Do: Use multiple channels.
Don’t: Use just any channel.
Just because you can do something in every channel doesn’t mean you should. By evaluating data and segmenting donors, you can identify the right channels for the right audiences and coordinate those channels to work together. Think of your campaign as a “choose your own adventure” and consider all the possible ways a donor might engage or decide to take action. Then seek to lead donors down the most intuitive, optimal path, while understanding that each donor’s experience and preferences will be unique.
Here are some examples for how to coordinate channels:
• Enclose a URL in direct mail pieces so donors can respond online. A personal URL can help you track individual online responses for particular campaigns.
• Create custom landing pages for each campaign. Feature content that carries the message through to the next action, rather than just using a generic, pre-existing page. Collect behavioral data on donors’ interests and preferences once they arrive on that landing page.
• Collect email addresses through every response device available. Follow up email address submissions with a thoughtful welcome and provide ways for donors to customize their communication preferences.
• Supplement direct mail with email messages that drive the donor to action strategically. Send emails to direct mail donors and vice versa, remembering that multichannel donors have a higher lifetime value.
• Optimize communications for smartphone reading and action. Consumers are using their smartphones while watching TV, reading email newsletters while standing in grocery store lines, and responding to social media posts throughout the day. Make it easy for them to comment, give, share, or tweet in their moment of inspiration.
• Add “Share This” buttons to content in your emails and on your website to promote posts to Facebook, tweets to Twitter, and sharing via other popular sites. Include pre-populated, sharable content on giving pages so donors can easily tweet or post that they just made a gift and others can too with the provided link.
• Feed comments from social media back into the next “traditional” communication to cross-promote, such as printing a few highlighted tweets or incorporating streaming feeds into website content.
• Send out links to your campaigns and projects via social media to reach broader audiences. Invite prospects to engage with you in these channels by posting questions, incorporating games, conducting surveys, and requesting feedback.
• Identify highly engaged prospects and donors and then prioritize them for phone calls or personal visits. Test to measure their giving results against a control audience.
• Allow constituents to opt into text message programs if this channel is relevant for you.
Measuring the effectiveness of integrated programs is key to constant improvement.From the outset of any campaign, you should record all donor touches—what message is going out in which channel—rather than simply marking which channels a donor uses to respond. Taking time to test and monitor what works will improve the rate of return on each campaign.
Valuable performance indicators include:
• Email opens and click-through rates by individuals
• Rate of response both online and through direct mail
• Length of time between message sends and recipient responses
• Website traffic and other online interaction
• Cross-channel movement, such as direct mail recipients who go online to an
enclosed URL or email recipients who give through a custom landing page
Do: Set up a centralized system to manage campaigns.
Don’t: Worry if you can’t afford major software.
As you align your internal departments to work toward shared goals, the next logical actions are to set up centralized systems and shared databases.
• Make sure your various databases—marketing, fundraising, finance, etc.—talk to each other or that you exchange reports consistently. Consider centralized software options to coordinate all the various channels and communications going in and out. Inexpensive systems are available as a place to start. You cannot truly measure the worth of an integrated strategy unless you track and prove it with data.
• Let technology do the tedious routine work. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to automate manual routine practices, such as importing spreadsheets of donor data with address changes, event attendance, and online behavior.
• Accept that no database is perfect. Many solutions exist (and within a range of costs) that are designed to pick up the slack where your current system may be lacking. These systems can provide more robust reporting, create data overlays with external source information, and warehouse data for sophisticated analytics.
Integrated marketing has been an intentional for-profit strategy for more than a decade. Compared to the for-profit world and the rapid rate in which it adopts the latest marketing methods, many nonprofit organizations are slow to change. Even those who would like to advance more quickly are often hampered by limited resources or a lack of understanding from upper management. Well-meaning nonprofits run into a number of internal obstacles when moving toward change, such as:
1) Lack of resources. Fundraisers often point to limited resources—people, time, and money—as a key reason for limiting their efforts. Frequently, those resource allocations are as fragmented as the fundraising strategy itself.
2) Absence of solid data. A lack of detailed, reliable data on prospects’ and donors’ interests and preferences will hinder an organization’s ability to craft an informed strategy, as will not having an effective system to manage good data. We must validate assumptions and move past relying on intuition, because even “what worked before” may not be maximizing all of the opportunities available today.
3) Resistance to new methods. Staff members poised to embrace new techniques are often held back by those in upper management who are unclear on the possibilities or are unsure of how to parlay their years of experience into new strategies and technologies.
4) Prioritizing the wrong things. Wowed by a creative media piece or the newest app, fundraisers can be tempted to disregard the strategy behind the creative or to focus on a tactic that isn’t part of a holistic plan. The result is like shooting a shiny new arrow into the dark, without having first identified the target.
5) Tentativeness toward multiple asks. Sometimes a fundraiser accepts a gift and then either stops asking, or only asks in the channel through which the donor initially responded—rather than getting to know what motivates the donor to give more readily and more often.
6) Risk aversion. Nonprofits may fear alienating current donors by changing the process, or they may avoid taking a risk on a new strategy without total confidence it will produce the expected income.
Nonprofits are pressured by real and urgent needs; therefore, tend to focus on shortterm financial goals. In that environment it may seem difficult to step back and craft a proactive, strategic approach. But doing so could put your nonprofit on a fast track to growth.
In today’s fundraising world, many nonprofits use a variety of communication channels to reach prospects and donors. Direct mail still plays a key role, online giving continues to increase, and social media is growing in popularity. But does that mean organizations are properly integrating their fundraising efforts?
In fact, what many groups think is integrated marketing is simply multiple campaigns happening in multiple channels. Let’s explore what an integrated approach to fundraising really is.
What Is Integrated Fundraising?
Integrated fundraising is the combination and coordination of tactics to reach a certain goal, which typically includes educating, engaging, and motivating constituents to act in
a desired manner. Integrated fundraising extends beyond having a consistent brand and message across channels (although that is an important first step). True integration drives prospects and donors through a strategic acquisition and engagement process where each action in a given channel informs and reinforces what happens next in another channel.
In short, integration moves people to action. It’s not simply a buzzword—integration is an essential realignment of your marketing and fundraising activities.
Integration: Coordinating or blending a group of parts into a unified system.
Multichannel Marketing: Use of multiple communication channels—direct mail, email, websites, social media, TV, etc.—to disseminate information. While the branding used may be consistent in multichannel marketing, many nonprofits employ multiple channels without coordinating their efforts across those channels.
Cross-Channel Marketing: Use of one communication channel to support or promote another, such as including a link to a campaign microsite in a direct mail piece, then using online behavior and interests to personalize a follow-up phone call. Studies show that offering donors multiple ways to connect with and give to an organization will substantially increase their overall lifetime value.
Strategy Versus Tactics: Terms like “strategy” or “strategies” are often misused. An example: “Our digital media strategies include active use of email, Facebook, and Twitter.” A strategy is a carefully crafted, overarching plan to achieve a desired result, and it presents a framework through which future decisions are made. Tactics are the tools and methods used to achieve the stated goals. A strategy based on strong donor data must be evaluated prior to deciding which tactics will work best.