“Please text ‘Yéle’ to 501501 to donate $5 to Yéle Haiti. Your money will help with relief efforts. They need our help.”

(image via Yéle Haiti Earthquake Fund)

Only the blissfully uninformed aren’t aware that the popularity of social networks, tweets and text messaging is on the rise by virtually every demographic, geographic or socioeconomic measure. But as a fundraiser in the nonprofit sector, should this matter to you? Consider a couple of very real reasons we believe it should.

Just before 5 p.m. on January 12, 2010 a 7.0 Mw earthquake shattered the island nation of Haiti. Two hours later Wyclef Jean, a Haiti-born musician, sent the tweet above and a viral campaign of tweets and text messages netted $800,000 of donations in 24 hours (ultimately morphing into a broad digital campaign that collected over $40M).

On one September day in 2008 Twitter followers of news site Mashable.com donated over $3,500 to Charity Water, an initiative to build wells in Ethiopia. With other “viral” donations, they easily exceeded the $4,000 required to complete one well for one village in need. For many, this charity is a benchmark for social networked fundraising.

Two proof points as to why adjusting approach and processes to locate, influence and nurture these very digital, very mobile and very social candidates for philanthropy that we call Connected Constituents should be at the top of any Development Director or Board’s shortlist.

Who are the Connected Constituents?

In Natural History for Fundraisers: “Adapt or fade from relevance these are candidates for philanthropic giving who are, for lack of a better word, multi-channel. Let’s assume for the sake of the conversation that most of us carry our digital habits to the office with us. Surveys show that well over half of employees connect to social networks from work, and an honest look at our own habits would likely reinforce that point.

Today’s Connected Constituents operate in a vast universe of digital, social, and traditional networks. Their multiple touch points to the world around them, make them more informed and more accessible than ever before. They form and nurture peer-to-peer relationships, share content, and collect or share opinions. Recently, GlobalWebindex found in examining user activities on Facebook that most users are doing all these things over multiple devices. You likely find the same for professional networks, societies, and other venues of like-minded individuals.

Maybe the short summary here is that these very connected and very social candidates for philanthropy are going to expect changes to the way we develop, nurture and sustain relationships with them, and that will take some changes on our end.
And here come the Millennials

Generally identified as the group born between 1980 and 2004 or so, the Millennials are bringing new perspectives and practices to the workplace. They are the first generation to be raised in a world where digital technology replaced paper, the immediacy of text messaging displaced email, and a whole vocabulary based on 140 character streams came into vogue. They aren’t going away, they are changing the landscape today and if academic studies of the group are to be believed, many of them will be civic minded and philanthropic. It’s a bit of a double whammy.

So does the baby go out with the bath water?

We don’t suggest that fundraisers throw out mailing lists, phone desks, networking events, databases of past contributors or other traditional tools. Far from it. This is an evolution albeit one that is occurring quickly. We ARE suggesting that these tools that have been mainstays of fundraising efforts be augmented to exploit these new channels. It’s the ante to continue to play at the high stakes table.

What do we mean? Historic giving records and analytics can give a view of which campaigns tend to work best with particular demographic groups or in particular seasons. But a fundamental tenet of the Connected Constituents is that they utilize many online and offline channels. Each of those channels, interactions and transactions brings better clarity to the overall picture. Your insights will only be as good as your abilities to leverage those same channels to learn, influence and nurture the relationships with them. Capturing and integrating intelligence across ALL the channels is where competitive advantage is generated. Recognizing they are the same person across these channels and providing a consistent experience is what will build loyalty and trust with your organization.

The Connected Constituents are here to stay. They may be an individual philanthropist or an organization. They are digital, social, increasingly mobile and absolutely multi-channel. And increasingly their expectation is that the fundraising experience will be as well. Maybe you put a toe in the water and begin integrating the occasional tweetstream to your contributor records or dive into the deep end with full integration of multiple social channels and your current CRM data.

What really matters is that you start.

Dan Lammot is President & Founding Partner of roundCorner.com, a Salesforce.com backed team of more than sixty people will work tirelessly in partnership with you to transform the way you achieve your mission. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him @roundlammot.

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