Celebrating the publication of their new book, Lead Community Fundraising: Successfully Connecting People Digitally, Linda Mareen Neugebauer and Irene Zanko explain what lead community fundraising is all about and why it’s so important for fundraising organisations now.
Digitalisation is changing the world and fundraising is no exception – it is becoming more democratic and more agile, with supporters wanting to do more than donate. They want to have a say, to participate in decision-making for the organisations they support. And in the future, it will become even more important for fundraising organisations to find and engage with interested parties, supporters and new donors online.
Currently, there is a bottleneck in fundraising. Many organisations that rely on traditional fundraising methods are struggling to attract new donors. But through lead community fundraising, organisations can overcome that bottleneck.
What do I mean by lead community fundraising? It starts with people in your community – they might be your volunteers, supporters, social media followers, donors, beneficiaries or other interested parties (leads). This approach explores how those leads could be won over through a value-oriented approach with meaningful, participatory, educational, helpful and entertaining content in order to subsequently build up and maintain a lasting, mutually nourishing relationship (lead journey) with them. The willingness and loyalty to donate (donor journey) develops out of this trusted and valued relationship.
In a digital context, lead community fundraising enables organisations to build awareness around common issues and concerns, encouraging people to act – to click, to forward, to react, to communicate and also to donate. It’s an opportunity to capture people’s enthusiasm, to get people excited, because the focus is on them and their role – what they can do as community members.
Lead community fundraising is based on the multi-cyclical, people-oriented acquisition and retention of leads and donors.
The central element is the establishment of a lead community of one’s own to which a strong connection is established. This unit, consisting of fans, followers and supporters, represents the future basis for attracting donors. It is also a powerful voice for the organisation.
Why does an organisation need this? In short, to survive. Because unlike traditional fundraising, where the norm has often been to ask for a donation in the first or second step, this has evolved. In part, this change is linked to digitalisation, but it’s also driven by people’s increased desire to participate in change.
And there is another important factor that defines the revolutionary potential of lead community fundraising: a paradigm shift in thinking. Campaigns are no longer static, rigid content, but they are changing to become more dynamic and flexible – campaigns geared towards dialogue. This is vital because lead community fundraising focuses on people and their individuality.
In the past, it was enough to use mass media to disseminate content from the organisation’s point of view. That is now passé. And the same holds for the intention behind dissemination: it’s not just about getting a donation, but also about community members sharing and commenting on content. This aligns with another shift: that digital fundraising is about listening and recognising people’s needs and desires, and, of course, fulfilling them whenever possible.
Lead community fundraising is based on a comprehensive orientation toward people and this goes hand in hand with a new fundraising relationship profile: community members and the organisation enjoy an everyday relationship, a dialogue on an equal footing. One that is based on listening and having a say. One that comes as close as possible to our everyday understanding of interpersonal relationships and differs from a business or customer relationship.
But to achieve this level of wellbeing, we must know who the people in our community are. Not just about demographics and account numbers, but also what their dreams, stories, needs and identities are. Because only then is it possible for each person to receive the message that is relevant to him or her. And to understand what channel they wish to hear it on or through.
Communication also differs: Lead community fundraising is focused on talking, on being together, on good emotions. It is not just about a short moment of joy after a donation and thank-you message before the next appeal for donations, but about a substantial feeling of wellbeing on all levels. This can be achieved, for example, by the community member learning something new or being inspired.
This paradigm shift in thinking also changes moral and ethical action. In a new, digital world of togetherness, trust and dialogue, a new, digital ethic is needed. And to makes this happen it needs one key ingredient: people. You. And all of us.
Find out more in Linda and Irene’s new book – Lead Community Fundraising: Successfully Connecting People Digitally (Management for Professionals), available now as an eBook or in print from Amazon in English and German.
About the authors
Linda Mareen Neugebauer studied business administration in Germany and specialised in fundraising management at Indiana University, Center on Philanthropy in the USA. She has worked in leading positions at international organisations. She is co-founder of the Spanish fundraising agency Prosocial and a founder and president of OCEAN US. She is a fundraising tutor in Philanthropic Psychology in all Spanish-speaking countries.
Dr. Irene Zanko studied communication science in Vienna and works as a senior copywriter at DIRECT MIND. There she has been designing offline and online for small and, large nonprofits and everyone in between for almost 20 years.
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