Yesterday, I had the amazing pleasure of attending the Raise 2016 conference hosted by industry leading technology provider, evertrue. It was a conference unlike any other I've attended before and what a positive affirming experience. I was asked to sit on an amazing panel of industry leaders to discuss what the advancement fundraising operation of the future will look like. Questions like, is direct mail dead? Is phonathon dead? How do we solve declining alumni participation rates?
What do you think the fundraising office of the future will look like? Some of the ideas I proposed were that direct mail isn't dead, but letters in #10 envelopes certainly are. So is segmentation based on LYBUNTS and SYBUNTS and not donor behaviors. If you're still dumping thousands of dollars into phonathon and direct mail, but have you invested one tenth of that into social and digital media? Small investments in those channels can have massive ROI. So that's one avenue of the future.
Another surrounds personalization. One of the items discussed was how donors want to feel special and known and we do a very poor job of that as an industry. "Dear donor" and "Dear Friend" or sending reply envelopes to donors who have ever only given online are examples of the lack of personalization in our field.
Another trend of the future and one that is already here in most shops is that 10-15 years ago there was one software in the advancement shop, the database. Now, there are multiple software platforms involved in advancement: email software, business intelligence, social media integration, event registration, research software and more. But in order to manage all of these software platform integrations with our massive databases, has your infrastructure staff increased in size in order to handle the complexity and vast reach of these additional programs? If not, think about it. One of my favorite partner VPs says that for every fundraiser he hires he hires two infrastructure staff to support them. This is the model of the future.
Speaking of staffing models, the advancement shop of the future will not have this engulfing divide between back office and front office functions. Nope, none of the upstairs downstairs mentality that currently plagues us. Instead we will function in pods or collaborative teams. Imagine a triangle of effectiveness. With a gift officer, a researcher and a donor relations professional all provided excellent data by an analyst and an alumni relations specialist. Working as a team, they will share in the credit of the incoming gift and share in the incentives and the struggles as well. Imagine if they all had similar salaries and responsibility for the donor experience but were able to specialize in their area of expertise? Working collaboratively they can be more efficient and more effective in securing gifts. No longer siloed into their departments and colleges and units, their sole focus will be the donor. This is the model of the future. No more "major" gifts or annual fund silos, we will do what's best for the donor and the organization. Imagine the possibilities if we actually worked as teams in a cohesive manner, no more walls, no more barriers.
What do you believe the future will be like in fundraising? What will we value? What will organizations look like? How will we communicate with those closest to us?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.