In case you missed part one of this case study, you can see it here. This was recently featured in Fundraising Success Magazine.
Kachuriak says there are two key takeaways that were unearthed from this partnership:
- Testing trumps marketing intuition. ”One of the things I’m constantly surprised at … is that when we test things, we find out that best practices aren’t best practices at all. That’s what’s exciting — to redefine those things by seeing how people interact with our communications,” he says. “That’s really what’s so fun about the online side of things. WE have so much data, so many different attributes that we can test and we can learn not from focus groups or a survey but by watching how people interact directly with the conversion path that we’ve put before them.”
- Humility is the key to marketing success. ”If I think that I have all the answers, then that’s usually when I find out that I’m dead wrong,” Kachuriak says. “We try to empower clients to think like that as well. It’s when we’re partners and not a vendor and a nonprofit where we can both have the most success.”
Recently, Fundraising Success magazine featured a case study on our work with the Colson Center.
In the fall of 2010, the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview — a ministry of BreakPoint, the worldview ministry associated with Prison Fellowship Ministries — created its own entity and was looking to build a brand-new donor base.
So the organization, whose mission is to seek the transformation of believers as they apply biblical thinking to all of life, went to KMA, the branch of full-service fundraising agency Pursuant Group that handles Christian ministries and conservative advocacy groups, with a list of e-mail subscribers — but no actual donors — in hopes of cultivating a donor base.
Read the full article here.
We are proud to be conducting a planning study for Mount Lebanon schools’ upcoming capital campaign. Click here to read the full article.
This is the followup to the post “What are Donor Personas?” If you have not read that, read it first.
The easiest thing to do with Rachel, Joel, and Kelley is to simply drop them into the ongoing communication stream you send to everyone every month—to treat them as a mere silhouette, someone who looks just like nearly everyone else on file, not as a face with some unique identifying features.
A far better approach is to follow up their overtures of interest by initiating a few, simple communication pieces that can be highly tailored to the persona, and leveraged across everyone else who shares the same characteristic.
For example, if you were sitting down for coffee with Rachel, and she told you she had just heard about your organization but didn’t know much more than you present on your website, what would you tell her? What would be so important that you risk repeating? What would be essential for her to know beyond what the website presents?
If your path crossed with Joel’s, a recent “customer” of your organization, what would be valuable for him to know as a customer and prospective donor? Did he feel his experience was appreciated? What would have made it better? And wouldn’t you want him to know that he isn’t alone—that many others are experiencing a similar benefit?
If Kelley turned out to be a personal friend, what would you tell her the next time you met? Would you ask her a question about the content she downloaded? Perhaps you would invite her to an upcoming event where she could learn more about her area of interest.
It doesn’t take much effort to identify a handful of core personas—people who share a common relationship or experience with your organization. Those relationships and experiences offer a foundation for focused conversation—a welcome packet, an email exchange, a survey and follow-up, a video message, a phone call, or any number of other vehicles you could use to invite further engagement.
It’s hard to initiate meaningful dialogue when everyone looks like a shadow. But shine a little light on the subject, and shadows become faces with identifying features…and soon you recognize them as people who have reached out for a meaningful connection with you.
What personas are represented across your organization? Left alone, they will inevitably remain a name and address in the shadows. But with a little effort, you may discover that silhouette a lot to offer . They have a heart for what you do and are waiting to be invited into a deeper level of relationship and involvement.
A silhouette in the shadows? Or a face you recognize and appreciate—who soon becomes a friend and supporter? It’s your choice.
Contact us to learn about your organizations personas.
If your nonprofit organization is like most, you have a donor file consisting of thousands of silhouettes. You possess a handful of facts about each donor—an outline, if you will, of their faces in the form of basic contact information. Perhaps you have a few details about when they last contacted you, and how and why. At a glance, their image appears to be almost identical to nearly everyone else you have on file.
But in reality, those details are usually sufficient to recognize some core and common characteristics that could have a tremendous impact in the way you engage them. Consider three simple scenarios:
- Rachel was just added to your mailing list. Will she receive communication from you that welcomes her and shows her that you’ve noticed your new relationship?
- Joel recently benefitted from your nonprofit services (such as a recently released hospital patient, or a newly minted graduate, or a participant at a recent event). Will he hear from you in a way that endears him to your organization as a customer and potential donor?
- Kelley registered on your website last night to gain access to “members only” content. Will you follow up with her in a way that connects with her personal interests?
Rachel, Joel and Kelley represent “personas” to your organization. A persona is defined as “a role that one assumes or displays in public or society; one’s public image or personality.”
Next, we will take a look at why it is important to create donor personas.
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: Allocate resources where data reveals opportunity.
Don’t: Budget by channel.
Look at your core budget and consider the most effective ways to allocate dollars. When your strategy is reinforced by data, you will know where best to spend your money. Pool resources currently allocated to specific channels (e.g., telemarketing, direct mail, etc.) and then redistribute those resources based on available opportunities.
If you’d be more comfortable starting small, design a test or pilot. Focus on a mini-campaign and measure the results, then tweak and expand using past success as leverage to garner future resources that create scalability.
Do: Invest in strategy development, execution, and analysis.
Don’t: Be afraid to outsource.
Too few organizations evaluate the real costs of salary, benefits, and other overhead when smart people do work that could be either managed with better technology, or
outsourced with the same or less expense and a higher return on investment. Having an outside perspective can also help create focus, offer insights into emerging
trends, and provide an unbiased opinion on a strategy’s effectiveness. Spend your time doing what only you can do and let systems and/or strategic partners help with the heavy lifting.
A word of caution: Vendor management can become unwieldy if you choose to work with several channel-siloed firms on one strategy. Expect your vendors to integrate along the same lines as your strategy does and allow them a seat at the table. If they aren’t interested in integrating, steer clear.
Reading this article, I was struck by the following passage:
If you own the organization’s success, the game changes for you, and you’ll find a dramatic increase in the freedom you have to lead and produce results. Why is this so? Ownership of the larger vision gives greater perspective and ability to contribute across the board in a way that ensures performance. Think about it – when you own your leader’s intentions as your own, you inevitably grow and expand. It’s similar when you own the results of your fellow team members – you will have unmistakable power to speak up, take risks and generate creative actions to ensure success. It’s a mindset where everybody wins.
In light of our recent conversations about breaking down nonprofit silos, it is becoming increasingly important for all nonprofit employees to own the business of fundraising. We call this creating a “culture of philanthropy“. Regardless of what department you work in, the “fundraising isn’t my job” argument just doesn’t work anymore.
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.
Do: Plan to be data-driven.
Don’t: Make things unnecessarily complicated.
The first step in crafting that centralized strategy is assessing donor data. Extensive, reliable donor data that tells you who your donors are, their propensity and capacity to give, and their specific interests and preferences will inform your decisions. Take a yearlong, holistic approach to planning your communications so that each campaign builds upon the previous one and drives the next in each relevant channel.
Determine what data will be required to make those decisions and how it will be captured and updated in an ongoing fashion. You don’t have to have a complicated plan, just a thorough one. Capture key behavioral data during your campaigns, such as how your donors interact with your emails and website, so you can engage donors according to their preferences and motivations. Avoid relying too heavily on giving history.
A donor’s giving history is a reflection of past fundraising strategy, not necessarily his or her current motivation or preferences. If you strategize properly and choose your tactics wisely, you can manage effective campaigns with existing resources by focusing your efforts on the best opportunities. Data will help you refine your strategy, and by bringing a diverse set of interested parties to the planning process, the team will share ownership in its successful implementation.