Tips for Using the Web, E-mail and Social Networking to Net 'Wired Wealthy' Donors
Used strategically, the Web offers myriad opportunities to raise funds from wealthy donors.
In the session "Taking Leadership Online: What's Hype and What Works in Online Fundraising" at Fund Raising Day in New York 2009 presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater New York Chapter in early June, presenters Nancy Haitch, deputy vice president of development for International Rescue Committee; Alia McKee Scott, principal at Sea Change Strategies; and Jono Smith, vice president of nonprofit marketing at Network for Good, discussed management strategies that trail-blazing organizations have followed in using the Internet to begin, sustain and enrich relationships with top donors, prospects and volunteers.
Citing the "Wired Wealthy" study recently conducted by Convio, Sea Change Strategies and Edge Research that surveyed 3,443 top donors, the speakers dispelled a few rumors, namely that offline donors do not donate online; online fundraising is for small gifts; and middle and major donors don't want to hear from organization online.
The study grouped the wired wealthy into three donor clusters:
- Relationship seekers (29 percent of those surveyed). Most likely to respond to opportunities to connect emotionally with your organization online.
- Casual connector (41 percent).
- All business (30 percent). Not looking for a relationship or emotional connection.
What this means for organizations is:
- It's not demographics that define donors; it's their behavior.
- Each donor cluster requires a customized, targeted marketing approach to capitalize on their giving.
- Understanding proclivities of a donor base creates huge opportunities to customize a fundraising strategy.
For his part of the presentation, Smith outlined the difference between an online strategy and tactics. An online strategy is a plan of action for using the Internet and other digital mediums to achieve a goal or set of goals, while Web site, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, e-mail marketing, SEO, banner ads, etc., are all tactics that can be used to accomplish that strategy.
He recommended organizations go through the following 10-point online check-up:
- Is your URL guessable?
- Do you publish your URL on every communication, both online and offline?
- Do you use Web site design strategically?
- Do you provide relevant content? (Marketing plus journalism)
- Do you tell your story through pictures, videos or podcasts?
- Can you collect e-mail addresses on your Web site?
- Do you use e-mail marketing and search marketing to drive traffic back to your Web site?
- Can you accept online donations on your Web site?
- Do you have a blog?
- Can people find your Web site in search engines?
Some online giving requirements he noted include:
- State registration: More than 40-plus states require you to be registered
- Donor registration: Are an ID and password required?
- Support for recurring and anonymous donations
- Automatic tax receipts
- Tell-a-friend, customer questions and e-mail sign-up
- Tributes and program designations
- Branding and customization
- Thank-you gifts and premiums
Smith also discussed the role social media (tools like blogs and video, and sites like Facebook and Twitter) can play in online fundraising, but noted that social media is not a silver bullet for online fundraising. He suggested the following five questions to answer before starting with social media:
Who is our audience? Build personas that include gender, age, race, marital status, children, geography, education, occupation and interests.
- Where are they online? Do research.
- What do they want to do; what are they currently doing online? Observe and participate
- What do we want them to do? Ladder of engagement. "Success is measured by moving potential supporters through progressively more involved stages in the relationship," Smith said.
- How will we measure success? Set quantifiable goals
"Touchpoints drive donors closer — or push them away — as they engage with you through the donor-relationship lifecycle," Smith said, referring to a diagram highlighting the touchpoints organizations should be using throughout the cycle.
In the pre-donation stage, organizations can rely on Google AdWords to build awareness, their Web site to upgrade knowledge about their mission and video to gain consideration by constituents. Once a person selects an organization by donating online, the post-donation phase should involve sending a thank-you e-mail to build satisfaction and loyalty, and e-mail marketing to encourage advocacy.
"As your donors move from stage to stage, do your strategies, tactics and objectives adapt?" Smith asked. "Supporters react differently to marketing messages depending on what stage of the [donor] lifecycle they are in."
He recommended organizations create a donor stewardship system that incorporates the "Rule of Seven," where donors are contacted seven times before they're asked for money.
- Send a thank-you card/letter.
- Send a holiday card.
- Send donor e-newsletter(s).
- Invite them to special event.
- Send something of value.
- Call them upon receipt of gift.
- Send information by e-mail or direct mail about the organization.
McKee Scott closed out the session by going over these seven tactic takeaways yielded from the "Wired Wealthy" study:
"The days of mass e-mailing are over," Scott said. She recommended organizations segment their files by donor level with targeted content (prospects, low dollar, middle and major); treat low-dollar donors as wired wealthy in waiting; and segment middle and major donor groups based on cohort (e.g., all business vs. relationship seekers vs. casual connectors).
2. Make your Web site engaging, inspiring and easy to use.
Tell more stories; avoid jargon and insider language; use vivid imagery; include "sticky" content (videos, quizzes, photo essays, actions); and make Web site navigation clear, easy to understand and intuitive.
3. Make sure your e-mail content is inspiring.
Cultivate donors by updating them on your progress. Tell them how their support is making a difference. Tell more stories, but don't try to tell too many stories in one e-mail. Don't be afraid of emotion. Use it to influence your donor decisions. Two statistics in an e-mail is one too many. Tell the story instead, Scott said.
4. Give donors what they already are adopting online.
This includes video, blog content (but avoid the word "blog"), podcasts, online donation processing and online tax receipts.
5. Integrate your marketing efforts.
Break through the departmental divide to work with your PR, communications, fundraising and programs teams to create integrated campaigns with cohesive messages and multiple engagements. Scott also advised integrating e-mail marketing with direct-mail efforts, as these are multichannel donors. Mirror offline efforts in the mail (e.g., renewal series); include a donation pathway on your Web site homepage for mail packages; and invite offline donors online (live webcasts, podcast series, etc.).
6. Experiment with alternative online fundraising channels.
Ask donors/subscribers where they are (Facebook, Twitter, Gather, Digg, etc.); create a strategic presence where the majority of your audience already is; integrate e-mail communications with these social-media channels, and repurpose your content for each communications vehicle.
7. Measure. Measure. Measure.
For e-mail, measure by segment (prospects, low dollar, high dollar, major), dollars raised, number of gifts, average gift, response rate, open rate, clickthrough rate, unsubscribe rate and completion rate. For your Web site, measure number of visitors, source of traffic (e.g., search, e-mail marketing, online advertising, social networks) and most popular pages visited. And for social networks, measure number of friends and/or followers by monthly percentage change.