Keeping the Faith
“We didn’t really have a great online presence, and we realized that that was lacking for our organization,” says Tom Peters, IT supervisor of SMI. “Our organization is really a direct-mail organization, so the online component wasn’t really a priority. We decided it should be a priority.
“In doing that, we formed a team of one person in every department and brainstormed what we should be doing online,” he adds. “We realized early on that we needed to bring in a partner.”
Enter direct-response fundraising agency Stratmark (now KerstenDirect). About two years ago, Stratmark began working with SMI as a fundraising advisor and did a lot of basic groundwork for SMI’s online presence, including redesigning the homepage, setting up an e-mail program and integrating online with direct mail.
“On its most basic level, SMI has a really long and successful direct-mail program. Direct response has been part of what Salesian Missions has done, and it’s been a key element of their fundraising strategy,” says Jarred Schremmer, digital account supervisor at KerstenDirect. “So what we really wanted to do is better coordinate and integrate with that program. Their entire audience that they had has really built and established relationships, many of which started in the direct-mail program.”
The simple tweaks of incorporating online fundraising best practices helped SMI see tremendous growth in its year-end fundraising in 2011 — to the tune of a 50 percent increase in revenue over 2010.
After such a big increase in 2011, the challenge for 2012 was to take the program to the next level. So KerstenDirect and SMI got to work on segmenting the donor base upon engagement with the direct-mail program and sending different versions of online communications to those different segments. Then they began to marry the offline and online creative and messaging to provide a more consistent donor experience. For instance, both front-end and back-end premiums work well for SMI in the mail, so interactive displays and PDFs of similar premiums were incorporated online. At the same time, Kersten and SMI wanted to use the unique advantages of visual communications online, such as adding the first true direct-response video for the year-end 2012 campaign.