Friday, 5 June 2009

As social media fundraising steals the attention of fundraisers does this mean that printed communications are a dying breed?

These days one of the questions I am often asked by clients and participants at our McConkey Johnston’s fundraising workshops is: Is now the time to do more online communications and less printed mailings?

My honest answer is: ‘No not yet. Not in the foreseeable future’

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying here that if donors are asking you to send them e-mail newsletters and updates instead of printed ones you should ignore their request. Neither am I saying that charities should not use online communications to strengthen their relationships with supporters.

What I am saying here is that direct mail fundraising and other printed communications are not dead! As a matter of fact, newsletters, donor renewal packages and fundraising appeals when crafted carefully with the right dose of creativity and inspiration can produce great results. Results generated by several of our clients can testify to this even in the middle of the recession.
What’s more, I constantly find that new donors acquired through direct mail are more likely to make second and third contributions to a cause compared to new donors acquired through social media fundraising tools. The bottom line is that some fundraisers and many CEO’s get so excited about online communications which potentially can be easier, faster and cheaper in the long run. But, they seem to overlook the fact that if they not getting good returns from their printed communications they are not going to get great results from online ones either.

In such cases the problem is not with the communication channel but with the lack of a proper fundraising plan, ineffective donor segmentations, boring copy, lack of compelling ask … and the list can go on.

So before cutting your printed publications budget and investing heavily in a new website and other online communications tools and initiatives take time to review your overall strategy, map out your donor cultivation cycles, get useful insights from your database, examine your cause concepts, revitalise your brand and refresh your copy. Having done all this you would be ready to integrate online and offline communications channels for profitable fundraising.

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