7 New Year Resolutions for Nonprofit Marketers & Fundraisers
2014 was a great year. All the usual reports will be out in the next 30 to 90 days showing advances in metrics, and at the upcoming DMA Nonprofit Federation 2015 Washington Nonprofit Conference we'll hear about new strategies, etc. And, while I know I'm not the first to come up with 2015 resolutions, here are what mine are for the industry:
- Better data
- Better insight
- Don't throw out the old — don't be afraid of the new
- Promote innovation — don't protect the traditional
- Master multichannel
- Understand the difference between multichannel and omnichannel
- Define the value of multichannel vs. multi-engagement
As you can imagine, several of these overlap — and that's because they are connected, as a part of the same movement. The movement, in my head, is one toward advanced marketing. Depending on the year, it seems that the nonprofit industry is heralded as being more innovative in some areas than the commercial industry and definitely behind in other areas.
I talk to nonprofits every day, and I ask tough questions and challenge them to think differently. In reality, my New Year's resolution list is based on the majority of those conversations. Here's how they break down:
- Better data: In my opinion, our industry has made great effort to focus on the quality of our data. What I wish for the industry is the ability to identify data that will help us be better marketers. That data may come from within our organizations and also from external sources. Trust me, the data is out there. But one of our issues is the acceptance of it and willingness to use it. (See other resolutions!)
- Better insight: It seems that the role of "data scientist" has been talked about constantly across business publications in 2014. In my opinion, the people in this role are the magic makers. These are the people who take vast amounts of data and turn it into true marketing insight. They don't count numbers — they tell us what the numbers mean and how we should use them. These are not just data analysts — don't be confused. What I wish for 2015 is that nonprofit marketers actually prioritize data science. I don't expect a bunch of new staff at NPOs with the title of data scientist, but I do hope that all the talented marketers and fundraisers out there would embrace this topic more seriously. I have heard some very smart and talented people say the darnedest (is that really a word?) things about why their programs shouldn't, can't, don't need to explore what data is available to make their strategies work harder and do more. See next resolution …
- Don't throw out the old — but please don't be afraid of the new: Oh boy, there are so many examples I could use to explain this. But let's just sum it up by admitting that every year we have larger goals and sometimes even less money to achieve those goals. Yet every year most organizations make minor changes to their strategies overall. I believe we have fallen into a place of constantly being afraid to take risks — yet without risk there is often no growth and no real change. I actually worry that (and I know I will get some hate mail about this) due to the long tenured marketers in our industry we may have grown too comfortable with "this is the way we always do it." I'm not saying that we abandon the way things have worked — and worked well for many years — but we must continue to look for changes that matter. This ties into the next resolution …
- Promote innovation — don't protect the traditional: Let's admit it, we may have gotten "traditional" confused with "the only way." Our industry has survived so much, and that is due to our appreciation of the traditional direct-marketing techniques that have treated us well for so long. But, the advancement in the industry has been slower than I think any of us would like. Just a couple of points to prove this: Many organizations (and their direct-marketing leaders) still believe that RFM is better than RFM + external data. We know that a coordinated communication plan that reflects all channels is a critical part of a satisfactory experience with our brands, yet multiple studies show that most organizations don't have a documented communication plan. We know that understanding the commitment of a donor by gaining her direct feedback is critical to understanding who is most likely to retain. Yet industry data shows that most organizations don't invest in surveying their donors about their experience and satisfaction. Heck, I don't even consider that "innovation." In 2015 we need to get out of our comfort zones. We cannot protect the old ways while also doing very little to advance our thinking.
- Master multichannel: The example above about the communication plan is the tip of the iceberg. Mastering multichannel means doing the best we possibly can with all the critical channels. Industry data in 2014 shows that 93 percent of all marketers (commercial and NPO) use social media for business. Yet, data suggests that 53 percent of nonprofits are not measuring their social-media efforts, and 67 percent have no social-media strategy, policies or goals documented. Come on, folks, having a strategy and measuring are basics to even single-channel marketing. We need to do better. We need to find the time to dedicate to getting some of these basics covered so we truly can start to master the channels available to us.
- Understand the difference between multichannel and omnichannel: You know, I actually love buzzwords. Some of my favorite former colleagues even created an Angie Buzzword Bingo when I was leaving the company. So, I'm not criticizing buzzwords. But what does bother me is when buzzwords are used incorrectly. It seems that lately everyone is talking about "omnichannel" — but what I believe most of them mean is "multichannel". Omnichannel marketing (OCM) is more advanced than multichannel marketing (MCM). MCM is making sure you have some level of consistency of offers and message — and, heck, even access across the major channels available. OCM can only happen once an organization has mastered MCM because it is about creating a cohesive experience as a constituent moves from one channel to another to complete transactions. OCM is big — really big. OCM is a priority of the commercial world because most companies have mastered MCM. Based on my prior resolutions, I think our industry has some real work to do on MCM first. So, let's not just pick up the latest buzzwords without actually understanding what this means to our organizations and what it will take to do it.
- Define the value of multichannel vs. multi-engagement: Recently I got into a great discussion with one of the execs of a nonprofit agency. The discussion was about value. The question and, in some instances, the theory was that a donor involved in two channels is not actually more valuable than someone involved in one channel. It really is about multiple engagements, not channels. I am so intrigued by the hypothesis from this conversation that you're going to see it in a blog very soon with, I hope, a lot of data to back up both positions. But, overall, I want us to understand this in 2015. My conversations were with really smart people, so when they say, "A donor with two engagements in one channel is the same as a donor with two engagements across two channels," it makes me curious. This is critical because we talk about the need to integrate across multiple channels a lot in our industry. Furthermore, the expense and revenue metrics associated with this type of integration is very important. For many, many years we have studied that communication through some channels actually raises the engagement in another channel. I've blogged about correct attribution of costs — meaning, if one channel is helping another channel, how do we reflect this in our budgets and ROI? This might be a bone for me in 2015, and this dog is not going to let it go until I figure it all out.
With all that said, I love our industry. Do we have problems? Heck, yeah, we do! But, so do other industries — just different ones. What do I really want in 2015 for us — the "us" made of up organizations, executives, marketers, fundraisers, agencies, etc.? I want all of us that make up the wonderful world of nonprofit success to have our eyes wide open. Let's face our gaps and challenges head on, and let's do something about them so we can be better at what we do — because what we do is really important in this world. Happy New Year!
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.