The global pandemic that has driven both a health and economic crisis around the world has been incredibly difficult. But, if we are thinking about silver linings, we don’t need to look farther than most of our own digital fundraising programs to see how increased engagement and connection is inspiring people to give to the charities that matter to them most.
The pandemic is pushing organizations to transform their digital platforms and is rewarding organizations that have already made major investments in infrastructure, data collection and digital engagement. Many have more new donors through digital year-to-date than in all of 2019.
Regardless of whether your organization was “digital-first” prior to COVID-19, by the very nature of how donors are interacting, and how we are able to interact with donors, stakeholders and our own teams, we are now digital-first. We see how challenging it is for organizations to play catch-up while under pressure to replace revenue. It’s near impossible to build infrastructure in a crisis or in the midst of change management.
Digital is a channel but it’s also a way to connect, key to innovation, and a path to finding new audiences.
We need to embrace the opportunities to change the way we are fundraising and marketing and do things differently. How you have gotten to this point will not be how you move forward successfully. Your new donors are not like your old new donors. And our very missions depend on our ability to leave behind the old mantra “this is how we have always done it.”
As Anne-Marie Grey, CEO of USA for UNHCR, said in our recent webinar on the subject, “We are going to be more reliant on events that are innovative and interactive, which means a bigger focus on technology. We are going to be looking for real engagement – beyond facts and figures. We have a need to deliver interactive content and allow people to engage directly with UNHCR and the refugee community leaders – through home-based peer to peer.”
Building movements and connecting people through digital engagement.
One of the most powerful things about digital channels is the ability to target and reach new audiences – people who are aligned with our causes but not on the base right now (because we have never sorted a way to reach them and engage them). Anne-Marie believes we are looking more and more to movement building – which means that we need to completely change our KPIs and ROI targets. Movement building is built on different drivers than traditional fundraising, therefore we are going to need to shift our focus away from only short-term ROI.
When we realize how slowly organizations are to adopt new opportunities (“Show us 15 case examples of where it’s worked!”) it’s not surprising that many found themselves behind the eight ball at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. If there was ever a demonstration of the incredible opportunity that exists for us to further engage people by being truly digitally-led, this is it!
Digital offers new opportunities for content and social value with corporate partners.
Our work on digital employee or workplace engagement campaigns demonstrates that these programs are key in revenue replacement. Brady Hambleton, Vice President (Marketing, Analytics & Engagement) of Canadian Children’s Hospital Foundation, believes that corporations are not going to wait for us to drive their programs forward, but that we can play a vital role in helping them build their engagement programs for both their customers and their employee teams now.
The purpose-driven corporation is here and does not rely on charities to guide that transformation or the adoption of causes and issues. Anne-Marie believes that it is critical that as non-profits in the sector, we become trusted sources of information and, more importantly, of UNIQUE and RELEVANT opportunities for engagement with our causes. We can greatly assist corporate partners with inspiring content, which we have in spades. Access to corporate content creation, brand-building, new audiences and storytelling expertise can be a game changer for the right non-profits. But it’s going to be driven by our ability to drive digital innovation and to have the right conversations.
There literally could not be more reasons to invest in your digital platforms, partnerships and approaches NOW. You won’t get it all right and you won’t have everything you need but making it a priority and pushing your entire organization to evaluate everything based on being digitally-led, will push your fundraising and engagement forward in new ways.