What a difference a decade makes. The world has become smaller, and we are more connected, engaged, and involved than ever before. Billions of people are texting, posting, blogging, tweeting…disseminating and sharing information on a nearly limitless global scale, instantaneously, at the touch of a finger. For the traditional mortar-and-bricks retailer, foot traffic remains a cornerstone of success. So how does one tap this endless stream of bits and bytes, this immeasurable wealth of Internet-user superhighway traffic?

For the innovative nonprofit organization, it’s social media.

Since the early years of the 21st century, the Internet has changed the way people communicate, revolutionizing everything from how we gather information to the way we work, interact, and socialize, while the advent of high-speed broadband connections enabled users to spend more time and accomplish more online. The growth has been exponential, with fully 85 percent of Americans now finding their way online. And more than half, including adults 65 and older, subscribe to at least one social networking site.

So how do you get their attention, win their hearts and minds, and persuade them to open their wallets for your cause? Many of these users may already be on your direct mailing lists, as seniors still respond best to more conventional campaigns. Yet online giving is increasing among both older adults and younger generations, with millennials especially ― driven by a common desire to “give back” to their communities ― opting for charitable sustainer monthly giving opportunities, which can in turn lead to higher rates of donor retention, a major priority for the successful fundraiser.

Not surprisingly, this tech-savvy, well-educated, gainfully employed, and increasingly civic-minded population is not only almost always connected but also exceedingly mobile; more than 90 percent of all American adults now own a cellphone (58 percent upgraded to smartphones, trending away from desktops and PCs as primary online portals), with more than half (67 percent) of all users reporting that they check their device diligently ̶ whether or not it rings or vibrates. They operate in real time, generate real results, and are predominately motivated to respond to causes that incorporate great storytelling (already a foundation of direct mail written appeals) and moving events and images (tests have shown that people process visuals 60,000 times faster than text).

In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, “9 percent of Internet users (13 million Americans) went online to donate money” to victims of the Gulf Coast natural disasters, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Similarly, donors contributed some $43 million in aid to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake ― via text message alone. These part-time philanthropists tend to act on impulse, turning to nonprofits to make a difference, and they are asking their friends and family to do the same, opening opportunities for charitable organizations to reach “new donors under new circumstances as messages spread virally through friend networks.” Additionally, most of the texting donors surveyed subsequently contributed to other causes.

The bottom line is that while direct mail remains the greatest generator of charitable giving, social networking activity through digital media is winning the race for “fastest growth as a channel,” according to Avalon Consulting Group. The best approach, moreover, is multichanneled, melding new technology with age-old altruism.

Innovairre, the worldwide leader in fundraising, is on the cutting edge of this trend, pioneering data and digital strategies across multiple platforms to support more than 500 nonprofit organizations, leveraging insights from thousands of fundraising programs. You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter; we’re LinkedIn and on YouTube. We make friends and influence people. Let us be your fast lane on the superhighway.

– CSI practices the science of marketing at Innovairre, which helps more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For help with your multichannel fundraising activities or anything else, contact us at