Fundraising Imperatives: Mastering the Constituent Experience
Most nonprofit executives understand that digital is still an emerging field within the sector, but they also know it is bringing newfound opportunities to their organizations. However, these are accompanied by very specific and meaningful threats to the charitable sector at large—perhaps the greatest lies in organizations’ inability to nimbly respond to changes in consumer trends and demands.
It’s all changing at an exponential rate. The overall fundraising landscape is evolving, including the demographics, attitudes and behaviors of the giving consumer and the way in which consumers want to engage. Consumers now expect and are demanding that, like the commercial sector, nonprofits meet them where they are and deliver a consistent experience across the entire organizational enterprise.
There is a strong correlation between the pace of change in the sector and the evolving role digital plays in the nonprofit sector. Digital media has created a layer of complexity that most nonprofits are ill-equipped to manage, which not only limits its potential use, but also creates a much wider gap between consumer expectations and an organization’s ability to meet those demands.
These changes are forcing nonprofit leaders to find ways to quickly integrate digital into their overall constituent strategy; the successful ones understand that this requires the dismantling of long-standing barriers and organizational silos that prevent the development of a fully integrated and constituent-based approach to fundraising. They recognize the need to create and execute a seamless path for the consumer, regardless of the consumer’s initial point of entry or engagement. The foundational objective of this approach is providing a more relevant and personalized experience for the constituent that is closely aligned with their affinity to the organization.
The collection, utilization and analysis of more dynamic data makes it much easier to align an organization’s digital strategy with more traditional marketing, communications and fundraising strategies. In fact, it’s through digital addressability and advanced technology that fundraisers now have a sharper view of their prospect or constituent (i.e., customer), including data on the affinity to the cause or organization, and specific areas of interests and/or preferences. The ability to capture and utilize identifiable engagements and interactions across diverse media and devices equips fundraisers with a single and more holistic view of the constituent, enabling them to create more personalized experiences that can be integrated throughout every phase of the constituent’s journey with the organization—from awareness (top funnel) to conversion (bottom funnel).
The development and delivery of a personalized and optimized experience, aided through unknown and unattributed customer insights and behavioral patterns, takes place in the mid-funnel. Personalization involves planning for optimal customer experiences that begin with context (who they are and where they are in their journey), content (the message that you really want to deliver), and the relationship between these two—namely, connectivity. It’s here in the mid-funnel where we are able to create a single, more holistic view of the constituent through his or her engagement with the brand, whether it is participation in a special event, volunteerism, sponsorship, advocacy, survey responses, call center interactions, general contribution, a tribute gift, web or website activity, social media, and/or participation in a clinical trial, etc. With this new insight, the constituent’s profile, relationship, preferences, attitudes, behaviors, etc. are now suddenly at the center of every interaction, informing, driving and enabling relevant targeted experiences across a multitude of media and devices.
The mid-funnel affords nonprofits the ability to simultaneously focus on individual-level performance while ensuring the most rewarding constituent experience possible. To maximize both, organizations need a person (a chief customer officer, for example) who understands how to drive quantitative, ROI-based outcomes through qualitative, creative, big ideas, and who has total command and ownership of the competencies to support the development of integrated, data-driven mid-funnel experiences that are enabled by the appropriate context, content and connectivity.
Before nonprofits can deliver a seamless, personalized experience, they must first re-engineer their marketing supply chain to plan, create and deliver one, and to do so requires nonprofits to overcome the financial and capacity constraints and structural challenges that continue to plague the sector. It also demands a financial commitment to the development and deployment of a mid-funnel technology solution, which is an inherent and fundamental component to an effective integrated fundraising and constituent engagement strategy.
Nonprofits consistently rank engaging communities, retaining current donors/constituents, acquiring new donors and general brand awareness among their most important organizational goals—this aligns perfectly with the objectives of the marketing funnel—from top to mid to bottom. By embracing the attributes of the mid-funnel specifically, and the behavioral analytics that stem from this platform, fundraisers have a much clearer understanding of their supporters, which in turn allows for the development of more relevant, customized and personalized experiences and relationships that will result in far greater dividends to the organization.
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.