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Last Wednesday, the Internet-streaming service Hulu announced they would begin offering users an ad-free subscription option. The company then reached out to individuals who had criticized the use of ads with a video about the new offering. Evidenced by the hundreds of positive tweets the company received, people were impressed.

What can nonprofits learn from Hulu’s example?

As it turns out, quite a lot. Hulu’s marketing strategy offers a salient lesson:

Sometimes the best way to turn critics into fans is to educate them about how their concerns have been (or are currently being) resolved.

The key, however, is that Hulu kept track of those who complained about their service and designed messaging to specifically target those critics.

Before you can address concerns, you must segment your audience.

According to a recent Money for Good report from consulting firm Camber Collective, nonprofits could raise billions more dollars from their donors if they tailored their fundraising to their audiences’ preferences. The report broke respondents into five general donor types: Contented Benefactors, Unengaged Critics, Busy Idealists, Cautions Strivers, and Unaware Potentials.

While the latter three had the most potential to give more if nonprofits altered their appeals to meet those groups’ concerns, Unengaged Critics represented nearly one-fourth (23%) of respondents. Grouped together, Unaware Potentials and Unengaged Critics made up 51% of a potential donor base. How would your organization look if you could boost giving by 51%?

Incidentally, both Unaware Potentials and Unengaged Critics responded to messaging that addressed skepticism towards giving and educated them on how the organization would use their donations. Both groups were best reached through channels like social media and work-related events. By meeting Unaware Potentials and Unengaged Critics where they are already engaged, organizations stand to build trust and win supporters among even the most dubious of their audiences.

Lessons fundraisers can learn

Hulu and the Money for Good report point toward several important principles for fundraisers:

    1. Find out what your audience thinks (even if it isn’t positive). There are many ways to discover this information [link to donor listening platform], from surveys to monitoring how users engage with your content.
    2. Figure out the channels through which your audience prefers to receive messages. Some people prefer social media, others email or direct mail.
    3. After uncovering what motivates an audience and how they prefer to communicate, categorize them into groups. Marketers call this segmentation, and the more refined your segmentation process becomes, the more easy it is to identify why a given donor responded in a certain way to a certain message.
    4. Craft messages based on those groups’ motivations and deliver through preferred channels. At the end of the day, better communication = happier (and more generous) donors.

Technology provides tools for communicating more effectively and efficiently

Of course, it’s hard for most nonprofits to undertake such a laser-focused engagement strategy because they are usually strapped for time and resources. What’s great is that new technology enables fundraisers to segment their audiences and automate the communication they broadcast. A current critic could turn out to be an organization’s biggest supporter — if engaged with the right information, at the right time, through the right channel.

Does your organization know what motivates your donors? Do you know why or how someone discovered you?