Attribution: Where Do You Stand?
The nonprofit industry is becoming more diversified and complex and as donor behaviors continue to evolve, it is imperative that direct-response fundraisers adopt new methods and/or solutions for quantifying the impact of their marketing investments.
The days are gone when fundraisers could measure a campaign’s effectiveness or performance in a single media/channel view (e.g. response rates, revenue, cost-per-donor, cost to raise a dollar, etc.) The influence of digital as a viable fundraising medium and as an alternative response channel for donors is quickly making single-channel measurement obsolete. Failure to evolve campaign or investment measurement practices could compromise an organization’s ability to make informed business decisions.
The challenge facing most nonprofits has been the lack of tools and processes to accurately attribute the ROI. To be sure, attribution is as complicated as it is expensive to execute, and it can be very intimidating for even the most seasoned fundraising professional. But with today’s analytic and technology advancements, we now have visibility into how each fundraising dollar is driving incremental impact.
Attribution is a common buzzword in our industry and for good reason. It’s essential in today’s environment, and those who are quick to question its credibility need to stop and think twice. Not only is it here to stay, but it will become increasingly necessary in every decision that involves a financial investment. For nonprofits and/or fundraisers that aren’t yet on board, you better jump on as this train is about to leave the station.
The complexities of attribution can be paralyzing and if you are like most people, getting started is half the battle. A colleague of mine, Chris Pritcher, wrote recently “understanding today’s approach is an important self-reflection point to ensure you start from the right place.”
- Take an assessment. Evaluate where you are today. For example, are you doing single-channel or multichannel campaign measurement? Are you budgeting decisions program-based or media-based? Are you making real-time decisions at the individual level?
- Test and learn. Attribution can be intimidating, so take it one step at a time and don’t feel constant pressure to advance to the next step in process. You are well advised to adopt the “crawl, walk, run” approach. This will ensure a smooth transformation from measuring donations by the single channel to one that incorporates all donations received from the individual, regardless of channel used.
Attribution Beyond Direct Channels
If you receive a large sum of revenue from donors who seemingly come out of nowhere or if you utilize other types of mass media (such as TV, print or digital advertising), then consider some type of media-mix attribution. A power analytic tool factors in all media spend and all channels of response when determining the overall cost-per-dollar raised for the campaign.
Advanced analytics will continue to open doors of opportunity for nonprofit organizations, and it’s up to each of us to overcome our individual insecurities that often impede progress. It’s OK not to have all the answers if we have access to tools that help us answer them. Admittedly, attribution can be intimidating; but the fact is, the technology is capable of seeing things that humans can’t. Through technology, we can build new fundraising strategies that will lead nonprofits to manufacture new and/or incremental revenue streams into a stalled industry.
For nonprofit organizations, advanced attribution opens the door to more efficient fundraising investment and gives fundraisers the ability to raise more money to invest in the mission. One thing is for certain: The fundraising industry is going to become increasingly complex. As fundraisers, we have no choice, but to embrace any and every advantage we can gain from the rich data assets at our disposal.
Greg Fox is vice president of nonprofit vertical strategy at Merkle. He joined the company in 2000 to establish a data-driven, strategic fundraising agency group. Fox is a 30-year veteran of direct response fundraising, with expertise in developing innovative fundraising marketing strategies and solutions. He has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for many of the largest and most respected fundraising brands in America, and while he has broad-based fundraising experience, he is highly regarded as a leader in the national health-charity sector. Prior to joining Merkle, Fox was a founding partner in TheraCom, a leading provider of full-service specialty pharmacy solutions and marketing strategies that served the healthcare and charitable industries. He also served as vice president of direct response fundraising at the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where he started his career and created the organization’s first national direct response program. Fox is an industry thought-leader, frequent speaker at industry conferences and an active participant in the DMA nonprofit federation. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.