September 15, 2014

Now to the ice bucket challenge.

Notice how long it’s taken me to comment.

Everyone is writing about the ice-bucket challenge. Part of me says … so why would I? On the other hand, why not?

My opening comment: Yes, yes, yes. Amazing. Stunning.

The ice bucket challenge raised millions and millions of dollars. So much money that it doesn’t matter (I suppose) if any of the participants become real donors rather than gimmick responders.

My earliest thought was: “Yippee. ALS raised some one-off money. But will the donors renew or were they just playing the game?”

But the reality is, ALS raised sooooo much moonneeyyy… That actually transitioning into donors (more than a one-off game participant) doesn’t matter much. That’s my perspective today.

BUT! And this is my constant ongoing worry based on what I see all the time: For heaven’s sake… please let’s not think that it’s okay just to do one-off gimmicks and forget about donor retention.

For example, consider slacktivism: Read Seth Godin’s great blog about ice and slackers. And watch out for the weasels that Jeff Brooks’ thinks are coming. And check out The Agitator’s September 5 ice bucket versus leaky bucket.

Now every NGO is going to try to invent a gimmick that goes viral. But how often do things go viral – not very often! So how much time will organizations invest in creating a gimmick? What will be the opportunity cost?

Where is the long-term thinking and strategizing? Neither fundraising nor relationships nor life have Twitter versions. Fundraising and donors and people and relationships and living and life and… is more than Twitter…is more than a blog…is more than an ice bucket.

How about all those “likes” on your organization’s Facebook page? Are the likers giving you money? How about that peer-to-peer fundraising? Did my mom give your charity a gift after I no longer got her to do so because she’s my mom?

How many more ice-bucket challenges will there be that actually work…and raise so much money that retention doesn’t matter? Just because there is technology and social media and the internet and and … Does that mean that everything we really know…like loyalty…can be ignored?

I hope not.

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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