Do any of you remember the “dot-com” years?

It was the wild and crazy appearance of a remarkable number of rapid growth, and often times, even more rapid decline number of tech companies. They were created and funded to address every conceivable need in market after market; needs that were often slightly ahead of their time!

The nonprofit sector wasn’t immune. I fondly recall the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference held in New Orleans in 2000 where more than 20 new dot-com companies magically appeared.

During that very conference I had dinner with the CEO of a new and well-funded startup, where even after three long hours of short questions followed by excruciatingly long-winded answers, I had no idea what their “exciting” new product would do for the fundraising world!

I wonder how many fundraisers felt the same way?

Numerous Dot Com Claims Were Made

Here are a few of the claims we heard around the conference in 2000:

“Online fundraising will replace direct mail and personal fundraising”

“Special events will reach thousands, if not millions of new potential donors”

“Applications will change how donors find charities and decide to give”

And my favorite, which is still far from coming true…

“The Internet will allow the amount of dollars given annually to double or even triple”

Yes, technology has improved many key facets of fundraising. Yes, certain types of special events have exploded in size with large numbers of new donors.

However, the amount donated annually has stood constant at or very near to 2% of the GDP.

Even more telling, in many of the years since 2000, the donor retention rate has fallen due to the larger number of new donors being added electronically. Many of the event related or spur of the moment electronic donors are the most difficult to retain as donors the following year!

(Somehow, that same technology, which garnered those wonderful first-time donors, is not improving how they are retained…)

Major Gift Processes continue to be the Backbone of Most Fundraising Programs

A key fact of the most recent FEP report is that 88% of all fundraising dollars come from 12% of the donors. This illustrates just how vital major gifts continue to be for the vast majority of nonprofit organizations.


Believe me, I am a huge proponent of what technology can do for the fundraising world. However, my beliefs are in how technology can facilitate most, if not all, of the current best fundraising processes and practices.

For example, rather than relying on individual intuition or basic past giving analysis for determining the best major gift prospects to approach, technology such as the algorithms found in Bloomerang provide a much more accurate determination of your organization’s best major gift prospects. Perhaps more importantly, such algorithms also allow those organizations using it to uncover large numbers of previously neglected major gift prospects!

Since major gifts account for nearly 90% of most nonprofit’s revenue this just might be the revolutionary new concept/technology nonprofits started yearning for back in the dot-com era at the turn of the century.

This would lead many to conclude, including myself, that major gifts from loyal donors based upon relationships have truly stood the test of time.

Yes, technology will always march on. We can only hope that some aspect of it will provide the mechanism to double or triple the level of giving each year in our country.

Even then, my intuition tells me that most of the total will be in the form of major gifts.

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