Thursday, March 30, 2006

Historic Shifts

Has there ever been, in the history of charitable giving, a larger shift in HOW people actually hand their money to a not for profit?

In the pre-money days - services were exchanged and bartering was currency.

In the pirate age, dubloons were handed over in large chests.

The first massive shift in giving in my mind was when checks were invented. That was big.

But now, we're seeing this massive shift of how money is physically given to charities on a scale that I can only assume is unprecedented. Without giving away any trade secrets, we're seeing huge chunks (on the order of 20-40%) of all revenue now coming directly online. There is no end in sight.

I had a conversation the other day with some colleagues about "direct" online donations (non-event related). I had made the observation that we don't seem to be really doing anything out of the ordinary yet our online numbers continue to jump on a monthly basis - seemingly on their own. A few years ago, I might have been self-centered enough to think that I was having a impact on this shift because of my knowledge about user interfaces, customer experiment and all things web - but now I'm actually thinking that this organic growth of online giving is much broader and is more related to sociology rather than anything a marketing person could affect.

In any case, this "historic change" is fascinating, because while all this money is shifting to online, top line revenues don't seem to be keeping pace. We seem, as an industry to be shifting money from one pocket to the other. While this isn't a bad thing necessarily, the cost structure to support massive online giving (hosting, credit card fees etc...) has the potential to create some problems.

To solve these issues, we're either going to have to try to stop this shift (good luck and good night!) or we're going to have to to the other way. We'll have to proactively start thinking about accelerating this shift in giving - and as a result, will be forced to do things like (gasp!), reduce our postage and print costs to even things out again.

This is a scary proposition, especially for those folks who still cling to the notion that the web isn't and hasn't' already changed everything. Which it has.

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