Digital Marketing and Fundraising
Before launching into my any discussion about digital marketing, I must emphasize that the more traditional fundraising channels (i.e., direct mail) must be complemented and enhanced by all emerging fundraising channels (i.e., e-appeals). When there is strategic integration of all fundraising channels, you achieve the best possible results. This article touches on five main digital strategies: mobile, websites, e-mail, using digital media to thank donors and social media.
Check out these statistics: 98 percent of anyone who’s online uses e-mail, and more than 44 percent have mobile smartphones. It is projected that by 2014 mobile Internet usage will overtake desktop computer Internet usage … that means your donors will expect your websites to be mobile-optimized. One interesting study reported the average mobile user only waits five seconds for a Web page to properly load on her mobile device before abandoning the effort. Another study reports that adults spend more media time on mobile devices/smartphones than with newspapers and magazines combined, which is why magazines and newspapers without digital elements are in trouble. Your mobile smartphone is now your wallet, your checkbook, your telephone … it’s everything. Your credit cards are going away, your checkbook is going away and soon we will be processing all our purchasing transactions on our smartphones.
That is why it’s so important that your website and donation pages are mobile-friendly, and convenient and easy to access and navigate.
Let’s stop here and do a little test: Take out your smartphone, and log on to your nonprofit website. Does it quickly load? Is it sized correctly? Are you able to easily navigate, and most importantly can you process a donation?
Speaking of websites …
I have audited many nonprofit websites, and generally they do tend to be content-rich, if not a little wordy (something you can easily address).
Here are a few things that will improve your website:
- Reduce the copy. Remember, visitors to your site are quickly scanning content, so the layout of each page must be visually compelling and not visually overwhelming.
- Format each paragraph with a strong but short message stating what you do.
- Use compelling, high-quality photos and videos — each graphic must tell a story.
- Offer clear, bold calls to action.
- Make it easy for your website to be shared. In fact, encourage it.
E-mail is the digital king
Earlier I shared that 98 percent of online users read and send e-mail; they just do it on a variety of different tools, such as their computers, iPads and smartphones. That’s why I claim e-mail is the digital king.
So what are some of the e-mail marketing best practices? Of course, the scheduling, offer, copy and graphic integration of e-appeals with traditional direct-mail appeals are givens. My focus here is the how to apply theses best practices in e-mails and e-appeals.
- First, we must be committed to careful and thoughtful testing. Though the “I think/you think” interpretations of results have value, the real value is in empirical test results.
- The e-appeal must have a compelling subject line. The definition of compelling is discovered through copy testing and the measurement of donation results.
- Having a recognizable “from line” is important. If the recipient does not recognize the sender, she is less likely to open the e-appeal. Currently we are incorporating both the nonprofit name and the executive director’s name in the “from line,” and we will be testing various formats.
- The nonprofit logo, call to action and key messages must all be above the fold line.
- Brief copy linking to your website.
- At least three calls to action.
- Easy and convenient e-appeal forwards and social-media share options.
- Easy opt-out: The recipient must be able to easily stop your e-appeals from showing up in his inbox.
- Currently, we believe the maximum number of e-communications (including gift thank-yous) is four a month.
- Blast the e-appeals Tuesday through Thursday during the day or Friday mornings. No weekends, evenings or holidays. Obviously, year-end or emergency appeals may be exceptions.
Using digital media to thank your donors
I am told that confession is good for the soul, and I have a confession. I’m on the board of a very small nonprofit, and I have a really good friend who gave us a $5,000 gift. The other day we were having coffee, and she mentioned that she never received a thank-you letter or a receipt for her gift. She is one of my best friends, she is very gracious and thankfully she gave us the same gift again this year.
Penelope Burk, author of “Donor-Centered Fundraising,” reports one of the main reasons people stop giving to charity is that their gifts are not recognized. There are four easy ways that digital fundraising/marketing can help thank donors for their gifts. First, send a thank-you blast after a major e-appeal. Second, in January, send a year-end thank-you that captures key accomplishments. Third, prepare personal thank-yous that are sent immediately after an online gift is posted. Finally, use social media. It’s so easy on Facebook to say, “Thanks for showing up to our event …”
Get smart about social media
Social media is a great way to connect with your donors from a noninstitutional level. When I think of social media, words that apply are “friendly,” “organic” and “being direct” (i.e., “I need 100 blankets because it’s going to be 30 degrees tonight”). Following are a few quick tips:
- Use Facebook to communicate with your donors. Always share current, personal stories about your mission.
- Posting on Facebook (and other social-media channels) increases your mission’s visibility and reputation. Your posts will be forwarded by your donors to their friends.
- Always use a Facebook page — never your personal profile — to post messages about the mission.
- Secure your Facebook user name, which is www.facebook.com/YourNonprofitname.