How to Completely Change Nonprofit Fundraising, Marketing – Part 2
In part one of this article, we looked at how nonprofit marketing, fundraising and sales are synonymous. Sadly, they too often have been siloed—resulting in inconsistent messaging, confused donors and money left on the table.
Let’s get practical.
It’s been crystal clear since the explosion of media and messaging post digital revolution that if you still are thinking outbound marketing, you’re a dinosaur. Does this sound like you?
- What’s going on in the organization that we can push to our mailing list?
- What do we have to tell them?
- What can they do for us? (e.g., buy a ticket, attend a rally, make a gift, retweet a video)
Those things aren’t bad, but they’re not likely to get you a long-term supporter relationship. They’ll get you what drives most nonprofit marketers—a one-time transaction. If you, as a development professional, want transformational, long-term relationships with your supporters you must think inbound.
Even if you’re not ready to step in and do battle with marketing, you can do something that will make a huge difference. You can tweak your own model.
It’s time for some donor service innovation
You know the importance of being donor-centered. You’ve read Penelope Burk by now (I hope). (And, by the way, there’s plenty of literature on customer service innovation you can share with your marketing folks when you’re ready to get holistic about your “customer” experience, eliminate silos in your organization, and integrate marketing and development).
The point is this: It’s all about the consumer perspective.
What's in it for me? That’s what folks ask before they’ll engage with you in any way (and that includes taking a phone call or accepting a visit). Folks are super busy. If you’re like most development staffers, my guess is you’re having a really hard time getting folks to agree to meet with you. Or even return your calls. So what can you do to tweak the system that’s no longer working so well?
Embrace social media. It’s huge. It’s the No. 1 way people find out about brands these days. (Yes, you’re a brand.) Usage is growing by leaps and bounds—and the users are not who you might assume. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 80 percent of American adults have cellphones and 37 percent go online on their phones. Two-thirds of online adults are now Facebook users. Baby Boomers and Millennials track very closely in their uses of email and search engines. And, surprisingly, they’re not very far apart in their uses of the Internet for e-commerce either.
The effect of social media on nonprofit Web design has been radical. Did you know that the average person worldwide has five social media accounts and spends an average of one hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day? If you’re not using social media actively to drive positive actions, you’re missing a huge boat. Margaret Battistelli Gardner, former editor of Fundraising Success (now NonProfit PRO), wrote in “Time to Change the Way You Communicate With Donors: From Multichannel to Omnichannel Communications”:
And in the current marketplace, you need many huge boats! But you’ve got to coordinate them so that your messaging and branding remain consistent. Folks should be able to tell that all these boats belong to you.
If you can provide value to prospects who use social media (the lion’s share), and make it snappy, they’ll be all over you like a cheap suit (Yes, even those major donors who tend to wear expensive suits!) Give folks what they want, and you’ll be amazed at the results. And these days a lot of folks—across age and income ranges—want quick, real-time connections via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Plus, and even Pinterest, Instagram and sometimes Snapchat. You’ve got to meet folks where they are.
Your online social strategy may be your very best way to communicate in today’s marketplace.
I recently read an old-school article about fundraising basics that offered a hierarchy of ways to connect with major donors. Visit. Phone. Mail. Email. In practice these days, it’s not always so. Many busy business folks would much rather communicate via email than snail mail or even phone. Texting is even more personal. So don’t be rigid. Try to figure out each donor’s favored way of communication. If you can’t do this for everyone, at least do it with major-donor prospects. Insisting on a visit you’re never going to get—and then back-burnering that prospect for next year—is not a productive strategy.
Some Actionable Tips: 3 Ways to Eliminate Siloes and Move Forward With Integrated, Constituent-Centered, Omnichannel Communications
1. Create a culture of philanthropy
Sustainable fundraising takes a village. Stop being territorial. Give credit where it is due. Donors don’t give because of development staff. They give because the program staff members are doing their jobs effectively and creating the positive outcomes the donors seek.
Let your program staffers know how much they matter. Then make it clear that fundraising helps everyone, not just development staff. To assure sustainable fundraising you’ve got to work in concert as partners in fostering the philanthropy that will sustain your mission. You’re all after the same goal. The more this message comes from the top, the better.
To be truly effective with marketing, fundraising and sales today means putting constituent communications on everyone’s plate, then hiring a manager to coordinate your efforts. Remember that everyone is in sales now, and everyone is in communications and fundraising. Have periodic trainings for all staff so they can learn the basics of customer service, engage with your values and messaging, and understand best practices regarding how to engage folks online.
2. Take your supporters on a personalized philanthropy journey
Different strokes for different folks. Your audiences travel a path from awareness to interest to engagement to investment. The other way to think about this is as a donor-engagement journey. If you try to get folks barely aware of you to invest, you’ll have little success.
So pay attention to where people are along the continuum, then tailor your connections with them. For Facebook fans, ask if they’ll share your e-appeal. For traffic driven to your site by Pinterest or Instagram, ask if they’ll post to your Pinterest board. For major donors, ask if you can let others know they support you.
Also pay attention to particular areas of interest. You’ll get more engagement from cat lovers if you share cat content rather than dog content. Speak to donors where they’re most comfortable; modify calls to action to maximize engagement and impact. Continue to come up with asks throughout the year—not just for money, but for energy, influence and impact.
3. Make donors a central part of your mission
Donors’ happiness is your happiness. When they find meaning, your meaning is affirmed. You exist because they exist. Your values are their values.
Before you do anything, including starting or terminating a program, ask yourself what your donors might think. Everything you do and say all boils down to feelings and values that are passionately held. The values your organization enacts must match the values your donor holds.
A Final Word: Integrated marketing and fundraising comes down to philanthropy facilitation and persuasion. When you persuade someone who passionately shares the values your organization enacts to join with you in enacting those values, you’re persuading them to do something they already are inclined to do. That’s about as constituent-centered as you can get!
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.