“A Small Change” is a blog about fundraising. Its creator, Jason Dick, works full-time as a major gifts officer forin Kirkland, Washington. His seven years of fundraising experience include previous positions at a community college foundation and in human services. He started his blog four years ago. The interview was conducted by Don Akchin, a principal of (of which MKCREATIVE is a member organization) and a frequent contributor to the MKCREATIVE blog.
MKC: Do you blog while holding down a full-time job?
JASON: Yes. It’s always been on the side of my desk. I had a number of friends who ran really small nonprofits where they had a half-time development person or no development person at all, and they asked a lot of questions about how to run a sponsorship or a campaign. Because I’d been in larger shops, where we were raising a couple million dollars a year or more, I had some ideas about how to put them together, so I just thought, ‘Oh, I’ll write a little bit about what I’ve learned and see if it’s beneficial to some of my friends.’
MKC: Has the blogging worked out as you expected?
JASON: I don’t know that I had a lot of expectations when I first started it. I only expected a couple of people to be reading what I wrote. I spent a lot of time sending my blog posts out to friends, letting people know I was blogging. It got me some readers. But at about six months in, Google started capturing some of my posts and I started having more of a subscription community, and all of a sudden things took off. Now I get about 7,000 to 8,000 visitors each month, from all over the world. I never thought I would get that kind of readership.
Sometimes I’ll read through people’s comments and what they do and I’m really humbled. I’ve been able to have some really great conversations. I feel more like I’m part of a dialogue than like the senior expert.
MKC: One thing I noticed on your blog that I have not seen anywhere before. At the bottom of a post, in addition to the number of comments, it also says number of people listening. What does that mean?
JASON: One thing that I love about blogging is this opportunity to have a conversation with people, and the conversation kind of becomes timeless. The listening is a program that lets people monitor a post. If someone comments on that post, they can see the comment in real time what the comment is, and respond back and be a part of the conversation.
I would love it if every single post I wrote I got several comments. I’m not there yet. But I find that every few posts I get a conversation going, and when that happens I find it really exciting. I want to see what I can do to make that happen more.
MKC: What seem to be the greatest fundraising challenges for you and your readers?
JASON: The first places nonprofits love to go for funding are businesses and government grants. One of the biggest shocks to the system is that that pool is shrinking and getting harder to come by. Right now everybody is afraid. It’s a much harder climate to raise money than it has been historically.
My readers are always interested in how to leverage partnerships with existing donors and board members to create new donors, to create more giving, to develop deeper relationships with donors you already have. I think that is where the real art of fundraising is. It’s not in how good are you at picking up the phone and calling someone for the first time, it’s how good are you at building relationships with those you know, and talking to them about the needs of the organization in a way that they want to introduce you to their friends and talk to their friends about what you’re doing.
Everyone is also talking about social media world. People have seen social media do incredible things, and everybody’s wondering what they can do to get there. This is one area that I’m really excited about. I think it will really change the future of fundraising. People are less and less willing to respond to a cold call or respond to a message from someone completely unknown to them, whether it’s direct mail or email. Social media is a new way of engaging. People get to choose groups of people they want to talk with, subjects they want to talk about, and they self-determine what that conversation will look like. Over the next 5 or 10 years, that’s really going to change how we reach out to new donors. Nonprofits will have to find a way to build community on their websites and use that as their way to sustain their donor base.
MKC: It sounds like social media would be good for building relationships with major donors. What about building relationships when you want to cultivate a large number of smaller donors?
JASON: Social media is probably the very best for a lot of small, initial, entry-level giving. Often when you’re doing grassroots fundraising you don’t know who has major gift potential until you’ve already initiated a relationship and they’re a part of your process. That’s why I think having a good social media system can be a real benefit to you. It allows your donors to feel cultivated and part of a group of people, and it allows them to say ‘I want more’ or ‘I want less,’ and they get to dictate that.
You can discover more about Jason and fundraising by visiting.
Guest blogger Don Akchin writes frequently about marketing and philanthropy at donakchin.com.
This interview series is produced with the generous support of the Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Zone.