Speaking up for high touch in a high tech world

Can someone please get John Naisbitt on the line? For more than 30 years, his notion of high tech/high touch has held sway. But now, as  social media takes the world by storm, the idea of touch seems as passe as a rotary dial telephone.

Even the smallest, most grassroots-bound nonprofits are being urged (dragged) on to the technology band wagon. The push is especially strong toward automating the ask. It doesn’t much matter if an organization’s constituency lives entirely within a ten-mile radius or spans the globe. The advice is all the same. Get with the program or get left in the dust.

Until recently, research to back the push toward online giving as THE way to go has been hard to find, which makes Target Analytics’ 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report an interesting find.  Here’s some of what the folks over at The Agitator, one of my personal top blog reads, have to say about the report.  

Although direct mail remains the dominant channel for new donor acquisitions…it has become increasingly common for new donors to give their first gift online. However, online donors are much less likely to make a second gift than those who give via direct mail. The internet is a successful acquisition channel but has not proven to be an effective one for retention (my emphasis).  

To which I add: if you really want to cement a relationship, nothing beats good old-fashioned, one-on-one interaction. Phone calls to first-time donors, or up-grading donors, or donors who reach a significant milestone (e.g. $1,000 cumulative giving in a single year). An in-person conversation with that donor who has given small gifts, but faithfully, over several years. A face-to-face (maybe over tea) conversation with a longtime supporter about her estate plans.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an apologetic for ludditism. Charitable organizations, including those with a faith base, should make full use of technology within the bounds of available resources and constituent preference.  However, when the goal is encouraging donors to be rich toward God, the real power is in the touch.  As Thom Jeavons and I wrote in Growing Givers’ Hearts: Treating Fundraising as Ministry:

A strong development program is built on relationships. At the heart of the Christian faith is one central, eternal relationship transmitted and sustained by many relationships. It should follow then that donor relations would be a top priority for faith-based organizations, and those relations are likely to be strongest where they center around donors’ engagement with the ministry being done.

Whether you opt for high tech, high touch, or a combination of the two, the key to high results it to make space and time for God to work in hearts.


  1. Dot Ridings says:


  2. Thanks for the “thumbs” up from Louisville, Dot.

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