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Technology: Fundraisers and Donors Not Yet on the Same Page

A new report by Give Central, a web-based donation platform, underscores the disconnect between the increasing ability and eagerness of nonprofits to take advantage of rapidly evolving technology—and the reluctance of donors to take advantage of the same

The 2015 Survey Report: Predictions for Nonprofit Giving shows charities and donors heading in the same direction, but not at the same speed. Charities have passed a lot of the mental hurdles with technology, with 84 percent believing their organizations have embraced technology change. But donors haven’t yet caught up, and it shows—fully fifty-eight percent are still receiving donations in the form of paper checks. Set against this is the hopeful fact that forty-eight percent are currently receiving online donations, a rapidly growing channel of nonprofit fundraising.

Survey respondents listed a lack of trained staff to manage donations as well as concerns about the hardiness of current electronic donation processes and worries over the security of online and mobile donations as the foremost challenges to the management of donor giving. It is fully expected that the future will bring both a more widespread acceptance of such means of giving as well as more reliably safe and secure systems by which to do so.

The Report breaks down into five sections beginning with an executive summary that emphasizes the seismic shifts in donor demographics and paints a portrait of a nonprofit community at an epochal juncture. An array of data in easy-to-digest graphics and charts follows, any number of which could usefully be tacked to the nearest corkboard of any nonprofit or foundation board member. Survey population, donor giving trends, donor preferences in terms of modalities of giving, donation processing, donor communication, electronic giving and finally the phenomenon of fear of technological change are all dealt with in quick one- or two-page sections.

Technology vs. the Personal Touch

A key part of the issue is the popularity and effectiveness of various means of communications with donors. Personal communication, such as a handwritten note, is seen as twice as effective as forms such as email. Taken together, face to face meetings, handwritten messages and telephone calls were considered ‘extremely good means’ far and away more than such competing methods as direct mail and printed newsletters.

So while charities seem to know they need to use technology, and in many cases are, there is still a strong acknowledgement that more traditional means—such as notes, face-to-face meetings and personal telephone calls—are still extremely important.

While fundraisers perceive the personal touch as the golden key, they are more often than not failing to adequately harness other means in any rigorous or planned way. For instance, one in five nonprofits had no direct mail communication schedule. Twenty-seven percent had no schedule for email communications. Text messaging comes out as a wayward orphan in this regard, with only five percent having a regular schedule of donor communication via this media.

Nor is there any sense of what it costs to engage in such. Less than one third of the respondents measures administrative costs and less than one quarter measure related marketing costs. However of those who did measure such costs as marketing, administrative costs and data management saw these factors as consuming no more than five to ten percent of donations.

The capstone of the 2015 Give Central’s Survey Report is the simple truth that, in general, there is still widespread reluctance within donor communities to embrace electronic means of giving, but that this is expected to reach a tipping point within ten years’ time. The report anticipates very hopefully that improvements in safety and reliability of electronic means of donation will complete the circuit. Then at last the long awaited promise of cost savings for nonprofit organizations of all sizes and purposes can be realized.

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