Direct Response: Not So ‘Direct’ Anymore?

Our brave, new, multichannel world calls for a look at the larger picture of response.

I always thought I’d go into advertising, but when I learned about direct-response marketing I was hooked. It is so much more powerful because results can be tracked definitively — the “direct response” allows for clear measuring and refining.

But lately I’ve been asking myself if direct response is really as “direct” as it once was.

We live in a multichannel world. People receive mail, they spend an increasing amount of time online, most still watch TV and read newspapers and magazines, and everyone has a phone. Now, they might not all be multichannel donors — but I would argue that everyone is a multichannel person.

Why does this matter for direct-response fundraising? It’s creating more “indirect” response.

For example, I might receive a fundraising appeal but choose to go online (and not use the vanity URL) to give. Or I might receive an interesting mail appeal but forget to give — then I see a banner ad for the organization, which reminds me of its good work, and I choose to go to its website and make a gift. To what medium should you credit those gifts? These are just two simple examples of scenarios that are taking place every day as our industry becomes more innovative and interactive.

All in all, a multichannel world is good for fundraising and should raise more revenue. But it makes our efforts harder to track and donors harder to understand.

What can we do about this new “indirect” way of fundraising? No doubt there are multiple ways to address this; here are just a few that come to mind.

Reduce internal silos
This has been popular advice for the past few years — and for good reason. If everyone involved in marketing and fundraising joins together to simply raise the most money possible, we can stop worrying about which channel to credit a gift. We can focus instead on how to really integrate to improve the donor’s experience and maximize revenue for the organization.

Think about donors as people

When planning a campaign, think about all the ways people might interact with the organization. Don’t just assume they read your mail in a vacuum. Is there an area on the homepage dedicated to your mail topic? Can you plan any media or public relations events to coincide with your e-mail campaign? Are other departments communicating with donors about a different topic, and if so, how might this change donors’ experience with your campaign?

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