pattern to the one on Six Degrees. He found large numbers of dabblers and a smaller, very successful group of diehards.

3. Technology Makes a Difference: Widgets and social networks make existing personal fundraisers more effective.

Widgets – bits of code that enable you to generate and place content anywhere online, including on Facebook pages or blogs – make it possible for personal fundraisers to take their message anywhere they communicate online, including social networks where messages spread very efficiently.  For example, a convenient box on your personalized Yahoo! or Google page that shows your local weather or tracks your favorite stocks or displays your favorite pair of shoes – or a YouTube clip on your blog - is a widget.

According to comScore, which tracks widget usage, the estimated total U.S. widget audience in April 2007 was an impressive 72.6 million people (41% penetration). By June the number of people using widgets had increased to 87.1 million or 49% penetration. Photorelated widgets topped the popularity charts. Newsweek has declared 2007 the “Year of the Widget.”

4. Smart Charities Embrace the Wired Fundraiser: And they find their own, “inner” Wired Fundraiser.

Technology enables anyone to be a fundraiser, anywhere online, which means online fundraising is no longer the sole domain of professional fundraisers at charities. It is now open to anyone to do, wherever they want
online. This creates great opportunities for charities to spread their message further, by new means, via new messengers. It also places control over the message in the hands of the fundraiser rather than formal organizations. This can be terrifying to professional fundraisers or nonprofit brand managers, but supporters usually know best how to speak to their own circles of influence. And even if that’s cold comfort to marketers who want greater control, the era of the controlled message is over anyway. Charities can embrace or ignore
the many conversations that take place online in words other than their own – but they can’t make them go away.

The report ends with recommendations for both wired fundraisers and organizations:

  • Your story can spread fast online, enabling you to make an even bigger
    difference: Your story and connection to a cause, while personal in nature, is
    likely relevant to a larger audience than you may realize – especially online.
  • You can be a celebrity with a cause: When it comes to causes, individuals can
    be as effective, if not more so, than celebrities at encouraging people to take
    action.
  • You can raise more money than you think: Using web-based widgets or badges can raise more money than you think; set goals and you may be surprised at the results.

To read more on how to be a Wired Fundraiser, here in the full paper. And if you’d like to be a Wired Fundraiser yourself, Katya recommends supporting victims of the wildfires sweeping California with this widget.  Link to it in emails or click on the Share tab within the widget for code to display it online.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Tuesday, 30 October 2007 at 9:00 AM

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