Surround Sound Fundraising
The growth of the Internet and the expansion of digital communications give nonprofits new ways to reach their donors and supporters. While the old techniques — direct mail and telemarketing — still work and generate responses, they alone are no longer the "gold standard" in fundraising. Savvy nonprofits are moving to "surround sound" fundraising.
What is surround sound fundraising? It is a donor-centric communication schema that places the organization's supporter at the center of the fundraising campaign and incorporates his or her unique perspective. It is a multitouch, multiphase effort that employs multimedia techniques on multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, newspapers, computers, radio, mailbox, television advertising and more). Surround sound fundraising recognizes that there is no such thing as a single-channel donor because there is no such thing as a single-channel person. Supporters receive messaging via a variety of media every day, and among these many touchpoints donors have preferred channels of communication.
Consider this startling projection: By 2015 (just a few months away!) Americans will consume an average of 15.5 hours of media per day. The majority (90 percent) of these interactions will be screen-based, most often involving the closest device. This statistic underscores the importance of digital to fundraising efforts and provides a key insight: Marketing campaigns must take into account donor preference. Donors, like all of us, are creatures of convenience. Interactions must be as easy as possible.
In developing surround sound campaigns, there are four Ws to keep in mind: who, what, where and when. The who component recognizes that nonprofits generally have four campaign audiences: prospects, renewals, reinstates and appeals, which can incorporate all of the preceding three donor categories. What and where go hand in hand. Nonprofits should utilize direct mail, email, their websites — especially the homepage, SMS, display or banner ads, search, social media including custom targeting tools like Facebook advertising, and live telemarketing and prerecorded "auto-calls." Last, but not least, is when. Timing is important, especially with surround sound campaigns. It is critical to pinpoint the in-home date of direct-mail packages and then coordinate pre- and post-in-home touches with email, ads, telephone calls and so forth.
The channel combination selected often depends on the nonprofit's budget, bandwidth and preferences. Regardless of the media employed, the messaging across every channel must be coordinated and cohesive. Remember, nonprofits must surround their donors to keep their messages top of mind. Traditional advertising reminds us that it can take seven to 12 touches before a message becomes memorable to potential customers or donors. And if you are not messaging them, I guarantee another nonprofit is.
When launching a surround sound campaign, there are some best practices worth adopting:
- Testing is vital. Even something as simple as a subject line in an email or a teaser on the outer envelope can make or break a campaign. Always test, test, test.
- Take advantage of tools like the U.S. Postal Service's Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB). Beyond keeping you apprised of where direct-mail packages are in the mailstream, IMB scans enable more precise triggering of other marketing touches, such as emails and phone calls.
- When doing an email companion to a direct-mail campaign, always launch at least three emails in a series. If it was worth the time and effort to develop the copy and creative for the first email, it most definitely is worth the time to reversion it. Here's an easy way to think about a three-email campaign; it's sort of like public speaking: First you tell donors about the appeal. Then, you tell them that you told them about it, and finally remind them that it is their last chance to be a part of this critical fundraising effort. The timing between emails depends on organizational preference and your list's responsiveness. Test it!
- If you are running advertising campaigns, a best practice is to launch the ads 30 days pre-in-home and 60 days post-in-home in concert with your direct-mail campaign. If the campaign doesn't include direct mail, you can tighten up that window, but 30 days is a good baseline to ensure your audience has had the opportunity to see the ads and let the message sink in. Auto-calls also can comprise an important component of your pre- and post-campaign strategies. Personalized scripts should be used in related telemarketing efforts, as donors like to have their past giving recognized.
- Tracking is critical in surround sound campaigns. It is vital to source code all outbound content. If you don't have a source code logic in place for your fundraising, you can use something very simple like the free URL builder from Google for your digital components. This tool allows you to insert URL parameters in plain English to record things like campaign name/type, date, contact medium, wave or effort number, etc. Ultimately, the goal is to build a source code logic that spans all channels, allowing you to track channel, media, campaign creative and date. It provides a 360-degree view of the gifts coming into the organization and supporters' engagement with each element of the multichannel campaign. Remember that in spite of your best efforts, there will always be "white mail," that is, inbound dollars that have no source code attached. That's OK, but the goal is to get that number to be as small as possible. Know that donors will connect in the way they are most comfortable, regardless of how you initiated the contact.
Multichannel maximizes both the messaging and the impact of fundraising campaigns. Every channel has pluses and minuses. Building a good surround sound campaign does not mean you have to use every channel. It simply means you have to select the best channels for the audience, the campaign and the organization. When you move to multichannel marketing, you will find that regardless of the channels selected, surround sound campaigns will boost not just average campaign income but also average gift per individual.