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ICON Teaser: Fact vs. Fiction: What’s New Online that Really Works?

Resource Center - Foundation

Harry Lynch, CFRE is the CEO of Sanky Communications, a leading agency that helps nonprofits leverage the power of the Internet to educate, advocate and raise funds.  Along with his colleagues, Paul Habig, of SankyNet, and Eric Muscatell, of amfAR, Harry will be presenting at our International Conference on Fundraising in San Antonio next week! Among the hundreds of online technologies available for fundraisers, which ones should you be on, and what should you be using them for? Allocate your strapped resources wisely! Join these three experts on Monday, March 24, from 1:45 to 3:00 p.m.—but until then, get some direction below!  

prehistoric googlingWay back in ancient times—say around 2004—life was simpler for the online fundraiser. If we had a compelling website and managed to get out a series of persuasive emails, the World-Wide-Web was our oyster. 20 percent growth annually?  No problem.  30 percent?  Sure, why not.

Tweeting?  Something for the birds.

Mobile?  That thing hanging from your kid’s bedroom ceiling.

Google+?  Google—with a typo. 

SnapChat?  Snapwhat?

I’m exaggerating, of course.  Even ten years ago online fundraising was a challenging and complex field comprised of vast unchartered territory and trial-by-fire investments.  But there’s no doubt that the range of options was much narrower back then, and a focus on the basic tried-and-true strategy could yield impressive results. 

Today, while growth rates have generally come back down to Earth (the latest study by Blackbaud puts the year-over-year growth at only 14 percent!) we look out over a landscape that has truly been transformed.   The changes over the last decade have been dizzying, and new opportunities abound.  We now have tools at our disposal that were almost beyond imagination just a decade ago. 

So what’s a fundraiser to do today?  In a time of growing challenges, how can we be most effective and steward our limited resources most wisely?

The first step is simply learning how to separate jargon from reality—to separate facts from fiction.  Do you know how to distinguish between what really works and what may sound cool, but is nothing more than an expensive diversion?

Know what methods and channels are really driving online income today.  In the age of social media, is your website really so important to your success?  Has your Facebook page supplanted your website’s role as the centerpiece of your Internet presence?  Should you shift your focus to creating a strong mobile presence and leave the desktop to the dinosaurs?  [Hint:  See the next few paragraphs!]

Understand that changes in website design have created tremendous opportunities in fundraising.   The right design, driven by modern coding and attention to search engine optimization, can place you at the top of the Internet food chain for drawing qualified leads and funneling them through to your donation page—which hopefully includes a powerful case for giving.  The wrong choice…well, you can’t afford to make the wrong choice when it comes to your website!

Know the choices you need to reach your audience in this mobile world.  Cell phones were once shiny new toys that just might tell us stock quotes and the weather.  Today, our mobile device is how we learn, how we play, how we buy and how we connect with the world, each other and our donors.  

Know which social media platforms are most widely used and which ones are favored by your best potential donors.  Didn’t you hear that the kids have all moved to Twitter and left Facebook for their grandparents?  Or wait a minute, did the grandparents all go to Instagram so they could post pictures of their grandchildren?  Except for the grandparents who are postponing retirement and moving onto LinkedIn?   Gee, there must an infographic pinned somewhere on Pinterest that has all the right answers!

Understand how email has changed over the years—and how it hasn’t.  As you may have found this article in AFP’s eWire and are reading it on one of the four billion email accounts that now exist on planet Earth, you are living proof that the media is alive and doing pretty well.    But in this day of super-sensitive spam filters, Gmail tabs and the shift to mobile viewing, you must learn what else is needed beyond a powerful and well-timed story to succeed.  The competition—and the challenges—are greater than ever!

So what’s the bottom line?  How do we separate fact from fiction?  How do we know where to invest our precious development resources in this time of transformation?

Through eWire, Advancing Philanthropy magazine, and a myriad of live educational offerings, AFP has always taken the lead in providing answers and helping fundraisers to navigate the amazing evolution of online giving.

Next week, AFP goes one step further at the International Conference on Fundraising in San Antonio, providing an entire session dedicated to helping nonprofit decision-makers decide just which Internet technologies and techniques are worth testing in today’s fundraising environment.

I’m so excited to help to lead this session, and will be Tweeting about it all week—follow along @HarryLynch.

I hope to see you in San Antonio!

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