Why Online Fundraising Needs to Get Real Before They Kill Email

What organization has the courage to have a real online relationship with its constituents when it comes to money?

To openly admit that emails aren’t sent by the sender, but an expert writer or team of professionals who track every open, click and action?

Who will own up to fact that there is no deadline, triple-matched gift or magic budget number needed to implement a shiny new program. No, you don’t need <23> more donors from city> to run that radio ad.

Who would dare to even admit that the money they’re raising isn’t going to the flashy media campaign or urgent crisis issue of the day. But rather that this money is unrestricted funding that’s vital to the organization’s existence, supporting boring, little details like staff time or, gasp, overhead!

Or even worse, that you don’t care what meaningless one-click petition your organization is flogging this week, as long as people hit the donation thank you page after they’ve “taken action”. Bonus points if it has some social lift and brings in a few new names.

The game has become painfully clear. The urgency has become manufactured—crises fabricated or overstated with consequences so dire that $3 donation could just save human existence as we know it. Bogey men or fear issues reduced to caricatures.

And the worst part is that the stakes are real. The issues and outcomes matter—movements need money to win. People get that. People are willing to donate without qualifying for the free trip.

Organizing, politics, advocacy—we all preach about being real. Maybe it’s time for online fundraising to get on board. Before email programs are seen as so cynical, actions so meaningless and donation asks so pervasive, that we’re in a slow race to the bottom, grinding out the remaining inefficiencies of a medium long-forgotten for authenticity.

Sound familiar? Just ask the direct mail folks how that turned out.