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Fundraising has always been about building relationships with people who are or will be ready, willing, and able to give. Most nonprofits recognize that face-to-face interactions are the most valuable way to build those relationships. However, engaging donors face-to-face has traditionally been reserved for major gift development because it’s expensive, less scalable, and time-intensive.

Conversely, nonprofits have used direct mail as a way to engage their broad base of donors, but direct mail usage and response have decreased dramatically over the past few years due to the costs associated with the process. Postage alone can make up 45 percent of the cost. Printing contributes 25 to 40 percent of the expense. Add in creative services, mail list management, declining response rates, and other costs, and you can quickly see why organizations are becoming more and more reluctant to invest in direct mail in the hope that people will respond. Nonprofits must raise a lot of money just to cover the costs of solicitation. That doesn’t make sense to many organizational leaders.

As an alternative, organizations have turned to digital communication because of the lower cost and the fact that it is preferred by younger demographics. However, messages are getting buried in the overcrowded inboxes of prospects and donors.

Nonprofit organizations looking to create more “personal connections” with donors have turned to events as a way to raise support. Run-walk-ride events, galas, golf tournaments, donor weekends, and even international trips to observe social programs firsthand are in wide use…and growing in popularity.

However, all of these approaches are merely extensions of existing mid and major development efforts. They rarely reach into the thousands of donors on file who have given something, but not enough, to warrant an invitation to a personal conversation.Why? Because event capacities and budgets are limited.

Technology’s Role in Improving Donor Relations at Every Level

How can nonprofits justify the cost of engaging donors at every level through cost effective face-to-face interactions?

Over the next few years, I believe nonprofits will increasingly leverage advances in technology to identify prospects for giving in advance of donors making mid-level and major gifts, and then use that data to drive face-to-face visits and upgrade solicitations.

Granted, these interactions must be done differently than classic major gift development. But when re-engineered and leveraged through extensive databases of financial and nonfinancial data, both related and unrelated to the organization, face-to-face donor engagement becomes an affordable, rapid approach to effectively build relationships and fund program initiatives through donor giving at every level.

How can your organization use technology to build better relationships?

Here are four ways:

  1. Analyze your current donor file to determine how well you know your mid-level and major donor prospects.
  2. Determine what additional information you can obtain that would enhance your knowledge of donor interests.
  3. Capture non-financial interactions with donors to enhance your ability to make effective development decisions.
  4. Consider ways you can leverage new forms of digital face-to-face communications to engage younger donors on line. There are many services available such as Google Hangouts, Skype, and many free and paid video conferencing services.

Leveraging technology to improve donor relations at every level is just one of the trends that’s changing the fundraising world. If you want to learn more about how the nonprofit landscape is changing and how your organization can adapt, check out the GivingDNA Platform.

How is your organization is using technology to identify and engage potential mid-level and major donor prospects?