5 Agenda Items for Your Year-End Strategy Session
I’ve learned that strategy conversations can boil down to a simple statement: After we determine why we’re doing something, let’s vet what needs to be done. From there, the nonprofit can best figure out how it’s going to get done.
Many teams spend most – if not all – of their time thinking, meeting and working on “how” items. With Giving Tuesday around the corner, year-end galas ahead and final 2022 fundraising pleas to send, there’s an increased focus on your team’s tactics and task lists. This is the time for implementation and execution — and strategy naturally takes a back seat.
However, heading into the fourth quarter and then a fresh New Year, your team should figure out how to work through the larger, strategic items — the big whats.
Physically earmark time in your team’s calendar for strategic planning — whether it’s a few meetings per month, or a solid whiteboard session that dominates an afternoon. For most small teams, however, when not planned well, the meetings don’t actually happen or end with no clear direction. And often, the hardest step for a planning session is the very first step — an agenda.
Here are five agenda items for your next strategy session to set up your team for a year’s worth of aligned, forward-progress activity.
1. Plan for Millennials and Gen Z
What’s key is that both the 24-year-old (Gen Zer) and the 40-year-old (Millennial) have become your coveted donors. They share common traits and characteristics when it comes to mobile engagement, personal expression through the brands they buy, and why they choose which causes to support. This cohort will experience a big swell of income in the upcoming years, opening your best opportunity to create future donors.
Your planning session should include a table that helps you map those characteristics to your own approach to fundraising and messaging. Here are two examples:
- Map the fact that 98% of Gen Zers and 93% of Millennials own smartphones to your mobile engagement, subscription and donation experience.
- Map the fact that 64% of Gen Zers and 61% of millennials participate in dining loyalty programs to your onboarding and upselling experience toward increasing monthly recurring donations.
2. Write Your Storytelling Approach
Marketers nowadays are all using a storytelling model to communicate, simply because it’s so effective. Your job is to write out that story based on your cause. This model has driven increased engagement and conversion for business-to-consumer and business-to-business marketers:
- Hero. This is the donor.
- Villain. This is the challenge you are helping that donor combat
- Mentor. This is you, the nonprofit.
- Journey. This is how that donor arrives to being a part of the greater solution
- Transformation. This is what everyone actually accomplishes after being guided by you. It’s the final impact.
Write these blocks down, and really understand the authenticity of that story. Then it’s easy for a small team to market consistently in a variety of marketing channels.
3. Integrate Marketing Channels
Next, create a plan and strategy for which channels are going to do which specific jobs. Social media is great for a broad reach to followers, but it can be weaker in terms of shelf life and persistence. A social media user responds and clicks on a link or scrolls past it, barely remembering what they saw. Meanwhile, direct mail is great for having a longer format to tell a story and to have something physical in their hands to keep around until they act, but it’s not digitally sharable to others.
Your team’s responsibility is to understand your donor journey. Map it out on a grid:
Integrating the channels is critical, so use a channel’s strengths to move a donor through each step of the journey. A Facebook video should lead to a landing page that has a similar message, with options for subscriptions or an incentive to sign up for a mailing list, etc. Once your team physically maps out the ways a prospective (or lapsed) donor engages, you can better deploy the right calls to action and tactics.
4. Segment and Personalize Your Marketing and Messages
Better segmentation and personalization of your marketing comes from a yin yang of data and persona development.
First, dive into your database to segment based on a recency, frequency, monetary value (RFM) model. Organize the patterns of actual donor behavior to create groups and even name them (“one-time,” “big time,” “many small drops,” etc.). Then, survey these segments to glean more insight about their behaviors, perspectives and possible motivations. This combination of efforts provides both sides of understanding the donor — the data and the persona.
Now you can tell your story in a more compelling and authentic way. Knowing the donor as a person, not just a dollar figure, will help you figure out how that donor can feel most impactful by contributing to your nonprofit. Donors are inherently looking to contribute more to the greater good. Segmenting your list so you can appropriately and respectfully market to them in a way that ensures they’ll feel more connected to you is not only Marketing 101, but also a more human way to communicate and make the ask.
5. Plan Your Marketing Technology Stack Upgrade
The data and the customer insights are all made more powerful, and your team’s actions more scalable, when fueled by the right technology. Thankfully there are more tools than ever to help a small-but-mighty team scale its activity. And, technology pricing seems to be going down, or the platforms are at least becoming more effective.
Every team has a hole in their operations, so the questions you should ask and answer are:
- What is the hole?
- How big is it (and is it materially important to your business)?
- Does it need to be filled next year (and what is the ranking in terms of importance or urgency)?
Strategic planning to research and compare platforms — either as a team project or someone’s specific three-month goal — will help you to vet the options to find the one that’s right for your organization.
Strategic planning is often an exercise that happens only when people have time, which invariably leads to operations and tactics that are less effective. Carve out time to prepare, discuss, and develop a shared understanding about what needs to be done and why. These five agenda Items are your “what.” That alignment and direction makes that “how” much easier and more effective.