Donor Journey Disrupters—Facebook, Amazon, Google and More
At a time when many are warning of a shrinking donor universe, many fundraisers are focused on the importance of an effective donor journey. At the heart of building more successful long-term relationships with supporters is the marketer’s ability to make decisions about key considerations, such as what content to serve, what to ask of each constituent, when they should receive it and in which channels.
The ability to then layer on personalization and customization and to manage a responsive strategy that adapts to individual supporter behavior, completes the delivery of successful people-based marketing. It can ensure that every donor feels recognized, valued and respected.
Key to these people-based donor journeys is data—lots of it. Capturing every constituent interaction and action over multiple disparate channels and platforms, and consolidating this data to have a full view of constituents’ behavior, forms the backbone of effective and impactful donor journeys.
As many of us know from hard-earned experience, identifying and building the infrastructure required to accomplish this vision is a significant and time-consuming effort. With constituents interacting via direct mail, telephone, face-to-face and the ever-expanding digital paths of websites, email and social networks—to name a few—there is a lot to integrate. But in this era of innovation, as quickly as we progress, so does the marketplace.
One significant development has been the increased efforts and a significant leap forward in fundraising by third-party platforms. The most obvious and impactful example would be Facebook with its Facebook Fundraisers and other Fundraising Tools. But there are numerous others, too, such as Google for Nonprofits, AmazonSmile and even Round Up & Donate from Lyft, to name a few.
Any of us who use Facebook regularly are now very familiar with the spectacular success of the RAICES Facebook Fundraiser to support legal efforts to reunite immigrant children with their parents. With over $20 million raised from more than 530,000 donors, it’s possibly the Ice Bucket Challenge equivalent for 2018. Yet, it’s far from the only success of its type.
Many organizations with significant Facebook audiences and strong brand awareness have also seen impressive growth in supporters dedicating their birthdays and other lifetime milestone events to raise funds for their chosen cause. Groups like St Jude Children Research Hospital and the American Cancer Society have thousands of supporters bringing in tens of thousands of gifts and millions in revenue from Facebook alone.
Here’s the challenge though: While Facebook has done an amazing job promoting its giving options and have generously waived all donation processing fees, they present a significant wildcard in the donor journey, due to the limited amount of donor data available from their platform. In most cases, all that is available is a donor’s first and last name, with just handful agreeing to share their email address as well.
In the context of donor journeys, this means an organization could be engaging an existing donor with an omni-channel renewal campaign, days after they have raised hundreds through their Facebook Fundraiser, including a generous personal donation of their own. A scenario that’s sure to create donor friction and fatigue and possibly undermine, for those donors, much of the effort and investment in creating their ultimate donor journey.
So, what’s a nonprofit to do?
1. Stop resisting the future.
It’s a great bet that third-party fundraising opportunities will continue to grow and experience even more success in the coming years. Ignoring or even resisting them will have minimal impact on their expansion. At a minimum, be sure that your organization is registered, configured, and receiving the donation revenue and whatever limited data each platform is willing to share with you.
2. Take what you can get.
First and last name is insufficient to create a record in some databases. However, with data warehousing and increasing improvements in donor identity reconciliation, you may still be able to link donor data at some level. Outside of that, keeping a record of your organization’s performance is still valuable to monitor success and to project future revenue. Download all reports and available data on a regular basis.
3. Enhance the journey.
In the case of Facebook, organizations are still able to communicate with supporters fundraising on their behalf and even their peers donating to them. Create a process to reach out through Facebook Messenger to encourage and thank successful fundraisers and generous donors. Consider supporting Facebook’s own promotion of their fundraisers by running paid Facebook ads targeting your followers with upcoming birthdays to encourage them to dedicate their celebration to support your cause.
For Amazon, consider when it might make sense to promote AmazonSmile directly to your existing donors, like shortly before Prime Day and in the lead-up to Christmas.
4. Check your numbers.
While donor numbers through third-party fundraisers are still relatively small in the overall fundraising picture, they are growing fast. When so much data indicates declining numbers of donors, there could be some offset here. Whether donors are giving directly to an organization or through a third party, they are still donors. In time, we may need to rethink our reporting to fully capture the donor universe.
5. Stand up for yourself.
While often it may seem that third-party fundraisers have all the control, it does not mean you have none. As professionals in our field, if we don’t speak up for what’s best for our organization’s cause and our supporters, no one else will. Contact Facebook for Social Good and tell them why donor data is critical to continued engagement; reach out to Google for Nonprofits and let them know you want to build a better partnership to create a better world.
While there is no simple or quick fix to accommodate the challenge of expanding fundraising options and the need to focus on donor journeys, there is great opportunity for organizations to improve their game in both. Ignoring them could cost your cause dearly.