There are no magic bullets when it comes to fundraising; nor can we wave our magic wands to create perfect results.
The key to creating meaningful, mutually satisfying relationships with donors and other supporters is through precise targeted communications; appropriate donor stewardship; and a holistic, seamlessly integrated multichannel strategy that incorporates the full gamut of channel options from direct mail to telemarketing, email to social media and public awareness activities.
The power of integrated marketing
Integrated marketing is by definition communicating a consistently targeted message to constituents across multiple channels to increase overall effectiveness beyond the potential of any one channel alone. This results not only in an overall surge in response and revenue generated, but we almost always see a decrease in overall spending for the active program.
Indeed, the creative and strategic use of channels has dramatically affected our ability to offer highly personalized communications through the channels our supporters prefer. Where one channel attracts the support of certain demographics, another may appeal to an entirely different group. Boundaries between channels are fluid, providing constituents with more choices than ever before in how they interact with the causes they support. In this world of constant change, economic downturns, and competition, integrated marketing is the only way to garner the best overall results.
Online vs. off-line
Direct mail is still the workhorse of individual giving, yet even this offline channel is deeply influenced by the digital communications revolution. Traditional direct mail practices are evolving as we confront many new campaign possibilities available through digital channels.
Research findings show that for mature donors, born 1945 or earlier, direct mail dominates over any other giving method. Conversely, no giving method dominates for Gen Y — Gen Yers are just as likely to give through direct mail as they are on a website, at an event, or in honor or memorial of someone. Gen X and baby boomers register higher direct mail responses but are similarly multichannel-responsive.
Direct mail package formats and the ability to finely segment allow a great deal of personalization and variable text possibilities. There’s no doubt that direct mail still works, but it is not the only donor acquisition channel.
For example, using the phone to follow up an on-line activist appeal is much more cost effective than direct mail. Direct mail is less effective for responding to disasters; the Haitian earthquake was far better served through email, social and mobile than by direct mail. Couple that with rising postage costs and new donor behavior, and it’s increasingly important that nonprofits adapt and use direct mail in a larger multichannel strategy.
Another offline technique to explore is telemarketing. Why, you wonder, as you cringe at getting called at dinner? Simple: It’s immediate, it can pull in online interest codes (pets, type of music, hobbies, issues etc.), and then it can both segment and message around those interests. It’s also the most effective tactic to convert online donors, activists and other supporters to become loyal donors.
Take a closer look at monthly donors. They are recruited, upgraded and retained most efficiently using “the phone,” as it drives both higher response rates and higher average contributions per month. According to testing scenarios, online activists (who were split cell tested through email vs. telemarketing for recurring donor acquisition) demonstrated a higher response rate to telemarketing by a factor of five times.
Telemarketing also supports an urgent need. Disasters like the Haiti earthquake or Hurricane Katrina require fast reactions that only online and telephone fundraising offer.
With all of your fundraising efforts, give donors the experience they want, and then test and test again around channel preference, and message preference. This will move your organization closer to your supporters, allowing them to engage in your mission the way they choose. If they don’t respond to one channel, try another. The multi-channel approach allows you to be creative and garners the best possible results, but don’t just try it once and decide it doesn’t work for you.
Alison Keys, president of Keys Direct Marketing and Communications, is recognized as a direct marketing strategist and communications expert. For nearly two decades, Keys Direct has provided high quality tele-fundraising, direct mail, e-marketing and consulting services to nonprofits. Contact Alison at Alison@keysdirect.com.