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Why We Still Miss the Mark with Digital Fundraising

So tell me… why are we still missing the mark with digital fundraising?” asked Jay Frost on the Philanthropy Mastermind series webinar.

This was a prompt, of course, based off the title I had chosen for our discussion. But still, the question tends to cause anxiety among leadership and the declarative statement can be confirmed by on-the-ground fundraisers trying to do the work.

As I pointed out to Jay during our chat, according to the hjc 2023 Digital Outlook Report, 80% of nonprofits have a dedicated digital fundraiser or team in place (a positive increase from less than 60% in 2019) but 40% are still struggling to implement their plans due lack of skills and training along with unclear strategy and budget restraints.

Of course, I’ve been raising the alarm bells for years and regularly hopping on my soap box about the importance of digital fundraising well before the pandemic. My efforts have increased with some of the recent findings of donor decline over the past few decades. And yet, many still struggle.

Jay and I talked about this. We talked about why it can be so challenging to understand how digital fundraising fits in the development department and how to properly structure the team. We talked about how digital fundraising, above any other fundraising channel, requires collaboration across teams within the organization. We talked about the critical need for strong leadership and the investment for training and technology.

But our conversation didn’t stop there…

  • We dove into how to prioritize efforts to establish a strong foundation and avoid the shiny object syndrome.
  • We discussed the age-old problem of gleaning ROI from efforts like social media and how to use research to prove impact (see “priming” experiment below).
  • We explored segmentation options, highlighted the importance of personalization, and addressed the need for attribution to track success.
  • We talked about how to approach implementing new tactics, like texting. And hand in hand with new efforts, we discussed experimentation, failure, and learning from the two to inform future strategies.
  • We talked about elements of the growth funnel including acquisition, retention, and stewardship.
  • And I shared a special donor letter that I received that was so heartwarming, I will most certainly be a life-long supporter of the organization.

Even though our discussion was rich with topics, we could have continued for another hour. Maybe even two! Alas, we had to close to adhere to our schedule.

Luckily, the webinar was recorded in case you missed it. You can watch it below or click this link. And I’ve compiled a list of the extensive resources mentioned during the show below.