Your silos are going to kill you

Fundraising is in a time of change. Some of it absolutely fundamental to the way we think, work, and connect with donors.

If someone tells you “social media” is the name of one of those changes, they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s is a small, peripheral factor; it will be years before it has a significant impact, if ever.

The top change that we all need to pay attention to, that’s already upon us and turning our world on its ear, is this: Donors are scrambling our communication channels.

Most often, they’re responding online to appeals we’ve made through traditional media, like direct mail. This makes it more difficult to know how well our fundraising campaigns work. What may look like a disappointing response to the mail could actually be a wild success that’s split between the mail and the web.

If you don’t know this is what’s happening, you’re going to cut spending on the “under-performing” direct mail — and end up losing both mail and online response.

The Donor-Central blog, at In: Macro Reporting — Out: Campaign Reporting, notes that anywhere from 2% to 40% of online donations can be attributed to direct mail.

Many organizations have a structure that block clear thinking about this issue:

Nonprofit organizations are still extremely siloed organizations. The people doing direct mail want credit for this behavior — since their efforts are triggering online gifts. But generally speaking, the digital department does not report to development but to marketing. So the digital departments get to make statements like “online revenue is up 50%.” When they should be saying, “online revenue cannibalized direct mail revenue by 20%.”

We can’t stuff this genie back into the lamp. This is the way donors want to behave. If you think you can somehow prevent it, you’ll just chase them away.

Here’s what every nonprofit must do to survive this change:


  1. Put all fundraising functions, including online, under one authority and accountability structure. Traditional media can no longer survive without the web. And the web is fed by traditional media. The channels must work together.
  2. Get professional help analyzing your results across media. I’m talking seriously math-intensive, propeller-beanie professional nerds (like Bill Jacobs). If you don’t, I guarantee you will make self-destructive decisions about how you raise funds.

This revolution is upon us. You won’t survive if you leave the silos intact.

See also Are Online Fundraisers Stealing Credit? at The Agitator.


Comments

6 responses to “Your silos are going to kill you”

  1. Fabulous Jeff. This is absolutely our experience in the trenches of our charity. The first signal for me came last year when a donor replied to an online solictation with an email indicating his donation was in the mail.
    Integrated campaigns obviously do better with consistent messages between on and off line channels. AND I confess it can be sloppy, we can’t do it all the time. So it is an evolution. Mostly we need measure our results and inform our decisions differently. We are still working that out too.
    It is such an exciting time in the charitable sector. People have changed their behaviours – now we fundraisers and bean counters need to as well.
    Thanks Jeff.

  2. Fabulous Jeff. This is absolutely our experience in the trenches of our charity. The first signal for me came last year when a donor replied to an online solictation with an email indicating his donation was in the mail.
    Integrated campaigns obviously do better with consistent messages between on and off line channels. AND I confess it can be sloppy, we can’t do it all the time. So it is an evolution. Mostly we need measure our results and inform our decisions differently. We are still working that out too.
    It is such an exciting time in the charitable sector. People have changed their behaviours – now we fundraisers and bean counters need to as well.
    Thanks Jeff.

  3. Could not agree more! We need to lay our silos down, end to end, and create one “flat” pipeline through which everything flows. It’s not about our departments. It’s about constituent perceptions, where we reach them, and how we engage with them to create donor-centric relationships. Thanks for this article.
    http://clairification.blogspot.com/2011/11/round-giving-in-flat-world-how-do-we.html

  4. Could not agree more! We need to lay our silos down, end to end, and create one “flat” pipeline through which everything flows. It’s not about our departments. It’s about constituent perceptions, where we reach them, and how we engage with them to create donor-centric relationships. Thanks for this article.
    http://clairification.blogspot.com/2011/11/round-giving-in-flat-world-how-do-we.html

  5. Dead on!!! I say this a lot but it’s hard for nonprofits to even imagine a silo-less org structure. Happen to have any orgs in mind that restructured in a social-friendly way? Would love to share that org chart!

  6. Dead on!!! I say this a lot but it’s hard for nonprofits to even imagine a silo-less org structure. Happen to have any orgs in mind that restructured in a social-friendly way? Would love to share that org chart!

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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