Top Tips for Direct Marketing Creative in Nonprofit Campaigns
An old direct marketing rule says the likelihood of success for your campaign can be attributed to the list used (40%), the offer made (40%) and your creative choices (20%). While creative choices may have the smallest effect on the results, there are still best practices you can use to optimize your chances for success.
Maximize Use of Your List Data
Starting from the list, the data you have available to use about your donor audience determines both the offer that should be made and the creative that should be used. Knowing the donor’s priorities can help highlight the causes that best fit their interests to give your solicitation maximum personal relevance. A couple examples:
- Historical donation amounts help you put in the ideal ask amount or build an ask table for the offer in your solicitation.
- The donor’s affiliations to membership in a church or alumni of a school can be used to direct their funds to their connected entity.
Make the Offer Obvious and Easy
Do not confuse your campaign by offering more than one call to action. If you are seeking monetary donations, don’t also ask for volunteers or food for the pantry in the same message. There should be one call to action with a clear directive of how to give, including but not limited to:
- Visit the website giving page (consider a personalized URL that includes a unique ask amount to the donor that matches the campaign)
- Call in a donation by phone
- Return a check/pay by mail
- Scan a QR code for online giving
- Text to give
Keep Creative Consistent and High Quality
You’ll need to make an overall theme choice that will apply to all fundraising materials: website, email, social media, direct mail, posters, event signage, etc. What are the colors and logo that will represent this campaign, and will they stay consistent from year to year or involve a new concept each year? I have seen benefits to both approaches.
When sourcing imagery and photography use real, high-quality photos of your good work — your volunteers, staff, benefactors and donors. Don’t use clip art, stock photos, images found through online search or low-resolution pictures taken with a cellphone camera.
A good photo can tell a thousand words when it reinforces the story in your copy. Using your own images helps the reader connect and relate to your materials, more than if stock photography is used. The images can be taken at community events, landmarks if your charity is local or a scheduled photo shoot with donors and/or recipients. Start building a library of your own photos as soon as possible for use in future projects.
Good creative design can also help guide your donor to the offer — from the way an image points a reader’s eyeline toward the call to action to how a higher ask amount is highlighted in a bump table for attention.
Use an Omnichannel Approach
A campaign that uses multiple channels for communication — including email, direct mail, social media and display advertising — will be more successful than a campaign that uses just one. Each direct marketing channel will require different creative choices based on the best practices for that channel. Social media audiences behave differently from email recipients, which is different from how people treat the mail they receive each day. Let’s explore the optimal creative choices for each channel.
According to the Who’s Mailing What database, 81.3% of nonprofit mail uses a letter package in an envelope. So how do you make your letter stand out? Using color graphics and personalized teasers on the outside can help your envelope get opened.
Once opened, your copy needs to connect with the reader to entice them to donate. Using emotional storytelling helps to connect to people on a personal level and outline the benefits the donations will provide to the community.
However, do not try to cram too much information into a single piece. Be succinct. Keep the length of copy lines in mind because if they are too long, it can tire the eyes and make it hard for the reader to want to continue. The less copy, the larger the text can be, making it easier to read. A reader is more likely to read short, bulleted copy than long paragraphs. You can always point to your website for additional information and to donate.
Nonprofits have some of the highest email open rates of any industry — 25.17%, according to MailChimp. Sometimes the best creative choice for email is to have no creative at all. If you can make your email solicitation look like a personal, plain-text email from a member of your staff with a recognizable name, this can perform higher than a graphics-heavy email that may be flagged as spam.
Video advertisements perform better in social media than static images, text-based posts or links. Social media is a network to connect people to other people, so your video content should focus on the human connections your organization makes.
There is no need to include copy within your video asset, as it can be placed in the post copy that accompanies the video, but you should include captions if there are people speaking, as many viewers scroll through social media with their sound off.
According to Blackbaud Institute’s latest Charitable Giving Report, online channels account for only 12% of all fundraising. I recommend using display advertising to retarget visitors who leave without donating back to your website .
Copy on display ads should be simple, short and to the point, like a billboard with a button-like box to click with your call to action: “Give Now.” Don’t say “Click Here.”
Make sure your ads include your nonprofit’s name or logo (as required by Google) and your most powerful and compelling image.
The ad must work in many different sizes — including tall and skinny vertical ads, wide and thin horizontal ads, as well as square ads. Make sure your creative is flexible enough to accommodate all these sizes.
Premiums or Promotional Products
If you use premiums as incentives for donations or promotional products as giveaways to your staff and volunteers helping on the campaign, make sure the campaign colors and logos are consistent across these items as well. A single-color logo along with a simple tagline message and website address is the best way to go.
Finally, be sure to work with a marketing partner that can help you put these best practices into action. You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do it alone.