How often do you receive free calendars, stationery sets, or custom return-address labels from really amazing organizations trying to raise funds for their equally amazing causes? How often do you reciprocate and send a follow-up donation?
Not only is this form of fundraising an inefficient use of resources (just think of all the wasted paper, the expended energy to print, produce, and deliver these items, and the many other byproducts of the process), but it’s also an inefficient method for generating donations and spreading awareness.
For one thing, expecting someone to write and mail a check upon receipt of a free gift is expecting a whole lot, especially in a world where many people who have transitioned to paperless banking no longer own checkbooks and have long since abandoned traditional postal mail in favor of email. (And again, with the wasted paper, the expended energy to deliver, etc.) Secondly, it is not very often I get a call from friends or family to share with me the news that they just received complimentary stationery sets from [insert the charitable organization of your choice], which leaves the buzz to fizzle out within the same household to which the token was sent.
In light of these considerations, non-profit groups are increasingly taking to the more environmentally friendly digital space, which, in addition to being more resource- and cost-effective (both good business practices), is also a more generally effective approach to fundraising.
According to an article from the Financial Times, there has been a change in the philanthropic landscape brought on by the onset of social media: “Philanthropy is no longer the preserve of wealthy individuals and foundations but is increasingly being taken up by large numbers of young people wanting to give small amounts of money and track how their donations are used.” So what would be a more natural extension of charitable practice than allowing supporters to make their contributions at the click of a button, where they are already surfing on the web?
While many larger non-profits may develop their own custom donation sites, there are existing platforms like Fundly, DonorDigital, and Fundraising.MyEvent.com that make this transition more accessible to a wider range of groups. These types of sites are extremely easy to push out via more mainstream online communities, such as Facebook and Twitter.
By their nature, social and digital are significantly more compelling forms of media, as they lend themselves to a greater sense of personalization. Users can see photos and videos of real people fighting for the cause. They can engage in direct dialog with the group leaders. They can become instilled with a stronger sense of responsibility for the cause, which empowers them to take action.
In this sense, the buzz generated by digital fundraising and awareness becomes real action and support powered by real action and support. For instance, when you see on Facebook that someone you know is running a 5K for charity and asking for your support in the form of a donation, you are more likely to contribute to the commendable cause when it is being represented by a familiar face – particularly a person you like and feel a strong personal connection to. Even more so when you see that this person had already taken action to the support the cause himself.
Depending on how close you are to this person, you may even feel compelled to share their donation microsite with members of your own personal networks. And once others see that you and a handful of other friends have supported the cause, they will exponentially be more likely to do the same and with these infinite opportunities for social sharing, causes can spread globally with minimal expenditure of time, energy, and costs.
These online tactics are made even more powerful, not just because they can be shared, but because we are made to want to share them. As users, we become incentivized to share these types of activities because we want others to know who we are, what we support, and that we are in fact kind-hearted charitable people who do our part – and do it in an eco-conscious manner.
Not to say this transition to more social media is without its own challenges. For those organizations run by a small team, the social frontier can often widen their engaged audiences to a bandwidth beyond their capabilities to manage. In this instance, digital chatter can be tough to track, manage, and address through the numerous channels being leveraged by the entirety of its support system.
However, the numerous benefits to going green with your fundraising efforts may certainly speak for themselves.