Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Issue Fatigue: What's the Cure?

Jill Finlayson and Hildy Gottlieb's post last week on Social Edge, Issue Fatigue: Fighting for Attention and Funds in an Aware World has stirred up conversations about the sustainability of friendraising and fundraising in these over-networked times. Their post generated over 50 comments.

What do you think nonprofits can do to prevent supporters and potential supporters from deleting/hanging up on all of the asks to donate, advocate and learn that are coming their way during these overly networked times?

In her post, Feeling "Whelmed" in a Cause Driven World on Social Citizens, Kari Dunn Saratovsky says that in the past month she has been inundated with requests to give:
"I have been invited by three friends to donate to their birthday cause on facebook; I was pinged multiple times reminding me to buy my tickets to Twestival; I had one friend running in a cancer race in LA, and another who was racing up the stairs in Indiana to support Riley Children’s Hospital. In addition to all of the ways I’ve been solicited for money – I’ve been asked to vote for a nonprofit who was competing in the IdeaBlob contest, reminded to bring recycled bags the next time I shopped at Trader Joe’s, and I was hit up by my neighbor who is a Girl Scout and bought the obligatory box (or two) of Thin Mints."
In her post, Issue Fatigue, Allison Fine of A.Fine Blog says part of the solution is focusing on growing relationships:
"The solution is to go back to basics: building strong relationships with your supporters. For all of the pinging and poking and clicking and razzle dazzle of cause chatter, social change continues to happen through social connections. For causes it is more important than ever that they focus on how to strengthen those ties, with and without social media, online and on land, to support their efforts. This year, in particular, social capital trumps financial capital - so we better get to building it one person, one connection, one conversation at a time."
In January, Lina Srivastava of Strategy for Social Change Initiatives moderated an online discussion on ArtTribesNetwork about "Preaching to the Converted": Engaging Your Audience and Combating Issue Fatigue. In her summary of the session, she offered a few tips: 1. create a personal and emotional connection to the cause, 2. develop campaigns that unfold slowly and offer continual and creative ways to engage, and 3. provide evidence to supporters' that their work is making a difference.

I've often thought of the explosion of social media as being like the free love movement of the 60s and 70s. Social media tools have opened the doors for anyone and everyone to be an expert, a journalist, a pundit, a filmmaker, an organizer, a fundraiser, and a "friend."

Now, people are examining their new roles and relationships, and asking themselves, "Who and what do I want to commit to?" Perhaps, organizations need to change their focus from how many supporters they can gather, to the quality of their relationships, and how they can get people to commit to their cause for the long run. They need to figure out how they take the "dates" and "one night stands" they've had with their Facebook friends, Twitter followers, YouTube viewers, and blog commenters to the next level of partnership, with all of its ups and downs, where they can work together over time to make the world a better place.

Cross-posted from BlogHer. Britt Bravo is a Big Vision Consultant.
Photo of Laika the Cat by Me.

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  1. Britt:
    At the risk of punning, "Bravo!" I have written 2 books on Community Engagement, one titled "FriendRaising." And in that book I talk about the fact that this sector has taken the word "friend" to mean "donor" - when its highest value is as the word "friend!"

    Just as a friend in our real lives will do anything for us, a true friend of our organizations will volunteer, connect us with others, advocate, get us speaking gigs - AND give us money.

    When all we seek is money, we leave all the rest of that great stuff on the table. So thank you for emphasizing that what we need are real and true friends. And further thank you for emphasizing that that means slowing down, taking the time to deeply engage people - as we would with friends!


  2. Hi Hildy,

    The need for folks to put the focus on relationships first, and the tools second is particularly clear every time I do a workshop or presentation for people about using the social web and someone asks, "Which tool is the *best* tool?" as if there is one magic bullet social web tool to get lots of people to engage in your cause or buy your product.

    Ultimately, in addition to fostering real relationships with supporters and potential supporters, you also have to think about what is the need that your blog, podcast, Facebook page, etc. going to fill for them so that they'll keep coming back for more.

  3. "you also have to think about what is the need that your blog, podcast, Facebook page, etc. going to fill for them so that they'll keep coming back for more."

    Good point! This harkens to Randy Paynter's comment on the discussion - "In basic terms, if I'm not getting pleasure out of my interactions with the organization because their story isn't resonating with me, or they're asking more than they're giving, then I'm going to get fatigued."

    So that is the key - what can nonprofits *give* to build that relationship with the donor and then *how* can the social media tools help rather than hinder so that "people to commit to their cause for the long run."

    Thanks for chiming in with great points.

  4. Hi Jill,

    It's funny cause we at nonprofits care so much about the people and causes we serve, but we don't always show the same amount of care for the people who we want to support the organization.

    Maybe we need to think about our work as serving our clients/causes AND serving our supporters. Providing ways for them to be informed and involved is a service as well.


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