Online DRM Strategies
Unlike offline DRM, online donor cultivation doesn’t begin until donors opt in to receive communications from you. From that point forward, organizations should begin the process of fostering a two-way communication with constituents — meaning the collected set of people who donate, volunteer, serve on the board, or benefit from the services of your organization — and make efforts to understand how to get them involved, says Jeff Patrick, president of Common Knowledge, a Dallas-based consulting firm that provides services that help nonprofits use the Internet to fundraise, advocate, market and communicate to constituents.
Dialoguing with online constituents means generating ways that enable them to feel apart of the organization and its mission. The following three things are necessary components to any online communications to constituents:
- Inform. Education is a huge component to this strategy. Provide baseline information that helps constituents fundamentally understand what you do.
- Emotion. Getting constituents emotionally connected is important. Tapping into the intellect and emotions is a powerful part of getting people to care about your cause, Patrick says.
- Demonstrate success. Show that what you’re doing is working.
This last point, demonstrating success, is extremely important but something that Patrick says a lot of organizations don’t do. They’re good at informing and building an emotional link to constituents through the human element of the services they provide, but often they forget to go back to donors and report program outcomes.
“Close the loop and say, ‘Here’s what happened with our program’ or, ‘Here’s an update,’” he says. “The reason that this is important in terms of cultivation generally, but specifically for the online audience is they’re not here. They can’t see what’s happening, they can’t see behind the doors, they’re not necessarily at your event.”
Because of this geographic distribution of the online audience, it’s vitally important to demonstrate results to them. And it doesn’t always have to be good news. “It’s OK to sort of serve up what is not necessarily perfect news, but do it in a way that demonstrates that you’ve learned from it, and what you’re going to do to correct it,” Patrick adds.
Once your constituents feel a connection to the organization, the next step is getting them actively involved. If you’re an advocacy organization, that means helping them do outreach on your behalf to legislators. This serves a dual purpose for the organization. One, it demonstrates to legislators grass roots support for your cause and two, it empowers constituents to feel like they’ve contributed to the advancement of your organization’s mission. Another way to involve constituents is through surveys. This helps your organization understand their interests, involves them and also demonstrates that your organization values their interests. All good things.
“People like to get back to you. They like to tell you about who they are, what they care about, and they feel that it’s important to contribute and be part of the organization by telling [you] what they need,” Patrick says. “It doesn’t directly contribute to the bottom line of the organization’s success, but it does help the nonprofit by enabling them to better understand who their audience is and what they need, and the constituent feels as if they’re giving back.”
Peer-to-peer fundraising is another way to engage constituents, where they serve in a way as volunteer fundraisers. An example of this is fundraising for events or “a-thons.” Constituents participating in your organization’s walk-athon or bike-athon can fundraise both online and offline among their friends, families and associates on your behalf. The organization need only provide basic communication and fundraising tools to participants.
“There’s a whole subsection of your base that would love to go out and meet other people, tell them about your mission, and get involved by promoting who you are,” Patrick says. “It doesn’t matter what your topic is or what your issue or how you’re structuring it. What you really are doing is providing a whole bunch of people with the tools to do outreach to their network and to bring people back from that network to give, to act, to volunteer.”
While these online involvement strategies benefit the organization in some way, they also benefit constituents by giving them an outlet and a way to feel like a valuable component to the advancement of your mission and, in turn, more connected to your organization.
Jeff Patrick can be reached via www.commonknowledge.com