In the nonprofit world, direct mail is still king when it comes to generating revenue. This is one of the few industries in which this is the case, and I can confidently say it isn’t changing drastically in the near future. As a digital marketer, it’s fascinating to me because this sector seems ripe for opportunity to shake up the industry with digital strategies and tactics.
After observing numerous nonprofit clients I’ve worked with, the implications are clear. A majority of individual donations come from older generations that have more disposable income and are more accustomed to responding to direct mail, as opposed to donating online. The more silent issue I see involves the culture of many nonprofits that hinders the advancement of digital fundraising.
The following is a roundup of five major challenges within the culture of many nonprofits that, if rectified, could open up a windfall of online revenue:
1. The Old Guard
In many nonprofit organizations, the most senior-level employees and decision makers have little to no knowledge of digital marketing and fundraising. Many of them were raised in the direct-mail world and don’t understand the technologies and intricacies involved in pulling off a digital program. They have a wealth of knowledge on direct mail, which generally has proven response rates. They know that if they spend X on direct mail they will get Y in return, and it has worked for years.
2. The New Guard
Many younger nonprofit professionals understand digital marketing and technologies, but lack fundraising and direct mail experience. Though they don’t need to understand direct mail inside and out, there are still principles and strategies that have worked with fundraising in direct mail that can and should be applied to digital fundraising. The younger guard often has a difficult time selling the idea of investing more in digital because there isn’t always as clear of a correlation between X and Y. Sometimes you will spend X without knowing what Y will be.
3. Culture Of Conservatism
Nonprofits are constantly under scrutiny in terms of how much money raised actually goes toward the cause as opposed to lining the pockets of the C-suite. As a result, many nonprofits are ultraconservative when it comes to investing in new forms of fundraising, like digital. Nonprofits are in a tight spot because every single dollar matters. Every dollar spent on an unproven strategy is a dollar that could potentially have gone to help improve human life. The stakes are high and nonprofits have to be conservative, but sometimes this hinders them from testing new ideas and strategies that could actually generate more revenue to make an even bigger impact.