The Spaghetti on the Wall

The Spaghetti on the Wall

The time: 2008.

“Social media was just starting to become mainstream. Facebook had nearly tripled its growth to 145 million users. Twitter grew that year by over 752%. LinkedIn went global and boasted over 30 million members. Blogs were taking off like wildfire. Email marketing was ramping up. . . . [I]t was the dawn of the digital age for nonprofits and we jumped on the bandwagon.”

This is a quote from my book: chapter 11 on revenue campaigns. I go on to explain how I began to architect a robust digital giving strategy that skyrocketed online revenue for our nonprofit organization from just over $150,000 in 2006 to over $1.03 million by the time I left in 2016.

Back then, we threw spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick. Live-tweeting an event? Sure, do it. QR codes for tours? Why not. A Vine? Post it. We set ourselves up on Yelp and claimed our Foursquare venues. I remember doing a Periscope of a Food Lion tour and press conference. Now that’s captivating content! (Maybe.)

These efforts were flooding my mind this week as I attended my second virtual conference in this post-pandemic era. The two platforms were starkly different. One boasted a slick interface with a Sims-like feel but with little ability to interact with each other or the speakers. The other, more basic and fairly glitchy but with lots of opportunity to network with the participants and organizers.

At these two events, as well as through an avalanche of webinars the past few months, the conversations about digital strategies and online fundraising tossed and turned like struggling boats on a raging sea. We have squarely found ourselves in the same unusual circumstances we did nearly 12 years ago. Once again grappling with the digital age. And while the stakes are now higher, we are back to throwing spaghetti.

Nonprofits across the country and around the world are pivoting to virtual activities to replace their in-person fundraising activities. Galas have gone virtual. Canvassing has switched to phone calls and texts. Tours and performances are now drive-through or drive-in. We are relying more heavily on social media and email engage our audiences. Zoom is a common household name.

In my last post, I quoted on of my CharityChats participants who said, “just do something!” And many organizations are heeding the call. I was delighted to learn of a human rights advocacy group that replaced their many events and marches with a focused intensity on online petitions, a “get one and we’ll donate two” face mask campaign, and a national yard-sign effort. Another found success by collecting video stories from ambassadors to help boost awareness. Some are getting quite fancy with utilizing predictive analytics and AI to reach targeted audiences. Others are diving into their data ecosystems to create a robust donor journey. And I saw some great examples of marketing automations that included text messages along with email.

Digital wallets, one-click payments, a/b testing to improve donation forms and emails, symbolic giving, and zoom integrations are now all the rage, in addition to the resurgence of QR codes! Who knew?!

While we are all grappling with our bowls of digital spaghetti, I am feeling a bit of relief knowing that we are working to grow our online audiences with great intensity. This aligns with my soapbox messages I have been touting for the past several years. You can see some examples here, and here, and here.

I might be able to retire that soapbox very soon.

Do you have ideas? Questions? Let me know!