The Inequality of Opportunity

Yesterday, in a morning event hosted by US fundraising management consulting firm EHL, Director of the group Avrum Lapin presented the gathered dozens with the results of an investigation of theirs into recent trends in US giving to “Friends of” organisations of Israeli amutot. The trends, whilst not new information, are nevertheless not what you want to read before closing your eyes at night – you would probably lose sleep if you were to try doing that!

Although the overall pie has not become any smaller, and is in fact still growing, the slice that will eventually make aliyah is, quite understandably, becoming smaller as more dollars go to solving local challenges. Nothing new here. We have had at least 3 years to get used to that one. We do tend to forget the other factor, the one that probably has more affect than any other on the overall effectiveness of charitable turnover – choice/competition.

What is good for the goose may be good for the gander, but I think we are going to have to get philosophical to find the silver lining in this particular cloud!

More choice for the donor, the ability to really focus on the issues that touch their hearts or tickle their fancies, are great for the peace of mind of the generous soul who is choosing to invest their hard-earned cash in the fight to right the wrongs of society, but this same subjective equalizer is itself the greatest source of the inequality of opportunity for support-seeking initiatives.

Whilst on shlichut in Canada I was taught a phrase, by my VERY Canadian (you know what that means) overseer, one of the least Canadian phrases I have ever heard: “The squeaky wheel gets the most oil”. Talk about injustice, inequality, downright unfair – the cause most able to put itself in your prefrontal cortex, by hook or by crook, is the cause most likely to be able to generate support.

One comment made by Avrum did not come over in a way that I, or the party sitting to my right, could accept – right Shosh?

“Social networking – Facebook, twitter, etc – is tool for communication and outreach, not for fundraising”

Now, although he denied it when questioned on the issue, knowing Avrum I am sure that he will be willing to concede to my rebuttal of this statement.

Avrum’s presentation did offer up some of the old adages at which we roll our eyes everytime we hear them. They are cliches – but as the cliche says, things only become cliches because they are used often, and are generally correct.

The one cliche to which I would like to refer is: “People give to people” – this one he extended to include “not to newsletters, and not to phonecalls”.

Fundraising, I would like to propose, is a process, not an action. For this reason, among others, the term resource development is infinitely more descriptive. The act of “the ask”, and the processing of the (hopefully) ensuing gift/donation/investment, is preceded by the very long process of identification, communication, wooing, befriending, stewarding, retaining, communicating, etc., etc. – all of the stages and phases that we all do, and that are dismissed by those who may not understand or appreciate as “time wasted during which [we] could/should have been bringing in donations” – sound familiar?

So, where do I disagree with Avrum? On the role of social networking in fundraising.

Social neworking (according to the Wikipedia entry “List of Social Networking Websites” there are 201, and they are listed with the disclaimer, “Please note this list is not exhaustive, and is limited to notable, well-known sites”!) is not merely a tool, it is a whole new paradigm. Mass communication, group messaging, private messaging, PR, advertising, marketing, gaming, campaigning, donation processing and more are “tools” currently on offer on Facebook alone, and there are so many more, and so much more will be available tomorrow!

To tie up the loose ends, I would not ask Avrum to retract his statement, but I would like to offer a rephrasing, and would ask that he accept it , perhaps even adopt it for further use:

“Social networking – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – are very effective tools for communication and outreaching… and that is EXACTLY what fundraising is! Social networking will never replace person-to-person, face-to-face, communication and relationships, but it is as effective a way to reach that point as any other, if not more-so.”

Jonny Cline is the owner and editor of Fundraiser.co.il, owner and director of UK Toremet Ltd, and a Management and Resource Development Consultant for Israeli Non Profits. Jonny contributes to eJewishPhilanthropy from time to time.