Amid Virus Disruption, Direct Mail Has ‘Optichannel’ Advantages

As the majority of American adults hunker down at home, with all but essential businesses closed or working remotely because of the COVID-19 crisis, AccuList reminds marketers of the unique advantages of targeted direct mail, which takes promotions right into homes, has the highest response rate of any channel, and has the ability via print technology to connect with digital, too.

Direct Mail Can Rise Above the Current Digital Noise

Direct-response agency SeQuel Response notes that since the majority of American have responded to state lockdowns and virus fears by increasing their online shopping, many direct marketers have flooded the digital zone with new e-commerce sites, digital advertising, social media promotions, and e-mail. With online channels increasingly overcrowded, direct mail offers an alternative way to reach consumers in their homes and an opportunity to rise above the noise. The agency provides some good tips for direct mail in the time of COVID: 1) Ensure creative elements and messaging align with consumer sentiments and promote social responsibility and even national pride for positive brand awareness; 2) reconsider mail frequency and timing if warranted for a particular product/service, but make sure not to lose touch with the audience; 3) solidify existing customer relations, with increased focus on retention and brand awareness to help survive on the other side of the crisis; 4) integrate direct mail with digital marketing, a proven way to boost campaign performance and reduce CPA, including print technology, such as QR, AR and VR; and, finally 5) plan for the post-crisis world, recognizing that a campaign takes six weeks from list development to creative production to mail drop, and make sure messaging and brand positioning can evolve post-crisis.

Leverage Mail Strengths With Modeling, Digital Alignment

Given the coronavirus disruption of buying processes, “optichannel” campaigning, meaning supporting a prospect’s or customer’s shopping and buying process using the channel that is best for them, becomes essential for ROI. Direct mail adds special advantages to an optichannel mix, especially when combined with modeling and digital integration, argues a recent Target Marketing magazine article. Among the article’s examples is Galileo Learning, which operates 75 children’s summer camps across parts of California and Illinois. The company used tight response-lift customer modeling to identify higher-response prospects on external lists and then used the resulting savings to create even better creative. As a result, response surpassed expectations by bringing in 155 new campers and $66,000 in new revenue. Another Target Marketing case study is especially relevant for nonprofit fundraisers trying to help the most vulnerable in the current COVID-19 crisis. It comes from Meals on Wheels in the Diablo region of California, whose mailed holiday donor appeal garnered $230,000 in donations and 43% new donors. The charity attributes the 75,000-piece mail campaign’s success to, first, defining more-responsive list segments for existing donors, lapsed donors and prospects via demographics and customer-look-alike modeling, and, second, adding targeted digital advertising (e-mail, social and online display). The added digital effort not only delivered a 600% increase in campaign impressions over the mail-only control, the donors acquired by the “optichannel” campaign gave an average of 169% more than mail-only donors.

COVID-19 Crisis Alters Tactics for Fundraising Success

In a previous post, AccuList joined other experts to stress the importance of nonprofit clients staying the course on fundraising despite the coronavirus crisis altering the social and economic landscape. But fundraising tactics will need to alter to navigate that landscape, of course. Recent fundraising pro articles highlight some smart ways to approach existing and potential donors during the crisis.

Adapt by Expanding Digital Communications & Events

In a recent NonProfit PRO post, for example, C.J. Orr, vice president, and Katie Nichols, senior associate director, of the Orr Group fundraising agency, put together some quick tactic shifts for fundraisers, especially those that had been counting on events to tap donors. First of all, don’t panic and cancel events, they advise, but reschedule or repurpose. If an event can be postponed, a nonprofit may be able to transfer tickets/table buyers to the future event instead of giving or issuing a refund, and can add touchpoints with donors and prospects along the way. Or, the fundraiser can switch to a digital event, perhaps with livestreaming. Indeed, this is an opportunity to go digital in multiple targeted ways, they suggest, starting with more social media ads, paid search ads and SEO efforts aimed at the target audience. For example, now is a good time for a digital forum, such as a virtual “fireside-chat” with a subject matter expert discussing COVID-19 and its impact on the mission and incorporating a fundraising ask. Or the nonprofit can tap top-of-mind concerns and promote itself as a thought leader with an article on the COVID-19 impact posted on social media as well as e-mailed to donors and prospects. Plus, remember that over 80% use smart phones, so that mobile-optimized promotion is essential. And don’t forget old-school, nondigital communications, such as direct mail and phone calls. The authors suggest building out a phone-call list of top funders, with strategic talking points, for example.

Seize the Opportunity to Increase & Improve Social Media Efforts

Michael Wasserman, CEO of the stream fundraising platform Tiltify, used another NonProfit PRO post to stress how the current crisis should push fundraisers to boost use of social media as people naturally turn to social platforms to replace the lack of in-person interaction. The potential audience is huge: almost 80% of the population uses social media, with Facebook and YouTube having over 2 billion users per platform. Even newer sites like TikTok boast 500 million, Discord gets 250 million, and Twitch attracts 15 million daily visitors. Note that the Facebook Fundraisers tool has already raised over $2 billion, Wasserman points out, while even newcomer Twitch has raised over $115 million for various charities. So charities that still use elementary fundraising pages with a simple donate button, some text and an image are missing big opportunities to compete for attention in a space that the crisis is making even more crowded. He urges nonprofits to focus more on enticing content, such as video, which can leverage YouTube, the No. 2 search engine in the world with 2 billion registered users. Nonprofits should also consider using social livestreaming events for fundraising. An effort of a few hours can generate more than a campaign of months, he notes, citing the example of a group that raised in a week the amount it costs to run St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for a day, which is about $2.7 million. As an example of how to gin up donations, he imagines livestreaming a music celebrity connecting and interacting with fans online, perhaps asking people to donate in order to choose songs or get signed merchandise giveaways.

Social Distancing Doesn’t Stop Creative Outreach to Major Donors

What about the impact of “social distancing” on the traditionally face-to-face connections that engage major donors? Suzanne Hilser-Wiles, president of philanthropic consulting firm Grenzebach, Glier and Associates, offers some tips in a recent piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Start by showing you care and reach out quickly to ask how the donor is faring and discuss how the nonprofit is responding to the crisis. Enlist top executives to communicate with major donors about plans for moving forward, with consideration for the appropriate communication channel; for example, e-mail can quickly provide a direct but formal assurance, while social-media platforms offer a more human touch. Ad hoc “investor calls” may be appropriate for smaller groups of donors. For major donors and prospects, consider developing a specific message with a more in-depth perspective and request for their input. Highlight the nonprofit’s expertise and how gifts support efforts relevant to the COVID-19 crisis. A museum might share national media interviews with staff members, or an academic medical center might point to resources on the university’s coronavirus webpage, for example. And don’t abandon events; get creative with virtual format substitutes, such as a conference call or webinar to let donors stuck at home see a presentation about a gift opportunity. For example, instead of a brunch with a scholarship recipient, donors can have a phone or video call with the student, she points out.

 

Ticketing and Giving Trends Are Positives for Performing Arts

Heading into 2020, AccuList’s performing arts marketing clients can take advantage of positive trends in both fundraising and ticketing sales according to recent studies.

Performing Arts Giving Holds Steady 

While the Giving USA 2019 report released in June showed declines for many charitable giving sectors from 2016 to 2018, arts fundraising stood out by remaining relatively flat. Adjusted for inflation, giving to arts, culture, and humanities increased 11.1% between 2016 and 2017, declined 2.1% between 2017 and 2018 (though a 0.3% increase in current dollars) and ended up with a cumulative increase of 8.7% between 2016 and 2018, thanks to 2017 donations that reached the highest inflation-adjusted amount for the sector on record. Underneath the numbers are three important lessons for our performing arts clients, as fundraising counsel Alexander Haas points out in a recent post. First, a focus on high net-worth individuals via upper-level membership programs, project-related major gifts, and targeted marketing campaigns is likely to pay off, as proven by 2018’s 2.6% increase in gifts of $1,000 or more, and the fact that, of the 90% of high-net worth households giving, a quarter focused on arts donations. Second, targeted campaigns and quality donor lists are essential as fewer individuals give and a greater percentage of philanthropic revenue comes through larger gifts. Finally, online giving can be a boon to performing arts; for example, the Blackbaud Institute’s 2018 Charitable Giving Report showed that online gifts represented 9.5% of overall giving to arts organizations in 2018, and the 5.8% growth in online giving to the arts outpaced other nonprofit sectors by four times. Making online giving a convenient option for donors and members is one way to offset the decline in smaller gifts.

Marketing Innovations Help Ticketing Upward Trend

An October Reportlinker market research report forecasts a 5% compound annual growth in ticket sales from sporting events, movies, concerts, and performing arts events in the 2020-2024 period. While sporting events and concerts popularity is a key driver of growth, the research also credits a number of innovative marketing strategies for pushing ticket revenue, such as flash sales, early-bird offers, access codes, public discounts and adoption of mobile applications to make tickets more readily available to consumers. The integration of analytics with online ticket platforms–to automate services, to enhance more efficient back-end operations, and to better track and monitor consumer preferences–is also seen by researchers as a positive for ticket sales growth. Meanwhile, the secondary ticket market, especially in sports, is projected to have an even higher 9% compound annual growth rate in the same period despite a rise in fraudulent activities and artist opposition. A positive on this front is the adoption of blockchain to keep track of buyers and sellers in the secondary ticket market, helping to prevent fraud by scalpers, bots and touts.

For more detail on performing arts giving trends see the Alexander Haas post.

 

Case Studies Show How Nonprofits Can Improve Donor Mail Results

As AccuList’s nonprofit fundraising clients enter their busiest direct mail season, the team thought it might be worthwhile to pass along three case studies from the CharityHowTo blog, showing some basic ways to pump direct mail performance.

The Case for Donor List Segmentation

Donor list segmentation is essential, and delivers dividends even for those starting from scratch. For example, the blog post cites the case of a new executive director at a human services organization that lacked results of historical appeals in terms of targeting and pieces sent. The executive director decided to develop a recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) segmentation and so exported the donor base and began to divide it into sections by last gift date, amount of donation (high to low) and most recent to older. In this case, the executive director broke out donors who had given a gift of $250 or more at some point; these “best” donors were going to receive the same appeal as the others, but the new executive director was also going to include a handwritten personal note with each letter and send the appeal by first-class mail. All other donors were broken out by recency, treating the 0-24 months donors as  “active” donors, and then further segmenting for those giving below $100 and those giving $100-$249.99. There was a separate segment of “lapsed” donors defined as donors who hadn’t given in the last 3 to 5 years, and even a deep lapsed segment who hadn’t given in 5 years or more. Then all segments, coded for results tracking, were mailed a personalized letter and personalized reply form. Even though just starting out, results improved in terms of total donations and efficiency, with an overall cost of just $0.04 for every dollar raised (compared with an industry average cost of $0.20 cited by the blog). Plus, the nonprofit now had proven segmentation results for use in further improvement of efficiency and targeted messaging.

The Case for Increased Mail Frequency

If you don’t ask, you won’t get, but nonprofits worried about costs and donor fatigue often err on the conservative side when deciding how frequently donors should be mailed. The blog cites the case of a homeless shelters executive director who was initially against mailing more than twice a year, even though they had some 65+ homeless people that they were supporting each day. Because they needed to raise more money, they finally tried adding two more appeals per year. Of course, the added appeals increased costs, but they also increased net revenue by 32%. The cost to raise a dollar with two appeals was $0.12, and with 4 appeals went up to $0.20, yet the overall net dollars after costs rose from $51,227 to $67,590.

The Case for Tapping Recent Donors

Research shows that donors who gave most recently are also most likely to give again. For doubters, try testing a segment of recent donors (0-3 months or 0-6 months). And of course, you will want to segment out those recent donors who give the largest amounts and offer special treatment, such as an appeal with a personal note of thanks for their gift and an indication that you’re just sending the latest appeal for their information only (even though of course you’re going to include a reply envelope). However, the case study of an environmental organization shows why hesitancy to mail a donor too soon is often misguided. The organization typically mails about 5 times a year; once someone reaches the $1,000 level, they go into a personal note stream. Results show that while the 7-month-to-one-year donors deliver the most net revenue and average gift, the next best performing segment is the recent 0-to-3-month donors in terms of net revenue and average gift!

 See the complete article for useful charts and details.

Brain Science, Industry Data Bolster Direct Mail Fundraising

As digital, mobile and social media expand their donor influence, some nonprofit marketers prepping for the all-important fourth-quarter may wonder about direct mail’s role as a fundraising workhorse. To underscore why it’s essential to keep direct mail in harness, AccuList can not only cite years of success as a direct mail list broker and data services provider to fundraising clients, but also the latest brain science and marketing industry data.

Science Shows Donor Brains Respond to Direct Mail

Marketing channels and technology may be changing rapidly, but the human brain hasn’t changed in size and basic construction for about 500,000+ years, and mail marketers have a brain advantage, notes a recent NonProfit PRO article by Christopher Foster, vice president of business development at Modern Postcard. Neuroscience has shown that direct mail taps two basic parts of the brain: the cerebral cortex and the amygdala-hippocampus pairing. The cerebral cortex
is where we process information, think about messaging and language, and weigh the pros and cons of decisions. Unlike the truncated messaging of digital, e-mail and social, direct mail can engage this part of the brain by describing benefits and citing the objective reasons that a nonprofit is the best choice for donor dollars. Plus, research consistently shows that people trust print/direct mail information more than digital channel info. Of course, recall and emotional engagement are key drivers, and the amygdala and hippocampus, combining long-term memory with emotional response, favor direct mail over digital, too. In fact, research shows that direct mail is 35% stronger than social media and 49% stronger than e-mail when it comes to long-term memory encoding, and 33% stronger than e-mail and social media in the engagement that drives memory encoding. Overall, direct mail’s motivation response is 20% higher than digital media, per Canada Post research.

Mail Spurs Donor Response and Retention in Omnichannel Efforts

While the volume of direct mail has decreased by about 2% each year since 2015, this has actually helped boost direct mail effectiveness by helping it stand out in the messaging blitz of the digital era. In fact, the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) 2018 direct mail response rates were 9% for a house list and 5% for a prospect list, way higher than any other channels (such as e-mail, social media and paid search at 1%). As a result, mail’s median ROI is also higher than most digital channels. Direct mail, of course, works even better integrated into an omnichannel campaign, where it actually spurs digital results; for example, studies show donors are three times more likely to give online in response to a direct mail appeal than to an e-appeal. Plus, direct mail drives donor retention; for example, 70% of donors have restarted a relationship because of direct mail, per DMA data. And direct mail is efficient at retention; the Association of Fundraising Professionals reports direct mail costs $0.25 for every $1 from recurring donors.

The Right Fundraising Tactics Capitalize on Mail’s Strengths

However, direct mail’s fundraising success is certainly not a given. A recent NonProfit PRO article by Jen Linck, chief marketing officer for Corporate Giving Connection, cites some important strategies, beginning with list segmentation and targeting to avoid wasting time and resources sending costly direct mail to bad leads. We would note here that, for effective segmentation, data quality is key, which requires prospect lists from reputable sources and good hygiene of house lists (note that 20% of addresses in donor databases are out-of-date, per research). Then get creative to capture attention and drive envelope opens via tactics such as dimensional mail and a large or unconventional sized envelope, urges Linck. And make sure the direct mail pieces add value to the audience’s lives by including a special offer or a promotional gift of branded materials for everyday use, such as a notepad. But remember that content needs to tap both logical persuasion and emotional connections in donor’s brains! Because 63% of donors want to know how their donation will be used, use specific donation amounts to tell donors how they help and quantify how previous amounts donated have been used, but also inject emotional examples into the dollar results. Finally, remember that direct mail works best when it is integrated into an omnichannel campaign, so be sure to incorporate digital technology by including QR codes, short links or text keywords for use across all channels. Plus, links should direct donors to a branded, campaign-specific landing page, since 38% more donations happen when landing pages are branded and campaign-specific, and 66% of those same donors are more likely to come back and donate again. For more tips on integrating direct mail with digital fundraising, see this MobileCause infographic.

Most Nonprofits Upbeat on 2019 Fundraising Growth

The most recent survey of nonprofits and donors by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC), a coalition of professional fundraising associations, finds that 60% of respondents expect to raise more money this year than they did in 2018! That’s encouraging news for AccuList’s many fundraising clients as they head into their key year-end giving campaigns.

Tax Law Impact Not As Averse As Expected

Many fundraisers feared the new tax law would undercut giving, but the survey found that only a 17% minority reported a negative impact from the tax changes, and only 16% of donors said they would change the amount or method of their gift this year because of changes to the tax law. It is true that certain continuing tax trends prove challenging for fundraisers, such as bundling or bunching, in which donors provide multiyear support but give a large donation for an itemized filing in just one tax year and then skip contributions in the following year or years. Since most nonprofits rely heavily on year-end gifts from loyal donors, the bunching is problematic. Still, only 30% of nonprofit respondents reported that some donors were bundling.

Feared Donation Drop Doesn’t Materialize

Based on various reports of reduced giving, many nonprofits were concerned about fundraising growth, yet the NRC online survey of individual donors in March of this year found 56% said they gave the same amount in 2018 as in 2017, 33% gave more, and only 11% gave less. As a result, 63% of fundraisers said their charities did raise more money in 2018 than the previous year. Overall, 73% said they met their 2018 fundraising goals. It’s no wonder most fundraisers (60%) are confident they will raise even more in 2019. Not all charities participated equally in 2018 growth, of course. Charities with budgets of $3 million to $49 million reported the most fundraising increases in 2018 over 2017 levels. And environmental and animal charities in particular were most likely to meet 2018 fundraising goals.

Multi-Channel, Multi-Contact Strategy Remains Key

Melissa Brown, author of the report and manager of the NRC, stresses that the upbeat forecast for fundraising needs to be undergirded by targeted, relevant, engaging direct mail and e-mail contacts. While most channels remained essentially flat in 2018 in terms of dollars raised compared with prior years, direct mail fundraising growth dipped slightly, with 41% of charity respondents saying they saw growth in fundraising through direct mail compared with 50% in 2017. Overall, the survey supports both the need for a multi-channel fundraising strategy and frequent contacts with donors. On average, after the first gift, organizations send about 3 more appeals by mail, an average of 4 appeals by e-mail, and invitations to events, including stewardship/recognition activities. However, both direct mail and digital communications are most effective when they go beyond dollar demands to provide meaningful connections with the mission and explanation of the impact of a gift, per the survey “One of the biggest reasons people stop giving is they feel like they’re becoming ATMs instead of being partners,” Brown warns. See the full survey 

Targeted E-mail Expands Museums’ Direct Marketing Options

While previous AccuList posts focused on direct mail strategies for our museum marketing clients, e-mail marketing is also an area where our expertise can help museums reach new members, event participants, or donors, as well as improve the performance of existing e-mail databases.

Study Museum E-mail Benchmarks and Success Stories

Evidence that e-mail can be a successful player in museums’ multi-channel campaigns comes from Constant Contact’s March 2019 e-mail statistics for house databases in the arts, culture and entertainment vertical (including museums and galleries), which show overall e-mail open rates averaging 17.54%, and click-through rates averaging 6.81% for the vertical. Those results are better than the all-industries averages of 16.74% open rate and 7.43% click-through rate, plus ahead of all but 13 of the 34 verticals tracked, and far ahead of some verticals, such as technology (e.g. web developers), automotive services, salons, retail and consulting. Marketers can also use e-mail to prospect for new members, donors and event participants. For example, marketers report success with event audience building via a series of e-mails that start with a promotion linked to ticket purchase, RSVP and/or social-sharing request, then follow up with reminders prior to the event, and finish with a post-event thanks e-mail that includes a request for an online review. Other successful e-mail series reward loyalty or re-engage dormant supporters by offering special perks (such as discounts). E-mail automation can make contact strategy even easier with programmed triggers, such as a re-engagement e-mail automatically sent six months after a last visit. For some creative inspiration, check out this nonprofit e-mail gallery and Pinterest grouping of museum e-mails.

Invest in Clean, Targeted E-mail Lists

Earning response to a house database or prospect list requires a few e-mail basics: 1) personalized, targeted messaging; 2) a brief subject line that inspires opens and engaging CAN SPAM-compliant creative content that inspires click-throughs; 3) mobile optimization of the e-mail with a clear call-to-action linked to a mobile-optimized digital landing page; and 4) an updated, clean opt-in e-mail list to avoid spam filters. As data experts, AccuList’s services especially focus on the last point. For responsive, targeted prospects, AccuList’s proprietary research has identified the top choices among opt-in e-mail rental lists (plus telemarketing and direct mail lists), including lists of museum members/donors, lists of museum mail-order buyers, and lists by type of museum and collection (download our free compilation of top list datacards). For clean, targeted house lists, AccuList points marketers toward database enhancement and hygiene, including identification of recent e-mail address changes through Electronic Change of Address (ECOA) lists, enhanced targeting by adding demographics from outside lists, and expanded e-mail reach by appending opt-in e-mails to postal records.

Pair Mobile-Optimized E-mail and Landing Pages

Every e-mail—regardless of target audience—needs a clear call-to-action linked to an online page that makes that action easy to accomplish. For fundraising e-mails, check out these best practices suggested by online fundraising software provider DonorBox: 1) include a prominent Donate Now button in the e-mail with a link to an online landing page, either one page for general donations or a page per specific project; 2) include suggested donation amounts on the landing page and tie those amounts to outcomes that show how they will improve the museum and visitors’ experiences; 3) optimize the e-mail and landing page for desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets; 4) include recurring giving options on the online page for higher donor retention; 5) if appropriate include a donation “thermometer” or other graphic of progress on the donation page to encourage more donations; 6) allow for multiple secure payment gateways, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal in addition to credit cards; 7) and, finally, make sure the donation form and its processes are as simple, clear and quick as possible.

Combine Social Media Engagement With E-mail Targeting

E-mail can be a natural complement to social media campaigns, which is why social media networks themselves use e-mail marketing for customer retention. Museums can pair social media’s ability to engage and build brand, community and web traffic with e-mail’s advantage in delivering highly targeted and personalized messages, enhancing the power of both channels. Social media apps and forms can be used to capture new e-mail opt-in subscribers, for example. With platforms like Facebook, house e-mail data can be matched with the huge social audience to deliver demographics- and interest-targeted ads and promoted posts to existing names and lookalikes. Social media also is good at soliciting user-generated content (reviews, images, videos and posts), which can be used (with permission) in e-mails to boost response. And both social media and e-mail targets can be matched with direct mail for multi-channel power. Check out AccuList’s social media user lists, Facebook match and target options, and Digital2Direct programs combining direct mail with Facebook or e-mail lists.


Tech & Data Trends Spur 2019 Fundraising Opportunities

Despite 2019’s many challenges for nonprofit marketers, including competing for attention with political fundraising noise, trends in data analytics and technology offer good news for AccuList’s fundraising clients.

Fundraising Can Leverage Digital Innovations

Consider trends highlighted in this spring’s Nonprofit Technology Conference in Oregon. For example, nonprofit tech pros reported success using Digital Wallets, such as Apple Pay, Paypal and Google Pay, to make donating easier for donors and to increase conversions. AI and chatbots are another boon cited by tech experts, not just because they free up staff from time-consuming interfaces but because they can be used to segment audiences and tailor communications to boost donor acquisition, value and retention. Meanwhile mobile text messaging and mobile giving not only continue to grow in use, but nonprofits are learning to leverage SMS to trigger response, scale donor relationships and engage and motivate communities more fully. Online giving continues its growth path, but there are now more online giving services and their offerings are expanding. For example, Give Lively has free online fundraising tools for text-to-give, peer-to-peer, events, and integration with social media platforms such as Facebook. Finally, virtual-assistant voice services have entered the fundraising arena; for example, Amazon’s Alexa now can help donors verbally contribute up to $10,000.

It All Comes Back to Targeted Data

But for tech innovations to be effective, quality data and data analytics are essential. For example, fundraising efforts can use data to identify and segment those groups of current or inactive donors more likely to increase their donation dollars or flag donors to tap as future legacy donors. And data analytics can combine with real-time marketing automation, triggered e-mail series and variable data printing of personalized direct mail for improved donor acquisition. While the task of data collection and analysis can seem overwhelming, nonprofits don’t need to vacuum up every bit of big data for better results. The key is to collect and track the information in the donor database, or to select the key response factors to target in prospect lists, which are most likely to lead to success. Beyond the basics of name, address/contact, gender, age and date and amount of last donation, data targeting can be enhanced with parameters indicating donor capacity (the ability to give) and donor affinity (the willingness to give). Indicators of donor capacity include personal income/wealth measures, real estate ownership, business title, stock ownership, etc., while donor affinity parameters include the RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) of the donor or prospect giving history, past relationship/interest in a specific cause or affiliated appeal, and political affiliation and giving. Check out this article on donor data from Candid’s Philantopic blog for data management tips.

Beware Assumptions About Donor Data

A good database policy also includes regular hygiene and updating as well as an ongoing check for knowledge/data gaps. Classy, the online fundraising software provider, suggests challenging assumptions of donor knowledge by making sure analytics can deliver on these questions:

  • When are donors most likely to donate?
  • What is the average donation amount?
  • What is the average donation amount?
  • Are there different types of donors?
  • What is the reason for donation?
  • How does the donor liked to be thanked?
  • What is the donor’s communication channel preference?
  • What value does the donor get from donating?

See the rest of Classy’s suggestions on using data for fundraising.

Arts Fundraising Study: Invest to Reap More

Any of AccuList’s performing arts marketing and museum and zoo marketing clients that fret over investing in fundraising efforts in 2019 should take a look at the recently released “DataArts Fundraising Report” from Southern Methodist University. Basically, the report concludes, arts and cultural organizations that make smart investments in fundraising reap more dollars, with individual donors a “vital source” of contributions.

Mixed ROI by Sector, Higher Individual Donor Dollars

Looking at fundraising by 2,421 organizations across 11 different arts and cultural sectors between 2014 and 2017, the study found good news for many marketers even though the overall ROI on every dollar spent on fundraising declined from $8.80 in 2014 to $8.56 in 2017. This reflected issues in select sectors. Seven sectors—including performing arts companies, orchestras and operas—actually saw an increase in return on fundraising over the period. The biggest ROI gain, adjusting for inflation, was a 28.8% bump for community-based organizations. But gaining sectors were offset by ROI declines for art museums, dance companies and theaters. Another encouraging sign was an increase in the average individual donor contribution over the four-year period. The report attributed some of the improved donor generosity to a shift toward investment in donor relationship building, with the average organization allocating 62.4% of fundraising expenses to staff in 2017, up from 54.4% in 2014, and thus allowing for more donor development.

Size and Location Make a Difference

For arts and cultural fundraising, size matters, but in an inverse fashion, the report found. Small- and medium-sized organizations increased the returns on their investments in fundraising over the four years, while larger organizations had steadily declining ROI. Individual donors are important for success, per the report, especially outside of the big metro areas where government support, foundations and corporate donors help foot expenses. But locations vary widely in terms of revenue successfully tapped. For example, New York organizations had the highest average number of corporate donors at 12 and also had the highest percentage of expenses covered by government support (9%). Compare that Big Apple haul to the lowest metro-area average of four corporate donors in Los Angeles and Chicago’s low of 2% expenses covered by government funds. On the other hand, Chicago reaped the most from foundations, with 7% of expenses picked up by foundation support, way ahead of New York organizations which, though they had more foundation grants than any other market, only saw those grants cover 3% of expenses.

For details, go to the SMU DataArts Fundraising Report.

Fundraising Challenges Include Gen Z, E-mail, AI

For AccuList USA’s nonprofit fundraising clients and fundraising consultants, 2019 will be another challenging year. Successful direct marketers will need to adapt to changes in demographics, technology and donor targeting, to name just a few trends recently cited by the Donorbox Nonprofit Blog.

Move Over Millennials; Here Comes Gen Z

Donorbox is sounding the alert ahead of the next demographic wave. While the Millennial generation is still the biggest cohort in the workforce, Gen Z is arriving. Born after 1996, they now make up an estimated 27% of the population and will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020. How are they different? The “2017 Global Trends in Giving Report” found that Gen Z members are interested in giving to many different causes, especially those involving youth, animals and human services. But to win the attention of these digital natives, messaging must be concise and engaging, offering an immediate experience that cuts through the marketing noise they routinely filter out. Gen Z is also the first mobile-only generation, so website, e-mail and donation forms must all be optimized for mobile. Plus, Gen Z likes visual-based platforms, so fundraising creative should use photos, videos and infographics to tell stories that grab attention.

Donors Expect Hyperpersonalized, Targeted Messaging

Accustomed to sophisticated digital technology that tailors messaging a la Amazon and Netflix, today’s donors expect a personalized, targeted approach that takes into account demographics, giving history and even psychographics. A generic appeal will fall flat. That means segmenting donor and prospect lists and using variable data printing to specialize messaging to account for generational differences and other demographics. It means tailoring the “ask” to the prospective donor’s income and giving history. It means refining giving/donation pages to highlight projects and wording that will resonate with the target donor group.

Donors Embrace E-mail Fundraising If Done Well

E-mail has gotten a bad rap recently because of crowded mailboxes, spam filtering and low response rates, but there is a lot to be said for revisiting e-mail strategy in 2019. For one, research shows that donors willing to donate through e-mail rose from just 6% in 2012 to 28% in 2018. Second, low-cost e-mail has an ROI of 122%, much higher than direct mail, social media and paid search. Finally, a backlash against social media abuses, including among the mobile-first generation, is improving e-mail’s digital appeal. But e-mail needs to be done well to deliver donors. Personalization and targeted messaging is expected, so, again, segment the audience by demographics, desired communication frequency, giving status, etc. Make sure there is a clear call to action, a compelling subject line, simple attractive visual design, and, most of all, impactful storytelling.

AI Can Help Turn Data Into Dollars

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on its way to becoming ubiquitous in our society, and that will include fundraising. AI broadly refers to programs, computers and machines that perform “intelligent” tasks such as planning, learning, problem-solving, communication and more. AI can help nonprofits gather more data and use it better to advance missions and marketing. For example, one of the simplest uses of AI is a chatbot that interacts via messaging services like Facebook Messenger, Slack, Telegram, etc. A nonprofit can create a chatbot to handle donations, register members and distribute information about programs and services. AI also can be used to personalize donor journeys with tailored, personal messages based on real-time donor behavior and timed to encourage contributions. Finally, AI can weaponize data for more cost-effective donor development and marketing. For example, a donor’s giving and volunteering history, event attendance, affiliations, relationships, and data from wealth screening tools can all be analyzed to predict a potential donor’s likelihood to give a major gift.

See the complete list of eight fundraising trends identified by Donorbox.



fundraising trends for success