Maximize Donor Engagement With Multichannel Integration
In order to maximize fundraising dollars, organizations must use a multichannel approach, combining online and offline communications for maximum engagement. During the inaugural FundRaising Success Virtual Conference & Expo held on May 20 (and available on-demand until Aug. 24), three fundraising professionals — Jenny Kellum Lee, creative director of Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation; Kate Millea, interactive consultant at Convio; and Jessica Fraser Sotelo, manager of online marketing at World Wildlife Fund — tackled the multichannel integration process in the session “Get It Together!”
Multichannel best practices
Millea began by breaking down giving channels over the last two years overall and by demographic (i.e., Gen Y, Gen X, baby boomers and matures). Checkout donations (52 percent) and check by mail (49 percent) made up the highest percentage, with mobile/text (8 percent) and social-networking sites (5 percent) giving coming in last. But Millea pointed out that the “art and science of fundraising is changing,” as exhibited by Gen X and Gen Y both distributing their giving more evenly among all channels. This shows just how vital a multichannel approach truly is, especially going forward as Gen Y and Gen X age.
“The first rule of thumb,” Millea said, “is starting with the information collection.” And the more information you can collect, the better. For example, when offering an online registration for e-mail news or an online newsletter, collect the offline mailing address on the registration form. That way, you can send direct-mail solicitations as well as online communications.
“Think about what you can gather on your website that you can then use in other ways,” Millea advised.
It’s important to tell donors why you’re asking for more information as well, she said: “You want to be able to capture an e-mail first and foremost and then at least ask for more information — and why you’re asking, i.e., send a publication, offer through mail, even just saying, 'we love to have the ability to send you information when needed.'” About 45 percent to 50 percent of people who provide their e-mails will fill out the rest, Millea said, so “be sure to leverage your website for gathering information.”
Another essential integration technique in today’s increasingly online-driven world is to gather e-mail addresses offline. Collect them on reply devices in your direct mail. Ask for e-mail addresses on telemarketing calls and at events. And make sure to tell donors what they’ll get in return for providing their e-mails, such as a newsletter, special event documents, etc., Millea suggested.
Social media provides another excellent channel, and Millea said fundraisers should encourage their donors to connect through social media and stay active in the conversations.
“The good old-fashioned word-of-mouth mechanism works, and social media makes that easier than ever,” she said. “Facebook offers us an area for conversations we may not otherwise be able to have.”
To draw people from one channel to another, Millea offered these tips:
- Create a landing page/online donation form.
- Coordinate an e-mail schedule.
- Include a URL shortcut.
- Promote additional online activities to drive engagement, such as “View photos online.”
As an example of effective multichannel integration, Millea laid out the four-step process of the “Thanksgiving Feast for 1 Million” campaign by America’s Second Harvest (now called Feeding America). In the second half of October, the organization sent a direct-mail piece to donors. On Nov. 16, it sent its first follow-up e-mail reiterating the goal and theme of the campaign. Five days later, it sent a second follow-up e-mail that introduced another aspect of the campaign, a matching gift from Tyson Foods. Finally, on Nov. 30 the organization sent a third follow-up e-mail thanking donors and sharing the results of the campaign.
OMRF annual appeal
As another example, Lee discussed Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation’s April 2009 annual appeal. According to Lee, OMRF chopped down its mailing list to its 10,000 most active donors a couple of years ago and focused the annual appeal on one story, instead of many stories.
OMRF’s goal was to tell a story that engaged emotion and motivated donors. The organization decided on the story of Meagan McLain, a 21-year-old college student who was ill and dying until an OMRF discovery saved her life.
“It was a simple, dramatic story with a happy ending, and we paired this story with a secondary message with a tax credit, providing further motivation,” Lee said.
On Nov. 15, OMRF sent the targeted direct-mail piece, which included the appeal, reply card, outer envelope and the “Help Fight Disease and Get a Tax Credit!” insert highlighting the tax credit. The mailer focused on Meagan’s story, and OMRF used the reply card to introduce some more survivors thanks to OMRF’s work.
Then on Dec. 1, the organization sent a follow-up e-mail with a large graphic coupled with a dramatic subject line. It generated an open rate of nearly 40 percent. Coinciding with the e-mail, OMRF mailed a postcard on Dec. 1 as well, this time shifting the focus from Meagan’s story to the tax credit. That was followed by a personal e-mail sent on Dec. 15 from OMRF’s president, senior staff and development officers, again focused on the tax credit.
This integrated campaign generated tremendous results for OMRF: nearly $850,000 raised, compared to five years ago when the end-of-year appeal struggled to raise $25,000. Lee attributes the success of the campaign to its integrated approach and simple focus.
“For us, it’s really important that each piece stands on its own. One story. Simple action to take,” she shared. “A simple message is key. Find a story that’s simple and direct, and make it easy for your donors to act. That’s what works for us.”
Telemarketing and e-mail integration
To wrap up the session, Sotelo shared World Wildlife Fund’s online-offline integration testing. World Wildlife Fund has 900,000 e-newsletter subscribers. It raised $12.5 million in online revenue in 2009, and 25 percent of membership revenue is generated online. That doesn’t seem to be slowing anytime soon, with WWF seeing year-over-year growth of 39 percent in online giving.
Conversely, 5 percent of WWF’s online revenue comes from telemarketing, and many people on telemarketing calls said, “I’ll give online.” Since the organization has had success integrating offline channels (such as direct mail and DRTV) with online channels, it decided to integrate and test its telemarketing and e-mail communications.
In the first test, WWF’s telemarketing agents gave out a specific, easy-to-remember URL at the end of each call. The campaign lasted six weeks and generated $340,000 offline, but just $765 — less than 0.23 percent of the campaign revenue — came in online. WWF concluded that it needed to make it easier for potential donors to give online.
In the second test, WWF followed up the call with an e-mail that included a link to a donation form tied to the campaign, and an end-of-campaign e-mail as well. The campaign, which was still ongoing at the time of the presentation, generated $204,000 offline to date. The during-campaign e-mail had an 18.4 percent open rate, 1 percent clickthrough rate and resulted in four gifts online totaling $150. The end-of-campaign e-mail had a 12.6 percent open rate, 0.9 percent clickthrough rate and generated an additional 60 gifts totaling $4,000.
“Indirectly, the e-mail may have reminded them to fulfill their pledge offline,” Sotelo said.
Going forward, WWF plans to test e-mail delivery timing, the content within the message and more to further enhance the integrated campaign. Sotelo shared some of WWF’s conclusions moving ahead.
- Conduct further analysis of telemarketing donors to determine their proclivity to donate online.
- Broaden test to include a “pre-e-mail” or concurrent e-mail to make the piece more proactive and less reactive.
- Continue to analyze follow-up behavior and responses to the next direct-mail, telemarketing and e-mail offers to judge impact.