For 5 years the Blackbaud Institute has brought together experts in the nonprofit sector to speak on a wide variety of topics. From donor retention to nonprofit marketing to organizational leadership, every ebook is an invaluable resource.
In fact, as I’ve read through each npEXPERTS edition, I’m continuously impressed by how relevant and timeless much of the information is. Statistics have changed, new social channels have opened, but it’s clear that there are proven fundamental strategies and nonprofit best practices that can help an organization flourish in all areas.
Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it.
In our npEXPERTS Spotlight series we’ll be sharing some of our favorite articles from the past 5 years.
In this post we’ll focus on must-haves for your nonprofit marketing plan. The below best practices go hand-in-hand to help you first create a consistent marketing message and then automate it. In this post we’ll cover:
- How to Achieve Integrated Marketing Success
- The 4 Steps to Make Marketing Automation Work for You
How to Achieve Integrated Marketing Success
by Roger Craver
No matter what fundraising programs you currently have in place, if you’re not focusing all of them through the lens of a multi-channel effort you’re missing the boat big time.
Make no mistake, multi-channel, integrated marketing efforts – the coordination of online, direct mail, telephone, print, social media, tv – produce on average twice the net income and far higher retention rates than the old channel-by-channel approach.
Yet sadly, most organizations fail miserably when it comes to integrated marketing, and the tragedy is that failure can easily be replaced with success
7 steps to integrated marketing success at your nonprofit:
1. Breakdown the Silos
The ‘old rule’ that donors who come in via one channel should be communicated with through that same channel. Pure nonsense. But this belief has been reinforced by the unfortunate existence of powerful, territory-protecting direct mail and online silos where never the twain shall meet.
Here’s how silos negatively impact donors. Donor A responds to a direct mail acquisition piece from an animal welfare organization focused on the rescues of dogs and cats. Next donor A receives an online acknowledgement of her gift, BUT the message is focused on protecting whales and dolphins. Goodbye donor and all because the direct mail silo and the online silo couldn’t get their acts together.
2. Use the Same Message Regardless of Channel
Study after study shows that lack of consistency in messaging is a principal reason for abysmal first year retention rates and absence of second and third gifts. Again, put yourself in the donors’ place. The donor who responds to an appeal to rescue domestic pets and is then followed-up with a message on protection of marine wildlife ends up confused—and headed for the exit.
3. Use One Channel to Provide a Booster Shot for Other Channels
Consider boosting your direct mail returns by creating an email follow-up (on the same topic!) that adds some graphic detail and urgency to the direct mail appeal. And make sure you include a donation landing page that reflects the same theme and reinforces the basic message. After all, these days folks pay their bills and donate using a variety of methods. Sometimes online, sometimes through the mail, and often both. So cover your collection bases and make it easy for folks to give whether they’re browsing your website, responding to an SMS message, reading an email or going through their postal mail at the kitchen table.
Offering more options and more impressions works the same for messaging. Just think of the positive and additional benefits that come from adding video, conference calls, photo albums, slide shows and a host of other techniques easily and inexpensively available. You quickly see why today’s wired world creates amazing opportunities for increasing and reinforcing support across channels.
4. Experiment with the Mix and Timing of Channels
There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to use integrated marketing, so experiment. Some organizations have seen increases in response rates by ending emails or SMS messages to donors around the time postal mail is due to arrive urging them to watch for the direct mail package and respond quickly. Others have found greater response in using email as a follow-up to the postal notice. And still others find that a before and after email is just
5. Don’t Overlook Mobile
For millions of donors the smartphone is fast becoming the all-purpose transaction wallet in their pockets or purses. Use to power of SMS to reinforce appeals and alerts, and make sure that when donors load your website and read your emails on their phones that they’re – well, mobile ready.
Regardless of whether you call it ‘integrated marketing’ or ‘multi-channel integration’ one thing’s for certain. Multichannel fundraising and donor communication leads to far better results and far deeper donor relationships.
Marketing automation is an important part of most corporate marketing programs and is becoming more common for nonprofits. Tools from the for-profit sector lead the way by allowing for automated nurturing campaigns to help leads (or in the case of nonprofits, supporters) be engaged in a purposeful way and with an appropriate cadence.
But like any strategy or tool, the technology alone won’t transform your supporter engagement program. For marketing automation to work right, your organization has to have a strong strategy and reliable processes.
The marketing automation strategy and processes you lean on should be based on four core tenants:
4 steps to make marketing automation work for your nonprofit
1. Set SMART Goals
When forming your goals, use the trusted, tried, and true SMART methodology: specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, and timely. For example, “raise more money” is not a good goal. Of course you want to raise more money! But how much, from whom, for what purpose, and by when? Instead, consider something like, “Raise $10,000 more from existing local donors to support the high school program by September.”
With a goal like our example, you can build a nurture program that focuses on a specific audience (existing local donors) and drives a clear result (money for the high school program). And when your goal is reached, it is tangible and self-evident.
2. Create Donor Personas
In old-school marketing, organizations sent blanket messages to large groups, a practice known as “spray and pray.” It often meant you were asking the general population for multi-thousand dollar sponsorships that they couldn’t afford or worse, asking major donors for small $10 and $20 donations. But by creating personas and basing your segments on those, you can provide the messaging that best meets the individual’s goals and make more appropriate solicitations more often.
Using our high school program example, you might create personas like Paula Parent, Alan Alumni, and Richie Rich (Okay, I actually don’t recommend creating a persona called “Richie Rich,” but you get the idea). The more data you have on your donors, the better you can build these personas with information like giving motivation and average gift size. From there you can send more relevant solicitations, ideally increasing your overall return on investment and fundraising in a way that’s more comfortable for the individual.
3. Develop Persona-Driven Content
Personas lead naturally into content. If you have three persona-based segments, then you know you need at least three slightly different versions of content. Paula Parent wants to know how her child is going to benefit from the program; Alan Alumni is interested in reliving his high school glory days; Richie Rich wants to understand how every dime of his big donation is being used to serve your mission. Different donors, different interests, different content.
4. Track Results
Finally, results analysis. Don’t wait until your goal is reached to undergo analysis. At milestone intervals, such as the midway point, review your progress to date. Have your email click-through rates increased, decreased or remained steady? What about unsubscribe rates? Did one message result in exponentially more gifts than any other, and if so, why? Is one persona responding above or below expectations? Do you want to change the approach for that segment? Analyzing your results as they happen allows you to continually refine your tactics until you find your fundraising secret sauce.
Using marketing automation tools and strategies can help make many of these steps exactly what the name implies: automated. You invest the time in initial set-up and then watch the magic happen—well, with some ongoing tinkering. Even without a fancy tool, you can apply these same basic principles to your fundraising and marketing efforts. Identify your specific goal, create distinct personas, develop differentiated content, and analyze your results continually.
For more on building a nonprofit marketing plan, check out these npEXPERT resources:
- Beth Kanter’s blog post: Four Tips to Help Nonprofit Marketing Departments Create a Culture of Philanthropy
- Download the most recent edition of npEXPERTS – Fundraising Matters: Building a Culture of Philanthropy to read her full chapter on marketing.
There’s a lot to be learned from the enduring advice of experts and we’re excited for what the next 5 years will bring!