Fundraising Communications-Remember to Dot Your I's and Cross
Fundraising Communications: Remember to Dot Your I's and Cross Your Channels
Dec. 13, 2005
By Sarah Durham and Ali Kiselis
When it comes to effectively communicating about your organization, consistency is key. Consistency that runs deep: from what a board member says at a gala to how your general office phone is answered to your holiday appeal. When all potential points of contact, or channels, work together fluidly, you maintain strong channel integration -- a fundamental, yet often underutilized ingredient in fundraising communications.
Channel integration largely impacts two aspects of fundraising communications: your brand and specific campaigns. With branding, channel integration means using the same messages (visual, written, spoken) at all points of contact that a donor or other audience member has with your organization. Each point of contact reinforces the messages you want her to receive. When applied to a fundraising campaign, channel integration allows you to reach the donor through the medium she's most comfortable using (meeting, e-mail, Web, PowerPoint, mail, etc.) and build on the campaign's more focused message at each additional point of contact.
Nonprofit organizations that actively integrate all of the channels at their disposal are best positioned for fundraising success. However, what often happens is that nonprofits heavily rely on some channels and forget about others. For instance, the person who answers the general office phone should answer it in a way that reinforces the tone and personality of your organization's annual report or Web site.
Most commonly used channels in nonprofit fundraising communications:
- Web site
- direct mail
- annual reports
Most often overlooked channels in nonprofit fundraising communications:
- spoken contact (what a board member says while mingling at a gala, for instance)
- office elements (for example, how the phone is answered, signage, color of the walls)
A strong example of campaign channel integration is a 2005 holiday fundraising campaign by New York City-based Robin Hood. Along with a printed piece sent to both a house and acquisition list, the anti-poverty organization kicked off the campaign with an e-mail and included its Web site on every point of contact. Robin Hood also dedicated a page of its Web site to the campaign and provided its phone number, so people can speak with someone for additional information. (See it in action at http://www.robinhood.org/holiday)
Channel integration isn't just for the "big guys." Smaller nonprofits can employ the same principal to position themselves as a professional, credible and sound investment.
When it comes to branding channel integration by a nonprofit with a small staff, a strong example is the Ohio-based Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. For starters, it has a comprehensive style guide, which outlines its mission, key messages, correct logo use and more. Every communications piece it produces, from its Web site to its holiday card to a volunteer toolkit, follows the style guide from A-to-Z to ensure consistency.
How you can help strengthen channel integration in your organization? Fundraisers at nonprofits of all sizes can improve channel integration by following a style guide -- or creating one if it doesn't exist. You can create style guides for campaigns and train board members and staff to follow the campaign's messages.
When it's time to plan your next appeal, consider all of the channels at your disposal. Find ways to incorporate them so they all support each other -- and appear seamless to your audiences. Integrate your channels, and you'll help build brand consistency and a loyal donor base.
Sarah Durham is principal and founder of Big Duck, a New York City firm that works exclusively with nonprofits. Ali Kiselis is Big Duck's public relations manager. Both are frequent contributors to FS Advisor. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.