A study and report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Americans and Their Gadgets,” continues to provide many helpful insights, even though published two years ago.
I think you would suspect the results of the report indicate an ever-growing percentage of Americans now own a cell phone, desktop and laptop computers, MP3 players, game consoles and e-book readers.
In terms of major gift fundraising, the assumption is fairly simple. If you had the resources to purchase these items, wouldn’t you?
It makes sense, then, to use these items to communicate your nonprofit mission and your needs for support, wherever and whenever possible. Potential donors in the major gift category are using these “gadgets” and clearly, enjoy using them.
Of course, not all major gift prospects (nor donors of modest means) are comfortable using “gadgets” and social media. I have a beloved donor who is 80 years old who still prefers visiting on the telephone, and this donor also likes receiving faxes for follow-up. The message is always – especially in the case of your most treasured supporters – learn their communication preferences, and use them!
But, having gotten on Facebook initially at the suggestion of a highly regarded major gift donor and friend (whose family has graciously awarded some of my past projects more than $1 million in grants), I know social media and new technologies are effective for communication purposes with philanthropists of all capacities, and preferred by many, in fact.
On a personal note, as the need for nonprofit services continues to increase – and as our donors are besieged with more requests for financial support – so too will the need arise for more efficient management by donors of nonprofit communications, as well as ways to better ensure their personal security. Social media and new technologies can help by providing easy-to-access, attractive sources of information that can be quietly and thoughtfully reviewed at one’s leisure, confidentially.
This is why I urge nonprofit organizations to be present on social media, and never cease communicating your mission, needs, success stories, and the like. You never know who may be reading and evaluating your information online in order to make knowledgeable, meaningful financial contributions (donors, professional advisors, family and friends of donors, friends of friends, government agencies, and the like).
This is also one reason I am an advocate of “crowdfunding,” whether by professionally organized online campaign, via charity lotteries (see my blog for more on this topic), or other means. I fear our traditional bases of donor support will be unable to fully meet our nation’s growing demands for the many essential services provided by nonprofit organizations. New means of raising financial support need to be explored, while we continue to fundraise as we always have.
I recently came across an article by David Kirkpatrick of Forbes (November 12, 2011), “How to Be an Optimist in a Pessimistic Time: A Techonomy Manifesto.”
“It’s no secret that technology is changing the world. Unfortunately, there are a surprising number of people who don’t get it. Many of them, even more unfortunately, are important leaders in business, other powerful institutions, and governments. To meet the challenges that face us—whether as leaders of organizations, as leaders of countries, or as the global community addressing our collective challenge—we will only be successful if we unreservedly embrace technology and innovation as essential tools.”
I like his spirit!
The trend toward greater use of technology in every aspect of our lives is increasing, and I believe the potential for good far outweighs the bad.
In, “The Future of Big Data,” another insightful report from Pew Internet & American Life, many positive uses of the vast amount of data being collected via the Internet are outlined. But, while experts say new forms of information analysis will help people be more nimble and adaptive in the years ahead, they “worry over humans’ capacity to understand and use these new tools.”
I know from my own family, which is more technologically savvy than most, that “gadgets” can make life easier, secure, healthy, and more interesting on many levels, especially in the case of older generations. The obstacle seems to be less the cost of acquiring the gadgets, than the fear of learning how to use them.
Accessible, “in-person” educational programs for all generations would be helpful. Two of my favorites along these lines, are: 1) NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network, 501 Tech Clubs, and 2) Social Media Breakfast.
Of course, YouTube provides a variety of helpful instructional videos one can watch online, and most social media venues provide online user guides as well. A plethora of webinars on social media and new technologies are available online (free and for a fee), should you prefer that method of learning.
My personal experience is that in-person learning, or a situation where a real person can provide one-on-one consultation, works best for those of us who are not already tech savvy. In fact, I regularly receive questions via my WordPress comment box from people across the world, asking how to use WordPress, and I’m always happy to share my simple answers (I am still learning, myself). People often want to learn directly from those who have actually used the latest “gadgets” and online platforms.
One last thought for potential funders – in the spirit of partnering toward tech success for older generations that lag behind more than others – I know from friends and family living in retirement communities that local libraries (New York is leading the way here already), community centers, and local chapters of such well regarded nonprofit organizations as Rotary International and Lion’s Club International could provide comfortable venues for such programs.
“We are an extremely passionate, creative, and open minded team of individuals with a common goal of bridging the communication gap that separates the generations. We understand that no two people learn the same way, so we’re continually evolving our offerings, improving our performance, and expanding our reach until we’ve touched the lives of those in need. We owe tremendous gratitude to AT&T and Pantech for sharing in this mission and helping to make this all possible.”
In addition to AARP, perhaps NTEN, Social Media Breakfast, and the more traditional, local service organizations mentioned earlier might consider future partnership programs on the use of new technologies, for members and non-members alike. I believe that’s an idea worth funding ….
~ I found this article by Kristen Schweizer of Bloomberg Businessweek of interest, “Facebook Challenged by Swedish Count’s Jet-Set Website” (August 22, 2012). I believe the new, BestofAllWorlds social networking site for the world’s wealthiest is a fabulous idea, but would caution those who think it will take a bite out of Facebook, that the world’s wealthiest citizens are also interested in what the rest of us are doing. I expect most of them will continue to use multiple social media platforms, including this one.
~ You might enjoy reading an article that David Moth has written for Econsultancy about Facebook’s use by wealthy Europeans, “Faceboook Aims for Luxury Brands With Study Into How the Rich Use Social” (November 21, 2012). “Facebook is the most popular and most frequently used social network among Europe’s most affluent citizens.”
~ Read my article in this WordPress blog, “Mobile Rising,” for a discussion of growing trends in mobile technology development, specifically (see link at left).
~ Matt Rosoff has written a telling article on “tech” preferences, “People Who Use Macs at Work Are Richer and More Productive” (Business Insider, October 28, 2011).
“The use of MAC computers is anticipated to grow; despite the fact they are often more expensive, some employees (often those at higher levels of management) prefer Macs, and will bring them from home to work if they are not available in the workplace.” Well, I don’t use a Mac myself, but I know some who do, and believe this is a trend to be watching ….
~ I enjoyed reading about Martha Stewart’s use of new technologies and “gadgets” in Andrea Smith’s article on Mashable, “What’s in Martha Stewart’s Tech Bag” (August 13, 2012). I was interested to learn she is still hanging onto her two Blackberry phones (one used for phone calls, one for tweets and e-mail) ~ see my blog post, “Mobile Rising” for a brief discussion about Blackberry (and the hope the company will come back stronger than ever in time).