Interactive Fundraising: Test, Analyze, Repeat
Never before have the barriers to online fundraising been lower. Over the past couple of years, the challenges associated with the cost and technical expertise required to deploy online fundraising programs have just about disappeared. These developments have changed the rules of the game for professional fundraisers — putting the power of online programs firmly in their hands. Getting creative and demonstrating the courage to try new things have instead become the barriers.
This phenomenon isn’t specific to fundraising, but it certainly applies. For example, online services have enabled ordinary (non-technical) people to create attractive Web sites and professional-looking online newsletters, among other things. Web sites can be hosted in the “cloud” for a fraction of the cost and resources required compared to a few years ago. More people can innovate and execute more quickly and less expensively than ever before.
These shifts are enabling fundraisers to segment their supporter bases at a granular level, and test programs to engage supporters with the messaging and media that is most appealing to them. So, what does this look like when practically applied?
Jeff Wright, associate director of development services at the University of Alberta, is on the leading edge of taking a highly segmented approach to online fundraising. He has created unique donation pages for each of the 18 schools at the university. In addition, each school has its own subset of special funds that donors can select, and special giving pages were set up for eight other specific funds. This approach recognizes that alumni from a particular school are more likely to respond to asks from the specific schools that they attended and perhaps feel a greater connection.
In this case, the development staff created the online donation pages and provided them to each school to use in their communications. There was zero incremental cost to developing these pages, and no technical resources were required. The University of Alberta saw immediate results — an increased conversion rate to donations — from this strategy.
Based on the simplicity of deployment and initial successes, Jeff is planning on doing further segmented appeals by building online “tribute” pages for alumni recognition award recipients and professors who are retiring after a long tenure. Tribute appeals will be sent to the alumni’s classmates or students of a beloved retiring professor.
Other segmentation that can be tested using these same principals is establishing specific donation pages for communication channels, such as Facebook or Twitter. A question development directors often ask is, “How do I quantify the value of social-media interactions in terms of donations?” Creating distinct donation pages for these channels provides an easy way of tracking the actual donations that result from a particular channel of communication. For example, in your Twitter communications, a bit.ly link to your respective donation form will enable you to track donations that result from this particular channel.
The lesson in all of this: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Some will probably not work as well as you had hoped, but the risks are low and the rewards are potentially great. Continually experimenting with new approaches to online fundraising will help you to determine the things that work best for your organization.
Mark Sutton is president of Artez Interactive, U.S. Follow him on Twitter at @marksutton