The number of social networks is approaching dizzying numbers. While many are supported by commercial advertising, nonprofits are also experimenting with fundraising through the connections the networks make possible. Web 2.0, after all, goes hand in hand with the viral marketing principles that have risen to prominence in the last few years. [Are you a maven? Where do you get your product/cause recommendations?]
There is a new generation that doesn’t even check their e-mail more than once a month and barely watches TV and doesn’t read newspapers. They are online. They are social networking. The hand-written note is great for the older generations who are used to that and appreciate it, that’s how they have been cultivated, but the younger generation (35-40 and under) is communicating and getting their information in radical new ways. They want you to post a comment on their MySpace or Facebook wall that says “Thanks for the donation!” so everyone else can see they donated (and hey they want to donate too because they want to see their picture on Change’s giving network). They don’t care about the handwritten note (and don’t you dare spam them with direct mail funding appeals… two a year tops)… they’d prefer you save the paper and resources. And this generation has cash and is passionate and just needs a little help learning about nonprofits… because the communications most nonprofits are using now don’t reach them. They are very happy to find a cool new nonprofit on MySpace.
The question, again, is where to devote limited resources — cultivating the current donors and reaching out in new ways for new ones.