Monday, April 16, 2007

Cool Kiosk Concept

I don't carry cash. I don't carry my checkbook. I do carry my credit/debit card that deducts money only from my checking account. It functions like a credit card, but I don't amass debt. I think it is one of the best concepts ever. One card. Easy to put in a pocket. Easy to use everywhere.

Except church.

I just read in the March/April edition of AFP's Advancing Philanthropy about churches installing kiosks that allow parishoners to make their weekly offering by swiping their debit card. They only allow debit cards because they don't want the congregation going into debt. It's a convenience to their worshippers to make their tithe as simple as possible.

Why not install these kiosks in central areas for donors to give to their favorite cause? This would be something that could be in every shopping mall in the country for people to give when the spirit moved them (like during the holiday shopping season). Organizations with annual conventions, meetings and conferences could install them for donors to make a contribution when they are the most motivated about the purpose of the charity. The use of a touch screen that guided people to make their gift would be simple service to donors.

Yes, donors can make their gifts online at any time. But a visible kiosk with the novelty of giving at an opportune time, may be a new way to acquire new donors. Bank ATM machines ought to consider giving their customers the opportunity to make a donation either to a selected charity or to select from a list of registered non-profit agencies.

This would be an ideal concept for United Ways to utilize. They could install kiosks in company lobbies for employees to make their donations. Perhaps these are only installed during peak "drive" times so the novelty remains fresh. (Consider this the old "Girl Scout Cookie" fundraising technique: offer the ability to make a donation only during a very specific time.)

Making gift-giving a simple and convenient opportunity should be the goal of all development officers. Watch for kiosks to start popping up all over the place. If you are the first to try something new, all the better!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Blog Your Way to Donor Relationships

Just the other day, I read on the blog a recommendation for University alumni associations to offer a blog opportunity. The value of establishing a blog was to create an interactive relationship with alumni and give them a place to reflect on favorite college memories, locations, friends, and experiences. I would suggest Foundations consider the same basic concept.

Take a leap of faith and create a blog on your webpage for your donors -- or prospective donors -- to offer their thoughts. People choose to donate to causes they believe in. Every development officer in the country will likely tell you that while the number of donors they have every year decreases, the amount of dollars raised increases. There is a simple reason for that. People are being more selective in the causes they give to, but they give significantly larger amounts to those charities.

You want to be sure you are one of those charities that keeps donors engaged! A very simple way to provide an interactive relationship is to create a blog. Provide your donors with the ability to share why they are passionate about your organization. Let them explain why they think you are a worthy organization to support. Testimonials are a positive force. Imagine someone looking at your website and considering a gift. If that individual reads impassioned notes about what your organization stands for, why a gift is valuable to them, and why others should support the cause there is no better case for support. A blog creates a grassroots bandwagon.

Yes, there is a risk that someone could post something negative. But consider that an opportunity to address a problem. That person is asking for attention from you to address a concern. Do it! If you impress that person, chances are he will write back in and explain the results of how you addressed an issue. Better yet, other supporters may address the situation and provide their own viewpoint on why that blogger had it wrong. In any case, you have provided a forum for a dialog. It's risky to say this, but sometimes a little negative publicity provides a wonderful platform to make improvements and counteract that negativity.

Blogs give donors opportunities to share their experiences. Fundraisers ought to love the donor who feels such a compulsion to support an organization to write about it. Let the donors...or even better yet...the beneficiaries of support tell your story. You may see such a moving response that it would be worth expanding in a magazine or video testimonial for non-donors to see.

It is important for Foundation websites to be more than a brochure on the internet. Find ways for donors to build a relationship with you. Give them a forum to share their experiences. Respond to them. Call them and thank them for their thoughts. Engage them in conversation and continue fostering that relationship. Broadband technology has created an unbelievable new mechanism for building relationships. Just make sure that you don't leave it between computer screens. Reach out. Take that relationship to the next level. Create more opportunities for on-going connections.

Good fundraisers understand the value of "linkage." A blog may be a simple link that leads to many other opportunities. Don't miss the chance to develop that connection simply because you don't understand the technology. Your donors will and if your charity is one that has meaning and you are finding ways to engage them through multiple venues, you are creating a steady donor. And as that relationship grows and develops, so will the gifts to your organization. How can that be a bad thing? Give it a try.