To Engage With Younger Donors … Connect With Them Where They Live

March 12, 2010

A recent joint study by Convio, Edge Research and Sea Change Strategies, “Early Signals on Mobile Philanthropy:  Is Haiti the Tipping Point?”pointed to some striking statistics on text giving.  Prior to January 12, 2010, “little more than $1 million had been raised via mobile text.”  Following the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, however, close to $50 million was raised through mobile giving.

Text giving – along with “engaging” – seems to be the latest trend in the nonprofit world, with everyone wondering “what’s in it for me?”

According to the Urban Institute National Center for Charitable Statistics, a staggering 82% of the nonprofit organizations in the United States are operating with annual budgets of under $1 million.  The bulk of these organizations are doing “un-sexy” community work – educating kids left behind by the public school systems, taking care of the elderly who have fallen through the cracks, operating community arts programs, providing health care for the growing uninsured …

These are the organizations who may have only recently even implemented online giving (anyone who, like me, has worked for a tiny NPO, knows that typically these organizations are woefully 4-5 years behind the rest of the world technologically).

So what’s in text messaging for them?

Here’s a quick question for you parents of more than one child.  How do you connect with your kids?  Do you use the same method of communication with all three of your kids?

Only if you’re the type of parent who likes to pound their head against a wall.

If you’re the kind of parent who wants results, you’re going to test out different methods of communication until you find the one that your child responds to.  For my 16 year old daughter, that method is text messages.  For my 22 year old, it tends to be one-on-one conversations.

So, what should the small nonprofit with a limited budget, staff and time be doing to effectively “engage” with donors?


  • Direct mail, including your organization’s appeal, effective stewardship and 3-4 print newsletters per year
  • Internet, including a regularly updated website and/or blog and integrated social media
  • Email, including a regular email newsletter (I do hope you’re not touching base via email only to ask for donations)
  • Telephone.  You should be regularly calling your donors – to thank them, to touch base, to report.

All combined to include a total of 10-16 “touches” a year.

Effective fundraising is all about relationship-building.  Discussing the latest “tipping point” in fundraising and how it can work for you can – and usually does – prove to be yet another distraction to staying the course and building relationships with your donors – young, old and middle-aged.

After all, how many of those donors who contributed $50 million for disaster relief will do so outside of a disaster?

Until the time comes when your local soup kitchen is raising mega-bucks via a text messaging campaign, I don’t think this is an area already strapped nonprofit organizations need to concern themselves with just yet.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Blase Ciabaton March 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Pam-fantastic post! Much of what you explain in your post above is supported by the terrific post-Haiti assessment podcast that I listed to from the Fundraising Is Beautiful team a few weeks ago. Particularly your point about “After all, how many of those donors who contributed $50 million for disaster relief will do so outside of a disaster?” Thanks for sharing! With limited time & resources, I think it’s critical for smaller nonprofits to stay focused on the fundamentals.
Here’s a link to the podcast that I mention for anyone who’s interested:

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