Zombie Fundraising Techniques – Part 2

In Part One of Zombie Fundraising Techniques, IFC John Baguley delved in to fundraising techniques that do nothing for an organisation’s return on investment. Today’s blog goes on to show how to spot those zombie fundraising techniques.

New media tools too have a special inclination to flip over into sudden death syndrome: remember Friends Reunited (where are they now), MySpace, Compuserve (half the internet still thinks that’s my email address), Ask Jeeves (boy was he good until he was Googled), the Flip video camera (mine is still stunning but where is the attached mobile), your website as a portal, CDs etc which all staggered around unprofitable for a few years as if they were still alive. Because this often happens when they look at their most healthy, having grown rapidly from year to year, it is with some disbelief that threats to their existence are met. Everyone enjoys them, your boss signs up her husband, communications extolls them in the media and membership fondly believes they make a difference; but these zombies typically reach a point where the next big thing really is bigger and better. Then people migrate or change their behaviour overnight, led by the fickle boomers and early adopters in Gen X and Y often leaving the more loyal older generations marooned, but obliging organisations to continue ‘looking after’ them or to lose touch at a time when legacies might be dusted off and updated.

Personally, I blame zombie management that just slaps a percentage increase on each income stream and will not listen to reason in the budget process. This unsustainable, if incremental, growth will eventually kill any fundraising technique, it will even kill organisations; though I have noticed that events are particularly prone to grow rapidly and then collapse apparently without warning.

On the other hand, heroic management will ascertain which techniques are going to become key income streams in a few years’ time and invest financially in nurturing their growth – oh yes there will be a few mistakes but that is part of the price of survival. For the past few years this has been increasing in mobile based techniques, though the smash and grab techniques of direct marketing have proved remarkably unsuitable to the social media elements of this package; instead all eyes are on Avaaz.org, 38 Degrees and similar extraordinary start-ups which ignore conventional wisdom, giving a zombie like feeling to many of the sector’s websites.

As Andy Grove the boss of Intel said “Only the paranoid survive” and that to survive, an organisation has to innovate faster than the rate of change of its external environment.

Spotting a zombie technique:

  1. It loses money but staggers on from budget to budget.
  2. It persists but the time and money to start new techniques never emerges.
  3. It swaggers around being praised by everyone but has bandages wrapped around its clay feet, often as the expectation of the numbers of participants becomes completely unrealistic.
  4. It calls itself “old fashioned” you call it dead on its feet.
  5. Its ‘likes’ hang around from year to year, growing in number but never giving money.

Indeed, zombie watchers worldwide can see a tipping point coming when the undead online outnumber the living and that is when you may need to clone Buffy to survive.