It’s no secret that the Plenty team spends a lot of time thinking about ways to help nonprofits match their long-term stewardship needs with their desire to adopt new approaches that appeal to different audiences, including the next generation of fundraisers. In doing so, we’ve identified tools that seem promising at first, but actually amount to transactional giving. In these situations nonprofits ask for small donations, or tie donations to semi-relevant purchases, making the interaction between their organization and the donor completely transactional, preventing them from creating long-term relationships, and essentially stifling their P2P fundraising strategy.
Therefore, we get really excited when we find a resource that’s both innovative and relational. Recently, there has been some buzz among the Plenty team about Charitweet, a startup platform that allows nonprofits to receive donations through tweets. Unlike the traditional mobile giving platforms hosted by mGive, Give by Cell, Qgiv, and a plethora of others, Charitweet is centered on engaging a donor’s network through social media in a way that conventional text-to-donate platforms do not. For instance, once someone makes their first donation via Charitweet, that donor will never have to enter their credit card information again - even if the next donation is months later or to a different organization. This is only one example of the benefits of Charitweet but a great reminder that user experience is key to driving first-time and future donations.
While Charitweet is a great example of a refreshing and relational resource, not every donation tool that enters the space supports long-term growth or stewardship goals. So how can you actually tell if it has the potential to create long-term stewardship opportunities?
Here are three ways to see if “the next big thing” is a tool for success or just another form of transactional giving:
1. Does the tool allow prospective donors to learn about your mission before they donate?
Yes, your organization needs more revenue to make a bigger impact. But you don’t just need more donations tomorrow – you also need donations next week and next year. Those long-term, stewardship-based donations will only come if donors understand why they’re giving. Transactional giving might get new donors in the door, but they won’t walk through it again if they aren’t connected to your cause. Wouldn’t you rather find donors who understand and share your vision for the world, and have that shared passion be the springboard for a constituent relationship that spans years? That’s why relational giving is so important - it allows you to reach the people who care about your cause and cultivate lasting relationships with them over time.
2. Do prospective donors choose to give to your organization specifically?
Being interested and involved in your organization’s mission (question 1) is necessary but not sufficient on its own. Just as you know your cause is worth asking for, and in relational giving donors also know your cause is worth giving to and that’s why they choose to give to your organization.
Transactional giving is temping until you realize that it only reaches occasional, passive donors. Often, these purchasers aren’t even choosing to donate specifically to your organization, or their donation is an afterthought - an ancillary benefit that sounds okay in the course of acquiring the “trendy bag” that they are actually after. All the while, what you really need is a group of engaged, active constituents who will donate and ask on your organization’s behalf through peer-to-peer fundraising, right? So make sure to use tools that focus on the people who might stay a while, not the ones who already have their minds set on passing through.
3. Can you steward the donors acquired through the tool after they donate?
Perhaps the most powerful indicator of transactional versus relational giving tools is whether you can reach out to Danny Donor after they use the platform to donate to your organization. Whether you want to reach out with a personal note - thanking him for donating and inviting him to stay connected with your organization, or you want to email him in a month about an event he might like to attend in his community, you want to make sure you can stay connected with these donors after their first interaction.
However, it is not uncommon for donation tools not to share donor data with the organizations using them, which makes following up with donors impossible. It’s awfully difficult to steward someone if you don’t know who they are and can't connect with them. It’s imperative to your P2P fundraising strategy and long-term success that your organization has the ability to build relationships with these donors and their networks. And if the company facilitating the blind donation through their platform offers to send the donor a thank you note on your behalf, who’s actually cultivating a relationship there? Probably not you.
Looking ahead, keep in mind that 2015’s fundraising fads may not help you cultivate the type of relationships your organization needs to build a peer-to-peer community with long-term staying power. Steer away from transactional giving models, and instead focus on tools that allow you to create relationships with new constituents, and you’ll find your organization receiving donations year-round, from connected networks that genuinely care about your cause.
For more information on how to grow your P2P fundraising program in 2015 download our free Seven Success Factors e-book, which highlights the seven components critical to achieving fundraising success.