Are You Ready for People-Based Fundraising?
Three in every four dollars are donated by individuals, according to Giving USA 2015: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014. Given this statistic, it’s imperative that, as fundraisers, we master the principles of people-based marketing. The principles are based on the evolution of a single idea: By understanding the unique characteristics of a donor, we can build highly customized experiences that will drive increased giving, improved retention and enhanced donor satisfaction.
For the past decade, fundraisers have been practicing first-generation, people-based marketing. We’ve evolved from an industry ruled by blue sky creative attitudes to one in which we embrace the power of predictive analytics. That evolution has driven one-to-one interactions with our most responsive and valued contributors and prospects. I wouldn’t say that it’s something at which the industry at-large has excelled, but there is evidence to suggest that some organizations have been attempting to incorporate people-based marketing into their fundraising strategies.
What’s old is new again, in that, the next generation of people-based marketing builds on the early principles introduced in the first generation. As fundraisers, we can now tap into the power of constituent data across online and offline media, and through the utilization of more powerful analytics and insights, we can create more meaningful experiences across online and offline channels. The ability to use person-level, first-party data, connected directly into platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google enables organizations to more effectively reach a target audience and boost contributions, while cutting down on fundraising costs.
The next generation of people-based fundraising is shifting the focus from devices to the individuals using those devices, which offers the promise of highly targeted and relevant ad content—one that the marketing world has never experienced. By improving the overall donor experience, people-based marketing creates enormous potential to boost conversion, improve ROI, increase lifetime value and ultimately drive competitive advantage. Without a deliberate, highly structured approach, it can be extremely difficult to implement.
The real challenge for a people-based marketing strategy is translating raw data into an asset that can be used and monetized. You must develop the supporting platform that will enable the donor experience. Every inbound interaction is a huge opportunity to drive the conversation with the constituent. It represents a captive audience, if only for a moment. You must make the most of that interaction by preparing for it.
Often, the most overlooked aspect is the actual creation of the individual experiences. It seems that in our effort to get the data, analytics, technology and workflows right, we can lose sight of what we need to do once we know the who, when, where and how. Little time has been spent on developing the what—what is said and what is seen. The creative is either an afterthought or an overwhelming hurdle, and instead of overcoming it, many marketers still go around it.
I believe that within the next decade, nearly all marketing spend decisions and executions will transpire at the individual level, and that an organization’s value proposition will be predicated soundly on the power of data. The competitive differentiation among organizations will be based on access to, and the command of the people-based marketing ecosystem and the power of the data that fuels it.
To unleash the power of people-based marketing, nonprofits must recognize the only way to influence decisions is by delivering an experience that deeply resonates with each constituent and prospect. This requires newfound expertise in audience, creative, and media planning. Person-level planning is no longer enough—you must take it to the individual level. Each message must be personalized, speaking to the needs, motivations, and expectations of an individual at each touchpoint throughout their decision journey. People-based marketers must become channel agnostic, adapting to the pathways of donors and prospects as they engage in the channels and devices that fit their own preferences and routines.
People-based marketing is no longer an aspiration—and it’s certainly not a fad. It is and always has been the surest way to establish meaningful, lasting and profitable relationships with constituents. And while the path may still be a bit murky for many, we now have the ability to bring the power of first-, second- and third-party data together across media, channels, and devices to adapt to a new generation of fundraising that is capable of producing greater outcomes for progressive nonprofits. People-based fundraising is here to stay. You better get ready!
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.