Mastering Multichannel Acquisition
New-donor acquisition is the pillar of any nonprofit. Without new donors, eventually attrition whittles down an organization’s file, revenue, and ability to run programs and fulfill its mission. A continual stream of new blood is necessary to replace lapsing and deceased donors.
With the onset of new and emerging technologies in the fundraising arena, today’s fundraisers have many channels by which to acquire new donors. The question is: Which are the best? Well, there really is no right answer — it depends on the organization’s objectives, resources and capacity. Ultimately, a fully integrated approach utilizing multiple channels in concert is optimal. This article discusses the channels available in your fundraising toolbox, best practices for each and how to integrate those channels.
Direct mail is the workhorse of the fundraising industry. While many thought the Internet would make mail obsolete, the fact is that 93 percent of fundraising dollars are still raised through traditional offline channels for most charities — see the 2012 Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report — and your typical donor (female, 60+) still gives through the mail. Direct mail provides a reliable base of support on which to build an integrated program, so shore up your direct-mail efforts before branching out into newer channels. Also continue to test (creative, offers, ask strings, etc.) within your file to optimize net revenue and lower your cost to acquire a new donor.
Online channels expand opportunities to deliver multiple touchpoints to prospects, with the most basic integration being email. If your marketing acquisition list contains email addresses, send pre- and post-messages to bookend your direct-mail effort. This is most easily done with lapsed names. The pre-email lets prospects know their direct-mail piece is on its way and offers them an opportunity to complete the desired action online. The post-email is a reminder to complete the desired action if they did not respond to the direct-mail piece.
If the acquisition list does not contain email addresses, you can acquire them through an e-append. Some co-ops also offer email addresses to test multitouch campaigns.
A more advanced integrated campaign might involve IP cookie matching. Cookie targeting allows organizations to serve banner advertisements to individuals on a mail file. Coordinating an acquisition package with a cookie-targeted display advertising campaign can provide the extra impression some prospects need to convert. Utilizing Facebook Custom Audiences is another way to touch people through multiple channels, using a platform they already frequent. As with cookie matching, you won’t see the contributions coming directly from the ads, but through a lift in the mail.
Several stand-alone online acquisition efforts can generate new donors and leads as well, such as search engine marketing, display advertising, homepage light boxes and remarketing. To capitalize on the leads, put full data-capture processes (to collect the information in as few clicks as possible) in place and then a comprehensive conversion strategy.
For example, many prospects go as far as partially filling out a form on your website. To follow up with these individuals, make use of a multistep donation online form that collects the basic contact information on the first page, or use a cart-abandonment solution that can follow up with those individuals via email.
As prospects begin to show interest in your organization — either by a clicking an ad, visiting your website or opening an email — you can use retargeted banner advertising to remarket to them based on their interests. Ensure that the advertisements are segmented by page or message through which each prospect initially took action to serve relevant content.
Additional acquisition strategies that focus more on lead generation are the use of petitions, contests and access walls. Leads generated through petitions can be hard to convert to donors as their first engagement was advocacy, not donation-based. You should have a timely conversion process in place to turn that action into a donation. Similarly, contests can be used to collect leads — but the prize should relate closely to the organization’s mission. The looser the connection between the prize and organization, the lower your response rate in follow-up appeals. Finally, access walls can be an effective way to collect leads if your organization provides content that a prospect is willing to offer an email or mailing address to view.
As each of these channels is a part of a multitouch, coordinated effort, the messaging and creative must be synonymous. Also, keep in mind that donors brought in online convert more easily to offline donors than the other way around. Consider the initial motivation and offer for giving that brought a person on to the file, and carry that messaging through to the housefile to encourage repeat giving.
Historically, telemarketing donors have a lower conversion rate to offline donors than do online donors, but telemarketing can be a great channel for reactivating lapsed donors who have an existing relationship with your organization. Thank-you calls to new donors acquired regardless of source can increase subsequent retention and revenue.
Event-based fundraising (e.g., runs, walks, rides) has exploded in popularity. While these events are typically successful in and of themselves, it can be difficult to convert the new donors they attract to repeat donors, as their relationships are usually with the participants rather than the organization. To convert the participants and their peers into donors, use a follow-up plan that includes social-media posts, email communication, direct mail and, in some cases, calls to larger-gift donors. This should all happen directly after the event.
While DRTV has been around for more than 30 years, it is being used by more organizations as the barriers to entry are reduced. DRTV is truly an integrated medium, since one must make a gift through another channel (online or phone). Success with DRTV can change the face of an organization, as it traditionally brings on monthly sustainers who stick around for years.
Recently, many cookie-targeting firms have expanded their capabilities to offer cookie targeting that is coordinated with commercials. Just three years ago, we were only able to send the majority of prospects direct-mail pieces. This technology allows for three distinct touchpoints to a prospect in three different marketing channels: mail, online and television.
All together now
Often, various channels are handled in different, siloed departments. The starting point for integration is to get all stakeholders on board with the approach. To do that, explain how budget and efforts in one area influence and drive traffic or donations in another. It’s also helpful to create attribution models to show how gifts are attributed across channels.
When beginning a multichannel program, databases should be synced — or better yet, on the same platform — so donor communications can include references to the various ways donors are involved with your organization. This also enables you to set appropriate ask strings. People tend to give higher amounts online, so you don’t want to downgrade them by asking for too little in offline communications.
With today’s technology, fundraising is reaching new heights. The most successful organizations still use direct mail as a base, but they’re also testing, integrating and adopting new channels.
Angela Struebing is president of CDR Fundraising Group, a multichannel agency focused on helping nonprofits maximize their online, direct mail, telemarketing and DRTV fundraising results. As president, Angela is responsible for overall agency management and strategic planning for national nonprofit clients to include The Wounded Warrior Project, Shriners’ Hospitals for Children, MoMA and the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. Angela is a frequent speaker at industry events and is recognized for her strategic expertise. She has also served as Education co-chair for the Bridge Conference.