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.

Monday, March 20, 2006

One Million Pixels for Hope

We've just launched a new word of mouth marketing site designed to drive both mission awareness, family involvement and revenues. Visit Million Pixels for Hope to see how we transformed the incredible Million Dollar Homepage concept into something potentially very exciting and valuable to cancer survivors and the Society.

I think that while it's a tad hard to get your photo sized right (so small!), that motivated families of survivors will really enjoy this sort of visual web site - and once it is sold out - the impact a site like this would have should be fantastic.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Charity Portals Rant

Does anyone else feel like I do about charity shopping portals?

Why would I choose to use a "customer touch" by promoting a shopping portal (they are all the same to me - insert your favorite one here....) that results in:

- taking my customer off my site
- putting them smack into one of the worst shopping experiences possible
- a few cents on the dollar return

It makes no sense to me!

That said - I feel like if I'm not listed on these portals, it's a bad thing. I want our brand to be everywhere, but what I keep telling the "founders" of these charity portals is that while my supporters want to find new ways to support the charity - that ultimately they aren't coming to my site to buy a new PC, get a mortgage or buy valentines gifts.

Alternatively, we recently launched a partnership with Cintas, who now provides us with an e-store for both consumers, and for our chapters (bulk and wholesale pricing). We're doing quite a bit of volume on this site - and it's building rapidly. I've seen other charities, like March of Dimes launch much simpler stores on free sites like Cafepress, which looks to be a very simple and easy way to get started quickly, but does have it's limitations in terms of product selection, product quality, price flexibility etc...

Advocacy Launch and Strategy

We're getting ready to re-launch an advocacy action center on our main Web site. Replacing a legacy vendor and a set of disconnected web forms with a full fledged action center is not as big a challenge as you might think. That said, since I'm not an advocacy expert, I started digging around to get educated on what's new with mobilizing advocates online.

I came across a recent study that blew me away - after reading this, I'm convinced that we can dramatically increase our direct onling giving totals by combining a very active advocacy initiative, high levels of personalization and relevancy and targeted emails. Plus, we'll have an entire new set of metrics to measure against (# of actions taken) .

I hope that Kintera can ultimately provide a flexible enough toolset, given that we've committed to their platform for advocacy and are going to launch in less than a month!

Sorry for the long delay in between posts, I'm working on about a jazillion things at once :)