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Digital Development Officers - Why Invest? (Part 1)

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

Some of the most significant interactions between people now happen partially or entirely online. And I probably don’t have to say it, but COVID-19 has only accelerated that shift toward more digital human-to-human interaction.

Meaningful relationships and interactions happen online....

20 years ago, meeting a romantic partner online was almost taboo. Today, most of us know several happily married couples who met on Bumble or In fact, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, meeting online has now become the most popular way U.S. couples connect.

LinkedIn and other virtual employment sites have pushed the online job application into the realm of formality for matching candidates with open positions.

When friends and I exchange money, it’s not through cash or a check (what’s a “check??”) - we do it via Venmo, PayPal, or Zelle.

Major Gift Fundraising - It’s about Relationships

Most good fundraisers will characterize their work with donors and prospects as nurturing relationships with those supporters. First and foremost, it’s a relationship between the donor and the mission. But it’s also a relationship between the donor and fundraiser.

And if more and more relationships are happening online, that means it’s critical that relational fundraisers become adept at digital donor engagement.

Here is how well-trained Digital Development Officers are moving into the online space to meet donors where they are…

Embracing Social Media

65 percent of those age 50-64 use Facebook. 41 percent of those 65+ are active on the social media behemoth. (Pew social media research, 2019)

How does one of {{firstname}}’s client partners most frequently hear from the co-chair of their $4 billion campaign? In the comments on gift officer and institutional Facebook pages. Along with LinkedIn, modern fundraisers must be active on Facebook. Too many of their donors and prospects get too much of their information from that network. Whether it’s launching a new community with a specialized group or creating a professional profile to engage donors and prospects individually, Facebook (like it or not) is too widespread and ever present in the lives of our donors to be ignored.

Producing “Authentic” Video

Video connects. It has been shown to inspire a more empathetic response that leads to more generous behavior. According to Google, 57 percent of everyone who watches an organization's video will eventually make a gift to that nonprofit.

I’ll type that again - 57 percent of everyone who watches an organization's video will eventually make a gift to that nonprofit (and {{firstname}}’s client partners have enjoyed similar video-driven success in the real world).

In other words, you want your donors and prospects to watch videos about your mission. As modern fundraisers, you can significantly increase the number of donors and prospects who will watch a mission-centered video by simply adding a 10-second personal introduction to the video. Say the donor’s name, tell them why they should watch, then cut to the video. This “bookending” tactic will ultimately lead to more full video views which eventually leads to more fundraising success.

Beyond the bookending tactic, a mobile phone is a powerful tool in the hands of a digitally savvy gift officer. Use that phone to open a window into your mission and show donors and prospects what they miss by not being on site every hour of the day. Is the donor’s name going up on a plaque or a wall? Is the donor’s name being installed on a threshold over a new wing? Are there kids ready to say “thank you” to the donor who gave them a home over their heads or provided for their scholarship? Your mobile phone is the key to recording quick content hits that endear your organization to the donors you serve.

To equip your gift officers for video success:

  • Provide basic video training

  • Work with a video fundraising strategist to help gift officers work digital video into their cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship strategies

  • Provide gift officers with tools that allow for easy video sharing and donor engagement

The goal with video is not only driving better results, but also making gift officers more efficient. At {{firstname}} our DDO’s don’t spend more time on video, they have more time for donor engagement because of video.

Use Zoom long after COVID stops requiring it

For those donors and prospects that value convenience, Zoom is here to stay.

For connecting two friends, hundreds of miles apart - one who supports your mission, the other who would with the right introduction - use Zoom to facilitate peer-to-peer.

To place your executive director, president, or dean in front of a large number of donors in a short period of time - use Zoom.

To substantially reduce gift officer travel time and expenses, while increasing the number of substantive conversations, use Zoom.

The pandemic has made the world far more comfortable with video conferencing. Lean into that and make your donor engagement work more efficient and effective.

Are you convinced? Will you be launching a DDO program? Either way, check out part 2 in this series to learn about why digital engagement is so important for our highest capacity donors and prospects.

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