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Is crowdfunding the new direct mail?


We’ve all heard the phrase ‘direct mail is dead’, but in the nonprofit sector we know it’s anything but – unless, that is, the audience you want to engage with is under 40, distracted by social media and surrounded by technology that’s forever changing.

For your over 40s, direct mail is still the jewel in your crown and it works like a charm – if executed properly. But what about your potential supporters who are under 40? How do you entice them to interact with you in a way that gets them engaged with your nonprofit long term?

If your answer is to wait until your Millennials reach their 40th birthday, hoping that they’ll all of a sudden fit into your ideal donor profile, it could be too little, too late. Millennials (and a few of us in the Generation X profile) require something different, and direct mail may never be our thing – so what is?

Fundraising for the next generation

In the last few years digital fundraising has been on the rise and crowdfunding platforms have started to become a very powerful way for individuals, businesses and nonprofits to connect with their younger supporters.

President Obama really kicked things off during his 2008 presidential campaign when he used crowdfunding to raise more than $600 million from more than 3 million donors, whose median donation was roughly $86.

There was a huge team behind Obama’s campaign, of course, but it was a prime example of how a very traditional fundraising model was adapted to suit a new generation. If your audience won’t come to you, you need to go to them – and diversification of your program just might be how you do that.

Since then, online platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Hubbub and even Just Giving have developed platforms that encourage and enable your supporters to fundraise for the things that they’re passionate about. And if that passion aligns with the aims of your nonprofit – you’re in!

Here are a few reasons why crowdfunding works so well:

#1 – crowdfunding is engaging

Crowdfunding is fun, it’s interactive and it gets supporters engaged in a way that fosters a close and personal connection with your nonprofit, which gives you a better chance of retaining those donors long term.

#2 – crowdfunding gives the donor the power of choice

One size fits all fundraising is very hard for Millennials to get on board with. They like having the freedom of choice and the opportunity to be seen as individuals. Crowdfunding allows your supporters to express their individuality and to choose a project that they feel most represents who they are and how they want to be seen to be making an impact on the world.

#3 – crowdfunding reaches your audience where they already spend a lot of their time

How often do you see Millennials on their phones? All the time – scrolling, scrolling and scrolling some more. Mail is something their parents get or how they receive bills. Crowdfunding puts you right in their social media eye line.

#4 – crowdfunding is quick

If it’s not quick your Millennials will lose interest…they probably stopped reading this blog post after the introduction.

#5 – crowdfunding diversifies your offer

Direct mail is great for some audiences but a one-size-fits-all approach, forcing supporters to respond in a way that’s centred on the needs of the nonprofit and not on their own desires, isn’t going to help acquire or retain donors.

#6 – crowdfunding is cheap(er) and delivers better results

If you’re considering mailing a cold audience under 40, you’re probably better off spending that budget on crowdfunding – the ROI and response rates are much higher than you ever could achieve with that particular audience using direct mail.

So, will you evolve or will you be left behind?

Kat Carter

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