Philanthropic Impact & Insight: The hijacking of fundraising

It’s an interesting dilemma but one professional fundraisers are facing every day in a myriad of ways. In our digital world, boundaries are blurring at a dizzying speed that jeopardizes the very concept of fundraising.

“The term ‘fundraising’ has been highjacked,” according to Kimbia Senior Principle Fundraising Strategist Miriam Kagan. She explains the public cannot tell the difference between helping a friend by what could be called “micro-investing” and fundraising. “If I want to open a bagel shop; I’m going to fundraise money for it; but it’s not really charity. Everybody’s giving money to me as a small investment.”
Kagan believes the biggest challenge facing fundraisers today is this blurred concept of fundraising, “With crowdfunding fundraising becomes more ubiquitous and nonprofits have to fight to re-own that word [fundraising].” Kimbia has been helping larger organizations in the crowdfunding field for years, so they’ve been watching this societal shift in thinking.

That shift is why Blackbaud created the “Everyday Hero” platform, which allows individuals to fundraise for whatever they want, in whatever way they want. VP of Blackbaud Vice President of Corporate Marketing Catherine LaCour adds, “What it does for nonprofits is open up a whole new donor base.” Organizations can build crowdfunding into their overall fundraising strategy and put a link on their FaceBook page or webpage. Donors can build a profile in a few minutes and begin to raise funds right off the bat.

Caryn Stein, Vice President of Communications and Content at Network for Good, agrees that technology is offering some amazing options, “The explosion of social media and mobile technology…enables anyone to become a fundraiser, that democratizes fundraising.”

But, in an era where anyone can fundraise, what does that mean for the profession? A glance at Kickstarter reveals opportunities to “raise funds” for helping the Amish “fence the organic milk supply,” helping supply a “great cup of coffee” in Austin, and fund rainwear for the “urban lifestyle.”

The reality is most people don’t see the difference between helping a friend raise money for a bagel shop and fundraising for a cause. So nonprofits and entrepreneurs alike need to strategize and understand which options will best their target audience.

For example, crowdfunding can be particularly good for foundations, big umbrella organizations with affiliates and institutions of higher education. Kagan (Kimbia) points out universities can tap into alumni on several levels, “There’s loyalty to your class, school and clubs you participated in. All of that can create a great friendly competition element for crowdfunding days.”

While nonprofits may not have a corner on the term “fundraising,” they can bring their skill and professionalism to help people support the causes they believe in. By being in the crowdsource space, they can also encourage donors to be engaged in a more personal way that will improve the overall community through hands-on philanthropy.

Peter Zehren is vice president of communications for the AFP SEWI.

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