Thursday, May 14, 2009
Humber students rocking Canadian fundraising, but is social media doing the same?
I've said it once, I'll say it again. The fundraising program at Humber College in Toronto rocks.
More importantly, the students there are highly motivated, smart and well educated in the world of fundraising.
Oh, and not to mention they can run a mean fundraising conference. Heck, they even stood on the side of the road, much to the amusement of passers by I'm sure, with signs pointing us in the right direction. That's what I call commitment! See attached photo..
Today I attended and was fortunate to speak at their all day Humber Initiative on Philanthropy, which attracted around 60 fundraisers.
I joked that I'd been given the tough gig. I was asked to talk about the role of social media and to take the angle that it was just a waste of bloody time. After I'd ranted for 20 minutes Sudha from HJC New Media had the right of reply to talk about why it was such an important area for fundraisers to explore.
I think I surprised a few with my balanced argument. Let's face it, there are loads of reasons why we should be doing it: social media usage is skyrocketing, other channels like the mail not growing and in some cases declining, the advent of new ways to communicate with people through technology including the newest fad, twitter.
And then I cautioned delegates as to why it was dangerous to invest too much time focusing on this stuff right now:
- There is no evidence to date that social media has risen any substantial money so far. Check out this post on the Agitator with some recent data.
- There are other areas that are still growing here in Canada. Monthly giving being the best case in point. Recruiting on the street is bringing in hundreds of thousands of donors and millions of dollars for charities. Likewise other direct response channels.
- Direct mail, whilst not necessarily growing, is still delivering a big chunk of income to protect. (In our Canadian benchmarking study at Pareto Fundraising last year we found that the mail still accounted for almost one quarter of income for the charities involved, on an annual basis).
- Charities are generally pretty poor at caring for donors. With seven years of mystery shopping charities all over the world under my belt - I'm often amazed at why the hell we're so obsessed with 'new stuff' when we can't get our house in order when it comes to looking after the lifeblood of organizations, our donors. Lack of thanking, not responding to enquiries, poor communications in general. I could go on..
And finally, who really knows what to do in this area? I'm not saying there aren't some really smart people in this area, Sudha Krishna is one of them.
BUT do we really know for sure what we should so, or is it the blind leading the blind? I fully encourage testing and trying new things, but not at the expense of stuff that works. Things that have a big impact on your beneficiaries.
There was certainly some lively discussion after Sudha's 20 minute gig. Interestingly, we didn't really disagree. Sudha commented that we definitely need to embrace social media and spend some energies on it, but not necessarily at the expense of other tried and tested mediums. He showed a couple of case studies how things like twitter had bought people together and raised some serious dollars.
All in all a healthy, and no doubt, ongoing discussion.
There were lots of highlights during the day. We were treated to a great session on harnessing the power of youth volunteers from Dave Kranenburg and Denny Young and listened intently as Mark Sarner walked us through some brilliant examples of organization's truly understanding how to develop and live a brand.
And finally we were blown away by the exuberance and inspiration of 13 year old philanthropist, motivational speaker and author, Bilaal Rajan.
To the gang at Humber, kudos to you. A super day, pulled together by a super bunch with a big future.
To the world of social media, we will watch with baited breath to see whether you will rock the world of fundraising ..