Multichannel: It’s About Using the Right Means of Transport for Donors
I took a journey to watch the Olympic cycling road race last week. It was about 30 miles from where I live, and the place I wanted to get to was at the top of one of the hills on the route (I like to see the riders struggle up the hills).
How did I get there? I put my bike in the car, drove to a parking spot about five miles from the race route, cycled to within a mile where I locked up the bike and walked the last mile through the crowds, up the hill to the road side.
What if I had tried to get all the way in my car? I would have been turned away. Or walked the whole thing? I would have missed the event altogether. The point is I used the common-sense approach — the right means of transport for each stage of the journey — and I reached my destination.
Likewise, you wouldn’t expect donors to fulfill their giving potential if the only means of communication you had was, say, e-mail. Building a relationship with a donor is about nurturing support, understanding motives and what the donor is likely to want to support — and you are likely to need different communication channels depending on where donors are in their donor journeys. You also need a donor database to track where they are on their journeys and the tools with which to engage them.
The nonprofit world seems to be hung up on whether multichannel donors are more valuable than single-channel donors. The 2011 donorCentrics survey answered the question, perhaps unsurprisingly, with a “yes.” It found that those donors who are acquired online and then cross over to offline giving (and just less than half do) are more valuable and are retained for longer. But the more important question for me is, “What channels do I need to use when?”
It makes sense if you understand the purpose and culture of each channel. And if you understand how to use the channels appropriately, you know which ones to use to conduct your donors along the donor journeys using the right channel for the stage they have reached — a bit like my trip to the Olympics.
So what are the channels good for? It does seem that online is a good place to recruit younger donors, whose first donations are likely to be higher, and whose household incomes are likely to be higher too. But, according to the report, if the relationship remains exclusively online, you should not expect the same retention rates as those that cross over to offline methods such as direct mail. Bear in mind, however, that online only accounts for around 16 percent of new donors, with good old direct mail still representing 76 percent.
Direct mail as an acquisition tool clearly still works, but you should understand that the original donation value (which is an indicator of eventual lifetime value) is much lower than online-acquired donors. However, if you can convert your online-acquired donors to direct mail — which you are most likely to do in the first year of their relationship with you — you are likely to experience much better retention, which outweighs the slight reduction in second- and subsequent-year gift values. And don’t listen to the naysayers who tell you that direct mail is dead: It still represents the majority of new donor acquisitions (76 percent).
Other acquisition methods such as DRTV, face-to-face, telemarketing and events also benefit from conversion to direct mail during the first year, although only around 20 percent of organizations employ these techniques, while almost all charities have a direct-mail and online acquisition programs.
So if you have a clear idea of the kind of donors you want to acquire, and how you want to develop them, it makes sense to plot them as donor journeys and use the channels best suited for their stage in the journey.
Robin Fisk is global fundraising product manager at ASI Europe.