Interview with Jon Biedermann, Vice President Fundraising Products, DonorPerfect » Charity Digital News

Interview with Jon Biedermann, Vice President Fundraising Products, DonorPerfect

At the recent CHASE 2014 in London, Jon Biedermann, Vice President Fundraising Products at DonorPerfect, delivered a seminar on Social Network Fundraising. Charity Digital News was there to catch up with Jon afterwards.

Would you say that charities are overestimating the power of social media?

Absolutely. Social media is just a brochure; it’s not going to get people to act. You’re going to have to ask them to act. Through social media, they are going to click on a ‘like’ button, but are not actually going to give any money. If you’re organisation is all about getting the word out, social media is the way to go, but not for fundraising.

Are you not alienating young people, the next generation of donors, by focusing mainly on email?

The secret to any successful campaign is all about donor retention, as that drives future growth. The problem with the current methods, such as SMS, is that people are so concerned about privacy that it can hurt nonprofits. They should give up that channel, because, from text donors, three quarters don’t give their information, meaning you can’t contact them again.

I’d rather get a smaller number of donors through direct mail, phone calls, or chugging, where donor retention is 90%. With text it’s 10%. There is an ocean of difference in the amount of money raised. So for advocacy it’s the way to go, but for raising money it’s just the beginning portal of which you use other strategies like email, direct mail, and phone calls.

For a charity which is starting out and thinking, I need to sort out a social media strategy, what tips would you give them?

You have to determine whether raising money is as important as raising awareness and then focus your efforts appropriately. If it’s about raising money, I wouldn’t even be on Facebook, to be quite candid. I’d have a website, and I’d have an email campaign.

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  • After reading these comments I was in no way surprised to see that DonorPerfect focuses on supporting eMarketing. However, I was surprised that Jon seems to have no idea about how to use social media for NFP, and then managed to speak at CHASE about ‘Social Networking Fundraising’. I’m confused?! Saying Social Media is ‘just a brochure’ demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of how it works. Even just on the very basic level of getting all your supporters in one place and using a nicely crafted strategy to keep them engaged in your cause, so when they are asked to act, donate, attend an event, they do…because they understand the impact of their support (from being drip fed it on Social Media). As for email, there is no doubt the power of this, so every facebook page should have an ’email sign up app’ and be promoted, in turn impacting fundraising.

    Social Media is essential because it’s where people are, where your supporters and even your beneficiaries are, and it should work to constantly remind people why they support you and to drive people to your site, to sign up, to donate. Taking these basics into account makes the suggestion to choose between facebook and web/email is very out of date. Especially for a new charity, how is it going to grow it’s email database? A small charity is probably better off launching a facebook page which acts as there website until they raise the funds to build one. Most people now know that Facebook allows ‘apps’ which are essentially webpages, to be bolted into Facebook, providing a seemless experience for supporters who use facebook, and let’s face it, there are a lot of them!

    • jonbiedermann


      A few things:

      This interview wasn’t recorded, so you have to understand that some of the comments were taken out of context. I don’t recall saying that “Social Media is just a ‘Brochure'”, though I likely did use the term and made a comparison.

      Secondly, I’m not saying that charities should abandon Facebook. I’m just emphasizing the fact that it should not be used to drive donations.

      Having said that, the data is clear. Social Media is NOT essential for fundraising for the very reason you stated- it’s NOT where your donors are for the vast majority of NGO’s.

      The average age of donors is about 65. (There are numerous studies that suggest it’s anywhere from 60-70).

      First of all, 44% of all people age 65 or older are not even on the Internet.* Then- of those who use the Internet- only 46% have a Facebook Account.** (and there are studies that have suggested only 6% of people age 65 or higher use Facebook more than once a week). These are the people that have the money to give, and indeed, the vast majority of giving – as a percentage of all dollars raised- comes from this segment.

      Finally, are own studies show that sending email produces a response rate about 40 times more effective than sending the same ask through Facebook. 40 times, or 3,900% difference. And I won’t mention the fact that the average donation on Facebook pales in comparison to the average donation raised through any other means. (I encourage you to attend next year! :) )

      We are in agreement that charities should build a basic Facebook Page, and that it can be used to collect email addresses. But in order to attract donors to fund your cause, you will need to reach them on their terms.

      As a result, in all my fundraising campaigns, Facebook is used, but it is the last priority. Email, Direct Mail, Phone Calls, and in person meetings are much, much more effective and drive higher results.



      • Thanks Jon, that cleared a few things up, from your response it does sound like you’ve definitely been misquoted….I just hope people read down the page to see your response.

        So it also sounds like from your statistics you’re concentrating on Individual Giving when you say ‘donors.’

        Which then brings in another debate about fundraising mix for different charities and how many don’t have a significant chunk of income from this area (which while isn’t good is unfortunately true).

        Including all the other forms of fundraising will change the average age of donors significantly. But if we’re just talking Individual Giving and therefore HNW Donors then the total value across could be more, mainly for large charities, which is what I think you mean. So in absolute terms, Social Media is exactly where the vast proportion of donors ARE for a huge proportion of NFPs BUT for those who get a high proportion of income from the direct response, high disposable income, 60+, individual givers…it is not. (although I have a feeling LinkedIn could be a interesting place to look for a higher Social Media presence).

        No one can argue about the direct ask – Social Media is about cultivation and demonstrating impact…it does not replace DM etc….yet anyway :)

        For a robust ‘future proofed’ fund-raising plan Social Media needs to be there, as this is where your Major Donors/HNW of tomorrow are…and probably some of them are there already. Retaining donors is vital (as you mentioned) and demonstrating ‘impact’ of donations is key through all channels. However Social Media offers the ability to ‘drip feed’ the impact of support/donations in a way that can’t be replicated in emails (unless you send them a lot!).

        Thanks I’ll be there next year :) maybe they could pair us up for a debate?

  • RebeccaHorsley

    It’s great to see this interview has sparked some debate! Just to clarify, the interview was recorded and the quotes are accurate, but it’s good to see Jon expanding on his
    position here.