Making an Impactful Digital Footprint: The Essentials of Direct Marketing
This article is adapted from a 2019 AHP Webinar Series event presented by Anthony R. Alonso, President, Catapult Fundraising Inc., and E. Ramone Segree, Ed.D, Vice President of Development, NYU Winthrop Hospital.
The implementation of best practices starts long before you are sitting across the table from a prospective donor, before you begin wealth screenings and before you plan events. Your solicitation strategies are the building blocks for long-term interactive communications with donors and your constituents, ensuring not only the longevity of the organization, but the achievement of fundraising goals.
The mediums of direct marketing have evolved dramatically in recent years. What was once accomplished only by physical mailings is now done by combining print mail with email, telefundraising and social media. At all points in this evolution, the goal of direct marketing is to reach as many people as possible, in the most meaningful way possible. Following industry do’s and don’ts specific to each medium can help you successfully develop a solicitation plan and optimize the quantity and quality of your direct marketing.
Two of the most popular myths in solicitation are that telefundraising does not work and it is a thing of the past. Telefundraising holds the highest retention rate compared to any other channel — allowing it to raise roughly $1 billion a year. Automated messaging and autodials may reach more people, but the quality of those communications is degraded by the impersonality of a robotic voice or mispronounced names. Knowing who you’re calling and keeping them engaged in the conversation will prove to be the most effective best practices for higher donation returns.
Rather than cold calling, invest in sending a pre-call letter to the group of people you are hoping to contact. Not only are you combining your call with an initial outreach from a different communicative medium, but you are creating an opportunity for a nonstandard telefundraising call. Instead of saying, “Hi, how are you?” as your opening line, you’ll be able to ask if they received the letter from so-and-so, peaking their interest whether they received the pre-call letter or not.
Like telefundraising, email personalization is crucial to getting the person on the receiving end to interact with your organization long-term. Simple steps like personalizing the subject line and including the recipient’s name in the greeting improve the email’s chance of getting clicked on — yet 79% of fundraising emails fail to do this.
Don’t forget to make sure the content of the email beyond the subject line makes the strongest impression possible. Make the “sender” someone who is personally tied to the content of the email — if you are writing about the impact of a donor’s contribution to the emergency room, have the letter come from a doctor or volunteer who works there. Rather than a development officer telling the story of a donation from the third person, a first-person encounter will convey a deeper connection, invoking a more powerful response in the recipient.
Once you arrive at the end of your email, you may be tempted to add a “Give Now” button. While this is direct in its intention, having a list of specific suggested donation amounts has been shown to be more effective. This can also prove beneficial as an informal wealth screening, providing a baseline for a potential donor’s giving.
As one of the most elusive forms of direct marketing, social media is hard to pin down with best practices. Try not to concentrate your efforts on one platform. Using different outlets that appeal to different age groups can maximize the number of people reached.
Remember that each platform has different capabilities and strong suits. Facebook allows page owners to add a “donate now” link, sending the user directly to your foundation’s page. Twitter and Instagram are known for their prominent hashtags that users can click to find similar posts with the same hashtagged content. On Instagram, 75% of users are likely to “take action,” meaning they will follow links to other pages and accounts while engaging with the content presented to them.
All platforms provide organizations with some sort of analytics tracker, whether built directly into the platform or made available with outside programs. These analytics can tell you what demographics are interacting with you at what time and where, giving you the opportunity to tailor your content based on what your users like the most. Social media also promotes interaction with your organization before, during and after events. For those who cannot be in attendance, they can receive live updates on the event and participate virtually. You can continue engagement on social media after an event ends by creating a public archive of photos and videos from the event. Once the donor’s contributions have been made actionable, social media creates a visualization of the direct impact. Donors will appreciate the recognition of their role in the organization’s progress and potential donors may be inspired to support the cause, too.
Telefundraising, email communications and social media all have individual strengths, but using them in collaboration with one another will synergize their effects, amplifying your organization’s voice. Base your solicitation efforts on the dynamics you hope to achieve in a face-to-face interaction, opening up a dialogue for potential donors and inquiries into your work.
Donors, volunteers and patients alike want to feel like more than a contributor to your organization — they want to feel as though they are a part of it. Connecting with your constituents as proactively and consistently as possible will draw out the best responses. You may not personally know every individual you reach out to, but this does not mean they are strangers. The mission of your foundation should ultimately align with the aspirations of your constituency. Let that be the common ground on which you build your direct marketing.
Watch the full webinar to learn more.