There is a provocative change happening right before our eyes in the world of fundraising. Nonprofits are raising more money than ever before (Americans gave around $358 Billion to charity in 2014), and today’s nonprofits are looking to new, cutting edge social platforms to change the fabric of how they raise funds – and it’s working! When I first started fundraising, I was working for The Make-A-Wish Foundation at their corporate headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. It was the early 2000’s and we largely used the three common pillars of fundraising to reach our annual goal: events, direct mail and face-to-face asks. Each of these areas requires significant staff time to plan and execute, and with face-to-face fundraising, it takes relationship building, meaning it can take months, in some cases, to build the appropriate rapport with a prospective donor. However, with the clever use of Salesforce CRM and cloud fundraising platforms like Classy , Rallybound, and Fundly, a fundraising campaign can be built in a matter of hours and in front of thousands of people in a matter of days. This change in fundraising methodology doesn’t just help nonprofits raise more money quickly, but it could also have the unintended side effect of actually changing our collective giving culture for the better.
This September, I attended the largest technology conference in the country, Dreamforce. This is the massive Salesforce weeklong event that everyone talks about all year long. It also has the distinction of being the largest nonprofit technology conference in the country. As someone who grew up in the nonprofit world using stand-alone software like Raiser’s Edge and Donor Perfect, the opportunity to see how leading nonprofits are using the cloud to fundraise was amazing. Case-in-point, I attended a session called, “Fundraising: Innovative Ways to Manage Incoming Funds – and Get More to Come In,” which highlighted two nonprofits who have found amazing success using cloud-based social fundraising: Cradles to Crayons and Team Rubicon.
Let’s examine Team Rubicon as a case study. Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams around the world during the time between the moment a disaster happens and the point at which conventional aid organizations respond. It started with eight veterans who, after witnessing the terrible atrocities caused by the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, decided to put their unique skills into action.
A couple of friends rented a truck and deployed to Haiti to begin helping those who needed it most. By the time Team Rubicon left Haiti they helped thousands of displaced Haitians find clean food and water and get the medical attention they needed. The effort was a huge success and it not only helped the Haitians who were affected by the earthquake, but it also helped the veterans who served them gain a foothold back into post-war society. Soon their mission spread and they sought out software that could handle their needs and allow them to quickly leverage disaster relief donors with disaster relief needs, like equipment, personnel, and travel expenses. However, a big question remained: how do you mobilize funds quickly to affect the greatest good in the least amount of time?
Traditionally, nonprofits would start a campaign for a specific disaster need, mobilize their fundraisers to coordinate an event and then distribute the funds, typically after disaster relief had already happened. However, in this new paradigm of fundraising we have the ability to use our cloud-based CRM (Salesforce) and a state-of-the-art social fundraising platform (Classy) to setup multiple campaigns, run by multiple volunteer fundraisers across multiple states.
Here’s how it works: From the Classy website, “With the Classy platform, you can create fundraising campaigns for specific projects or year-round initiatives in a matter of minutes. Empower your community by adding personal and team fundraising pages, user-generated media, leader-boards, corporate matching and more.” Organizations like the American Cancer Society have known about social fundraising for many years with their Relay for Life micro-websites to empower the individual to reach as many people in their network as possible. This is essentially what Classy does for organizations. The main difference being that it is incredibly quick and easy to come up with a campaign and deploy it to your social networks in a tenth of the time it takes on other platforms. But what does this mean for fundraising and a giving culture?
If we step away from traditional fundraising and examine the impact that social fundraising has had on our culture, we can quickly pull out unprecedented examples of people doing good in the world on a global scale. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is the best example of what social fundraising is doing to the culture of giving in this country. Now, while keeping the idea of traditional fundraising in your mind think about this, from their website, “The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started in the summer of 2014 and became the world’s largest global social media phenomenon. More than 17 million people uploaded their challenge videos to Facebook; these videos were watched by 440 million people a total of 10 billion times. It is now an annual event to raise awareness and funds to find treatments and a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).” This simply would not be possible if we were limited to events, direct mail and face-to-face asks. But what does this mean for our collective giving culture?
Consider this: According to a 2008 study in the Journal Science by Elizabeth W. Dunn, et al., entitled, “Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness,” they found that those tasked with spending money on others experienced greater happiness than those tasked with spending money on themselves. If this is true, we could be witnessing a paradigm change in how we donate to a given cause, and indeed we could actually be making our society a little happier at the same time. Cloud fundraising continues to innovate and grow, so with more avenues to give through social networking and better ways to manage social giving with Salesforce, nonprofits will certainly be on the forefront of positive global change for decades to come.