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Posts Tagged ‘acquisition’

What Are Your Analyticszzz?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

When I suggest that development staff pull data on their fundraising campaigns, the most common responses are dread, avoidance and boredom.  Once we get the data (properly) pulled and analyzed, a different reaction appears.

Not only are the development staff pleased to see what is – and even isn’t – working well, but by how much, so that they can make more informed decisions moving forward, knowing that this is the right course, rather than going on instinct.  In some cases, development staff had been in a battle of this gut feeling vs. that gut feeling with management, citing anecdotal evidence of what several overheard comments had been, etc.  This kind of policy-making can be terribly frustrating!

If you’re a development staff member and don’t know how to pull detailed data (not just your total figures) out of your database, it’s time to make friends with the person who can do this for you . . . and it wouldn’t hurt to get some training yourself, so that you can manipulate the data once you get it.

Having the data is only the first step, because you’ll need to present this information to others, such as your senior staff and board members.  The more you can show your data in a palatable, comprehensible format, the better it will be received – and remembered.

Take the example below, which shows a six year history of an annual giving campaign, segmenting mail, online and phone income per year.  Even those who are not in development can easily understand this chart.

If your data isn’t entirely complimentary, it’s still important to see what it says, because this can help drive policy decisions – and changes.  If something isn’t working, clearly it’s either time to stop doing it . . . or at least drastically alter the strategy.  Knowing this – and having a baseline measurement – shows where you’ve been and where you’re going.

It’s also highly unlikely that everything in your campaign is failing, which is why it’s essential to drill down into your analytics and find what you are succeeding at.  Perhaps your retention is weak, but acquisition is improving?  Maybe your average gift is lower than it was, but your number of gifts is greater?

What about your channels?  Are you making the most of online giving?  When you compare the Blackbaud Index of (Overall) Charitable Giving with the Index of Online Giving (for nearly any month, size or type of organization), it’s clear that online giving is doing better, relatively.  Nonprofits that make online giving a larger part of their annual campaign will succeed more overall.  It is the future of annual giving.

Therefore, this would be a good subset of data to present.  Over the years, how has online giving increased?  Another specific set of data within this question to answer would be the size of online gifts.  Such data might be presented in this manner:

Clearly, this data demonstrate a responsive population that is more and more willing to donate online – and with larger gifts over time.  This tendency for larger donors to make online gifts was documented in a 2008 study by Convio et al, The Wired Wealthy.

What will your data show?  Whatever it is, it’s likely to help you make your case for doing more or less of one type of campaign, and focusing on what will help you reach your goals, as well as give your constituents more of what they want . . . now that you better realize what that is.

Remember – data doesn’t have to be thought of as a four letter word!

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Diversity Requires Effort, Not Merely a Posture

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Nonprofits know they need to better diversify their marketing efforts.  New research shows that most companies do a poor job of advertising to ethnic minorities.  (When asked for an effective brand, most respondents couldn’t name one.)

To ensure that your nonprofit is in the forefront of constituents’ minds, what can you do? It will take more than being available for them to contact, donate and volunteer!  You will have to learn how to appeal to the various segments of people in your target markets.  Most likely, they each have their own special wants, needs, likes, dislikes and preferences.

In addition to understanding the ethnic makeup of your supporters, many other demographics are necessary, but it doesn’t stop there – and you shouldn’t presume to know without due diligence.  Many people will make assumptions about age, for example, rather than doing research.

A common misperception has to do with age and technology.  Often, people take for granted that Boomers (and older) are not online, don’t donate online and don’t use cell phones, texting, etc., while Millenials are the primary consumers of all things technical, leaving those in between somewhere in the middle.  This is a dangerous assumption, not to mention full of holes.

Research is showing that smartphone penetration is not only increasing across all markets, but Gen X and Y account for the largest market share.  In addition, all segments donate online, and Convio’s The Wired Wealthy study dispels myths about online gifts only coming from younger, smaller donors.

When looking at differences between the genders, it’s been established that women – particularly wealthy women – drive the philanthropic decisions in most households, so particular attention must be paid here, not only to the type of appeal, but in details such as follow up, acknowledgment, etc.  It’s important to most women donors that they learn about how their donation is being used and what affect it has had.  Not providing personal, meaningful feedback is a sure way to lose women donors.

A subset of Millenials has been identified recently – the Post88s.  GirlApproved has identified this demographic as a separate segment of female consumer/donor who responds differently than her predecessor, and therefore, will require a different marketing pitch.  Would you agree?

Another thing we know is that women spend more time on social networking than men do, while men spend a greater amount of time watching videos online, and the amount of video consumed is increasing substantially.  These are things to keep in mind when preparing your campaigns.

You still may have a couple of annual or semi-annual appeals that you want to send across the board, but clearly, it will help to really study your constituents and understand how they exist in smaller clusters of people, too.  Have they been long time supporters for years, or are they specifically donors to your XYZ fund?  Do they always attend your spring event?  Are they inclined to volunteer?  What sets them apart from other constituents?  How do they typically respond?

The need for segmentation was recently demonstrated by a Dunham + Company study which showed that email length and relevance were the most important factors compelling donors to either respond or disengage from a campaign.  Surprisingly, frequency of communication was not among the complaints found.  Effective, targeted – and concise – messaging is what’s most desired.

Diversity also includes more than ethnicity, age and gender.  How accessible is your organization to people with various disabilities?  When you hold an event, are you certain that it is wheelchair accessible?  Do you ask on your registration forms if attendees will need interpretive services for the deaf?  What about your website?  You may be planning to make it mobile-friendly in 2012, but what about making it equal access for the blind?

Of course, a nonprofit that does or doesn’t dedicate itself to true diversity in marketing most likely has a parallel situation internally.  Much of the problems an organization has with their prospecting approach begins with internal issues, such as lack of diversity with their staff and board.  This hasn’t changed much over the years.

When all the ideas are coming from one type of perspective, it’s not surprising that there’d be a homogenous approach resulting from the organization.  There’s even a greater danger when all the power is resting with one set of individuals over another, staffing-wise.  This is when power corrupts.  Diversity has many benefits.

Marketing with old stereotypes and assumptions just won’t cut it any longer, even if you do segment.  Consumers and donors are more demanding now.  If you want them to remember you (fondly), you’ll have to work for it.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Direct Mail in 2012 Must Step Up!

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Although year-end mail is always slow, 2011 saw the USPS give new meaning to the word! This was an eye opener for savvy nonprofit mailers who realize that a reckoning day is coming, and that the time to reassess mail campaigns is now.

There’s little question that the post office is headed for some drastic changes, although due to its being stymied in bureaucracy, it may take a while for the deepest of the cuts to be felt.  It seems certain, however, that the results the postal customer will ultimately feel will be twofold:  less service and higher prices.

If we’re going to get less and pay more, why do it?  Well, simply because for most nonprofits, the lion’s share of annual giving income still comes from direct mail, although this slice of the pie isn’t as large as it used to be . . . and it costs more to produce.

Whenever your ROI is affected this drastically (or is about to be), it’s vital to evaluate your overall campaign, to see which areas can be modified, streamlined, combined, improved – or simply need to be eliminated.  Several nonprofits that have strong direct mail programs have done precisely this, and discovered that one of their best tactics is a multichannel approach.  In addition, some have discovered that more resources are best diverted to direct mail for acquisition, while online appeals are successful for retention.

Since it’s unrealistic to eliminate direct mail from your budget or campaign, it’s smarter planning to consider a multitude of factors and be more strategic:

Take care that your database is as accurate and as up to date as possible. The better your data is, the more precise your campaigns are, the lower your costs, and the fewer returned pieces, wasted staff time, etc.

•     Consider sending out smaller, more frequent, segmented mailings. This will take additional time – both to pull the targeted data, as well as to craft the appeals, but it will make your donors/prospects feel special, whether you group them by geography or affinity for a particular type of fund, cause, etc.

•     Schedule your direct mail campaigns sooner than you previously did. Expect delivery to take longer than it has in the past.  Much longer.  This isn’t going to improve.

•     Budget for more direct mail expenses, if possible.  Postage will likely continue to increase, and with other services costing more (e.g., NCOA), this is simply pragmatic.

•     Make certain your appeals are both engaging and get down to business. If your letter is a solicitation, it still has to be interesting, of course, but the ask shouldn’t be buried in paragraph six, either.  Get to the point.

•     Integrate a multichannel approach. Include a direct hyperlink for your call to action (e.g., donation, registration, petition, etc.) on all pieces in the mailing:  letter, reply card, reply envelope, inserts, flyers, etc.  Remember to add a Twitter and Facebook icon and/or hyperlink as well, and QR codes when applicable.  Since a QR code is versatile, it can link to a video, provide a coupon code, or other venue, depending on your campaign.

•     Remember the carrier envelope is the most important, not an afterthought. Mail is typically opened over a trash can, so if your carrier envelope isn’t designed with at least the thought put into your letter, you have drastically reduced the chances of your letter ever getting read.

•     Test at least one variable with each mailing. This can be something as simple as including postage – or not – on your reply envelope, or addressing your carrier envelope on the back instead of the front.  Does a photo on your carrier make a difference, and if it does, do you need to pay for a color photo, or will a black and white one result in essentially the same response rate and average gift?  Perhaps a freemium boosts your average gift or response with an acquisition mailing, but it’s unnecessary when soliciting current donors.

•     Your opinion doesn’t matter! Make sure to track and analyze your data after each campaign.  Just because you personally prefer the bright green font doesn’t mean that it has the best response rate from your constituency.  Until you have several bundles of data from your own organization, a good place to start can be checking sources such as Which Test Won? which gathers and shares a great deal of data on both direct mail and online marketing.

•     Learn from your analyses. Take what worked well, and attempt to extrapolate upon your successes.  For the campaigns that performed poorly, either determine why and fix the errors, or eliminate them and substitute them with the strategies that are succeeding for your organization.  While you’ll probably find that much of what you’re doing follows industry standards, there may be some anomalies that are unique to your constituency.

•     Don’t be afraid to try something new. Annual Giving by its very nature can easily become cyclical and repetitive, and making goal is constantly on everyone’s mind, but great things can happen when you stretch outside your regular boundaries and dare to dream of a different way of doing things.

How can you make the most of what you’ve got – not just with mail, but all of your fundraising venues – and perhaps something new?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Improving the Successful Campaign

Improving the Successful Campaign

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

The expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” isn’t exactly true.  In fact, if a campaign of yours is succeeding quite well, it needs to be examined for exactly why and how . . . and then extrapolated as much as possible!

Chances are that if your campaign is thriving, that idea, strategy or method can be applied or extended even further – or used in another campaign, to expand your fundraising beyond what it’s currently doing.  Most important is first to learn the reasons behind the success of your campaign(s), though.

Needless to say, tracking your data is essential, so that analysis can be done on it.  Once you uncover which donors are responding best, or to which appeals, venues, types of asks, and so forth, it pays to extend these data points even further and see what other areas they can be applied to.  Several more successes may be “uncovered” as well.

Gordon* managed a very popular signature special event for his nonprofit, and when attendees either purchased their tickets at the door, or turned in their previously purchased tickets, he had trained the ticket booth workers to ask people if they’d care to make a contribution to the organization.

Although the additional gifts made were plentiful, Gordon felt that they could be better.  There were some inherent difficulties with the set up:

•     Fewer people donated than they otherwise would, because they were anxious to enter the event, rather than stop on the way in to make a gift.
•     People likely gave lower gifts than they might, handing over cash on hand, instead of taking more time to write a check or process a credit card.
•     Because donors were in a hurry to donate and move along, the “cash in a jar” transactions didn’t allow for gift tracking or issuing of receipts to those who contributed in most cases.

With the new year’s event, Gordon added an appeal for donations with the publicity materials and the RSVP card and envelope, so that a check could be mailed back with the RSVP.  Also, since attendees could RSVP online, he worked with IT so that the online RSVP form incorporated additional fields that allowed respondents to make a donation on the same form.

Both of these modifications not only increased donations substantially, but allowed for tracking of the gifts – both to the donor and the event.

Hillary* tracked data from her past several direct mail campaigns, looking specifically at the relationship between her suggested ask amounts and the actual donated amounts.  There was a high correlation – most donors were either giving what they gave the last time, or slightly more.

Hillary decided that a second set of data was worth pulling for the next direct mail campaign.  Instead of the last gift, she pulled the largest gift from each donor and created her ask strings based upon this instead.

When she analyzed giving data from the next two mailings after using this strategy, the response was similar:  donors maintained an average gift at or above the largest gift, which substantially increased her overall average gift in the long run.

While Ian* was working on his annual revision of the organization’s acknowledgment procedure, he decided to include a soft ask in with all of the thank you letters.  He took care to make certain that the overall tone of the letter was indeed to thank the donor for the gift, but as a sort of “footnote,” he added some text at the end of each letter that let the donor know that a return envelope had been enclosed for the donor’s convenience . . . for their next gift.  In addition, a hyperlink was listed, if the preference was to make a contribution online.

Both the return envelope and the eform were distinctly coded so that gifts in response to this “acknowledgment-solicitation” could be properly tracked.  After the first year, the donations more than paid for the cost of printing and mailing all of the acknowledgments, as well as served to keep the organization in the minds of donors more frequently.

Jocelyn* had gotten a good deal of success after modifying her online giving forms so that each giving amount reflected something mission related that would be accomplished.  (e.g., “$100 will provide X hours of tutoring”)  Upon seeing this success, she applied that tactic to her direct mail pieces as well.  In addition to inserting specific ask amounts based upon giving history, she made certain that she added two tangible examples – high and low – of what contribution amounts can and will achieve, to further motivate constituents to give.

Not only did she increase her overall income and average gift, but the number of gifts and acquisition were significantly boosted when she applied this strategy.

Kenny’s* organization had good success with an annual mailing to their consecutive donors – those who gave each fiscal year without fail.  It wasn’t a large group, but sending them a letter to tell them how special they were and thanking them for their ongoing support usually resulted in a hefty amount of funds contributed.

Kenny then considered how many loyal donors his organization probably had that didn’t quite make this stringent cut, and widened the scope.  He pulled four sets of donors:  people who had contributed either 4 out of the last 6 years or 5 out of the last 7 years – and did these queries for both calendar years and fiscal years.  The range was striking:  the results spanned between 600 and 1,300 people!

“Obviously, we sent the next year’s mailing to the 1,300 people, which was more than twice the previous year’s list,” Kenny said.  “They were still loyal donors . . . just not consecutive, for one reason or another.  This strategy boosted not only our income, but recovered quite a few lapsed donors for us.”

What other ways have you found to expand on an existing successful campaign and made it even better?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Do You Retain the Donors You Have?

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

A good deal of scrutiny is typically given to total dollars, average gift, as well as new dollars and donors raised, whether from an acquisition appeal or not, but how much time is spent analyzing the existing funds and donors that were retained?

Understanding your churn rate is important, because as most fundraisers realize, it takes a great deal more energy and expense to bring a new donor on board than it does to maintain an existing one.  Also, building the loyalty and consistency of an ongoing supporter leads not just to greater longevity, but often, larger gifts over time, when the donor is properly cultivated.

Consider what you could do – or change, and not do – to make donors feel more appreciated and connected to your organization.  Since your nonprofit is competing with countless others, as well as a tight economy, you need every advantage to convince a contributor to become a loyal, returning donor.

How easy is it to donate?

Regardless of the method of giving, the constituent should feel that the process is virtually effortless.  If the nonprofit places too great a burden upon the donor to the point that they pay more attention to how long it takes to make the gift, then the thought and sentiment behind the organization, its mission, etc., have been lost and replaced with frustration. 

The next time this donor is asked to contribute, they are more likely to remember that frustration they previously felt, instead of the altruism that initially stirred them into giving . . . and not donate again.  Instead, they’ll aim their philanthropy in a direction that is more accommodating and continues to remind them of the organization’s mission and feelings of benevolence.

No donor giving to charity wants to come away with the feeling that they just completed a transaction, or that it took five times longer than it should have.

What is your acknowledgment policy?

Perhaps it’s time to review your acknowledgment protocols.  Does everyone involved know precisely what your procedure is, or do some people fall through the cracks?  Which areas could be improved upon?  At what level of giving does a donor receive a personalized acknowledgment?  Is it a phone call, a (direct mail) letter, an email, etc.?  Does it look more like a receipt, or an actual thank you letter?  How soon after making a contribution does the donor receive the acknowledgment?  (Have you tested this to find out?)

Everyone likes to feel appreciated – and in a timely fashion.  Many people cannot afford to give what they once could, so it may be time to reassess your policy and send acknowledgments to giving levels that you previously didn’t.

What do your analytics say?

Check your statistics and find out how many and which donors you do retain, exactly.  What do they have in common?  Do they tend to give during a certain event, time of year or via a particular venue, such as online, direct mail or phonathon?  Do they cluster in certain geographic areas, or have other demographics in commonHow long do you tend to keep your donors renewing before they become lapsed?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you create targeted appeals to keep at least some of your groups from becoming lapsed, but first you have to understand where your various tipping points are.  Adding a “Would you like to make this gift recurring?option to your online eform could be one way to boost retention, for example.

Test, Test, Test!

Using the analytics that you’ve collected, don’t only send segmented, targeted appeals to retain your donors, but make attempts to test different approaches on portions of your appeals.  With carefully planned tests, you will be better able to gauge what your specific audience(s) responds to and give them more of what they want over time.

The better able you are to serve your constituents, the more likely you are to retain a larger portion of them in the long run.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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