While interest has been high in recent years to fundraise over the Internet, a recent study found that direct mail continues to solicit the overwhelming majority of fundraising revenue. The 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report also found that more new donors are giving their first gifts online but then switching to offline giving, primarily through direct mail. By renewing support via direct-mail petitions, donations may increase, according to the report.
Without doubt, donors are increasingly taking advantage of the different media channels available today, from printed material to websites to social media. As a fundraiser, it is critical to consider offering donors multiple channels for giving and interaction with your organization.
This brings us to mobile. Today’s smartphones can also serve as great connectors to your donor base. The adoption of smartphones in the U.S. continues to grow, and people are connected to the Web and social media 24 hours a day. Printed direct-mail fundraising has used website addresses to connect donors to online channels, but how can a printed piece interact with a donor’s smartphone? The answer: Quick Response (QR) codes.
Make print interactive with QR codes
You may have already heard of these two-dimensional barcodes as they have recently taken the marketing world by storm. Somewhat resembling a gray and black checkerboard, these codes are showing up in more and more places in the U.S., including magazines, billboards, business cards, product labels and in-store displays. Mobio Identity Systems Inc., a mobile payments company, reported QR code use in the last six months of 2010 increased 1,200 percent across North America.
QR codes, when scanned by a mobile device such as a smartphone, can immediately link users from printed material to online content. A QR code can be printed on a direct-mail piece sent to prospective donors or on a poster advertising a fundraising event. When a prospective donor scans the code with her smartphone, she is immediately directed to online content hosted by your organization. Powerful printed appeals are enhanced with an interactive mobile response — an immediate call to action that bridges the physical world with the virtual one. On-the-spot access to online resources can make integrated fundraising campaigns extremely effective, providing immediate access to all sorts of additional information of interest to donors, including:
- An emotional video to help tell your story;
- Photos of featured items for a silent auction;
- More detailed information on how a donation will help someone in need;
- Event details with ticket information; and
- Your organization’s Facebook page
A critical advantage to using QR codes with your printed appeals is allowing donors to link immediately to an online site when their interest is high. A recipient can connect online through her phone and make a reservation for a fundraising dinner right when it’s on her mind.
QR + PURL = personalization
QR codes can also be used in highly personalized appeals when combined with personalized URLs, or PURLs. A PURL is a unique Web address made for an individual that takes a user to an online microsite where the content can be customized for that user. QR codes can be embedded with PURLs, linking to personalized microsites for every prospective donor on a mailing list. Information from the fundraiser’s database can be used to tailor the Web experience to a unique donor, for example recognizing and thanking her for her prior donations.
With this highly personalized approach, you reach donors one to one and invite their interaction. Fundraisers can use a customized microsite to ask a donor for more personal information to build a more detailed donor profile and establish a long-term relationship. You can offer updates on your projects, extend invitations to exclusive events or make special offers available to only the most loyal members on your list.
More metrics for tracking
QR codes also provide useful metrics for tracking campaigns. An organization can determine what appeals work the best by analyzing which QR codes are being scanned the most and in which geographical area they are being scanned. The back-end reporting becomes even more useful when a donor interacts with a customized microsite through a PURL. Additionally, by utilizing advanced mail tracking available through the United States Postal Service, the progress of a mailing through the postal system can be determined and an e-mail or mobile text message can be sent to prospective donors before their initial mail packages arrive, building anticipation and urging them to look in their mailboxes.
A successful direct-mail program has the ability to not only win over new prospects, but also increase the retention and long-term value of those donors. Printed appeals enhanced with QR codes, especially in combination with PURLs, can provide donors with personalized and convenient multichannel options that they may prefer. Something as simple as adding a QR code can generate quick, easy responses, and best of all, offer the benefit of developing deeper and longer-lasting relationships with donors to help ensure the success of your mission.
David Henkel is president of Johnson and Quin, an integrated direct-marketing solutions provider located in Niles, Ill. He can be reached at dhenkel@J-QUIN.com.