Even though I almost exclusively donate online, many nonprofits I support regularly send direct mail, most which I quickly dispose of after a quick scan. However, this recent message caught my attention: “If you could make just one gift…,we promise that we will never ask you for another donation again.” On the response form, there is clearly a checkbox: ‘Please do not ask me for another donation.”
This is an interesting alternative to the ‘unsubscribe from all’ option that normally appears on the bottom of email newsletters. Make just one donation, and you’ll never hear from us again. While this has some attraction, I can’t imagine why any nonprofit would want to encourage its constituents to request no further communications. In fact, this is just the opposite strategy of developing long term relationships with our supporters.
While I support this organization’s mission, I haven’t previously donated but signed up for their email list. Whether or not I donate eventually, this strategy seems backward. For an example of what I think works better, see this page from ThePort which encourages supporters to ‘connect with us in the ways that fit you best.’ Rather than discouraging further contact, it encourages constituents to choose their preferred channel(s). So I can choose to get online communications only and not the lengthy direct mail pieces which worked better with my parents/grandparents.
Thanks to Katya and Jocelyn Harmon for this week’s session on how to thank donors. It’s amazing to me that some nonprofits still don’t always acknowledge gifts, other than a generic auto reply (and sometimes not even that). And don’t only communicate with your constituents when you’re asking for money – this is a year-round dialogue.
The benefits of multichannel fundraising and marketing was a major theme at multiple sessions. While I expected my colleagues at the online fundraising presentation to present these ideas, I was pleasantly surprised to hear this mentioned prominently during the direct mail session. When I asked why so many organizations still insist on using different staff / departments to handle different channels, it’s because direct mail has long been a dependable income stream. But now it’s definitely best to not plan and report results from direct mail and email appeals separately
How to introduce multichannel approaches in your organization? Get an internal ‘champion’ or work together with a consultant / vendor that your nonprofit already trusts
How often do you email consituents – when you have relevant content that will be of interest
Make email appeals part of a planned campaign, not as a series of unrelated messages.
Use an integrated calendar to plan all constituent communications in advance, not just email.
Easiest way to secure ticket sales for a special event – include an honoree
How much will special event attendees participate in other organization activities? It depends on how much to cultivate them afterwards and get to know what will most attract them to participate.
Raising money is only one goal of a special event. Other considerations are meeting constituents, finding board members, generating publicity. Are you willing to break even on an event to achieve other objectives?
Segment your list! Communicate with prospects and past donors differently.
Looking for ways to supplement your ‘traditional’ events? Are constituents already engaged in activity with group of devotees who might be willing to make a donation as part of that activity?
I also met Tom & Candy Zackey from Amazing Grace Africa, who described at lunch how they have 17 children, many which they’ve adopted from Liberia, a country in Africa that has been ravaged by civil war for many years. View more details about their work.
listening- monitoring conversations, using RSS readers and social bookmarking
participating- commenting on conversations
sharing your story- using blogs / podcasts and sharing photos / videos
spreading awareness, generating buzz- accessing ‘crowd sourced’ news and content, using micro media to broadcast content to targeted communities, and using a ‘life stream’
social networking for action and fundraising- using social networks and fundraising widgets / applications.
My take: when even the value of email communications is being questioned, it’s time to sit up and pay attention to the many new ways a nonprofit can develop ongoing relationships with its constituents.
Does online fundraising offer a huge opportunity for most nonprofits? Yes. Does this mean that the more traditional direct mail methods should no longer be used? No! Many other bloggers recently discussed this issue:
I agree with Seth’s point that online fundraising clearly is not meant to replace direct mail fundraising. Some people may always respond best to direct mail, while others enjoy doing everything online. The real challenge, as Seth points out, is to convert the donor to an active supporter of an organization’s cause, or who encourages others to get involved. Whether a donor gives offline or online, getting someone to get and stay engaged has the biggest benefit for our organizations.
Online approaches are particularly effective for emergency / current events related campaigns
Online giving is expected to continue to rise
Online fundraising is considerably less expensive than offline efforts
But anotherarticle by Abny Santicolapoints out that the most effective strategy is a multi-channel approach, not using just one or the other: “Numerous studies have found donors contacted via multiple channels are more valuable and give larger gifts than single-channel donors do. But analytics and match-back for integrated campaigns can be tricky because it can be hard to demonstrate how communication through one channel affected response via another.”
As I’ve posted previously, I definitely agree that using both channels together is definitely the best solution. The challenge, however, is to get different parts of an organization working together that are accustomed to working separately. This will only happen if those who are responsible for online strategies also recognize the benefits of integrating offline campaigns which clearly still have much to offer in raising funds and engaging constituents.