A Conversation With Michelle Hurtado, Head of Google Ad Grants

Michelle Hurtado
Global Head of Google Ad Grants

Jeff Ostiguy, Vice President of Marketing at THD, sat down with the Global Head of Google Ad Grants, to discuss Google’s commitment to the nonprofit sector, Ad Grants program changes and how nonprofits can be successful with Google Ads.

THD: Michelle, thanks for taking a little time to talk with us today! Can you give us a brief history of the Ad Grants program?

Hurtado: Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Google Search is critical in this. We saw how effective ads on Google Search results pages were and so we started the Ad Grants program so that resource strapped nonprofits could have good access to share information on Google.com. We’ve now been giving free Google Search ads for 16 years, directly in alignment with Google’s mission. We hope that we’re helping nonprofits amplify their vital work and grow with Google: by supporting nonprofits to raise awareness, get people involved, and fundraise.

THD: What does the Ad Grants team look like? We often hear it is a small team of volunteers.

Hurtado: Ad Grants has been a small team historically but we have doubled in the last year! We are a dedicated group of 12 and we have team members who have been with Google for 14, 15 and 16 years, sitting across 6 different offices.
We also have partners we work closely with. For example, we have our Certified Professionals Community of agencies and consultants who are knowledgeable about Ad Grants and dedicated to nonprofits, so we recommend their services. We also partner with universities to offer a program for students learning online marketing to volunteer with Ad Grantees through the Google Ad Grants Online Marketing Challenge.

Last year we served about 51,000 nonprofits so we also rely on volunteers to scale our support efforts. You’ll see many of our volunteers on our educational resources such as videos and livestreams on YouTube and our new Community forums which are great platform for nonprofits to ask questions and get help quickly.

THD: In January of 2018, a number of new performance and structural guidelines were put in place for the program. Have the changes had the impact on performance that your team had hoped? What trends or changes have you seen since you made the changes?

Hurtado: Yes! We reviewed our program policies to add clarity and raise standards of quality for our free advertising grants. We want our Grantees to all be in compliance with these policies and we hope they act as a guide to optimize accounts. For example, we don’t permit single word keywords because they don’t often make a good match with a relevant ad and a user taking action on your site, so that policy prods nonprofits to build out keyword lists.

Performance metrics like conversion goals met show positive results and click through rates have more than doubled. My team is committed to helping nonprofits use their Ad Grant successfully.

THD: Have a large number of Grantees been suspended since the policy changes were implemented in January of 2018? Are more nonprofits opting to use automated options like Smart Campaigns?

Hurtado: Many nonprofits have been impacted by the policy changes but almost all fix the issue and are reactivated. Smart Campaigns is an excellent option for Grantees that can’t invest the time to manage their online ads regularly. This campaign type can be set up in just 15 minutes, and then works to constantly improve an ad around a goal, measure its performance, and show clear, understandable results. More nonprofits are using Smart Campaigns as they see the ease, but it’s still a low proportion of our Grantees.

THD: How do you plan on making compliance more smooth for all parties involved?

Hurtado: We want our Grantees to have a good experience with us and we have provided a lot of educational opportunities to nip compliance issues in the bud. Currently, we are developing an on demand report so Grantees can check compliance proactively that we think will help a lot. We send out a monthly report by email and recommend Grantees confirm their correct email is associated with their Ad Grants account to ensure they don’t miss our notices, and check spam folders just in case.

THD: One of the biggest challenges – and opportunities – nonprofits have is balancing the role of Ad Grants with their paid programs. What is Google’s point of view on how to manage that? How should nonprofits view Ad Grants vs. paid Google Ads and how can they avoid competing with themselves?

Hurtado: Indeed, Ad Grants doesn’t cover all online ad opportunity. We encourage Grantees to get to know online ads through Ad Grants and learn about what’s worth investing more in. Ad Grants is limited to Search ads on Google.com after paying ads, so investing in some paid ads extends your reach significantly and has additional features to market specifically to supporter lists and use image and video ads to drive retention and advocacy. Additionally, when something is in the news or when there is high seasonality, Grantees can capture more of that increased interest by supplementing their Ad Grants account with a paid account.

It’s important to note that Ad Grants accounts do not compete with paid Google Ads accounts. Grantees can literally duplicate their Ad Grants account to a paid one if they wish to ensure they get the top ad position. Investing in paid Google Ads may result in significantly more volume so it’s worth considering.

THD: We have seen many nonprofits be very successful with Google Ad Grants. What are your top tips when managing and evaluating the performance of ad campaigns?

Hurtado: Whether a nonprofit is brand new to online marketing or already feels pretty comfortable, I have a few recommendations: First, define success metrics. What are the few things your organization wants people to do when they come to your website and how do you know when a goal is reached online? Second, make your organization’s website a priority. Structure the website around key goals and ensure each webpage has a clear call to action. Make the user experience easy and mobile friendly – and refresh content often. Next, set up free Google Analytics to understand what happens on your website and link your goals in your Ad Grants account. The first will help you understand who views what content and the latter will help you improve your ad performance. Then, have a dedicated owner who can be proactive with new ads: learn from user experience on your website, test new ads, be ready to respond to current events and seasonality like Giving Tuesday.

THD: The Google Academy for Ads is a tremendous resource, but it can be a little overwhelming. For a nonprofit marketer, who is familiar with Google, but not with all of the tools and programs available where would you suggest they start?

Hurtado: There is a ton of information out there for nonprofits to educate themselves on how to successfully manage their Google Ads accounts. As for the Google Academy for Ads, it is a fantastic resource but we suggest nonprofits using Ad Grants get started with our tailored educational resources that are program specific and use nonprofit examples for easier consumption. We offer a range of educational and support options for our Grantees because successful online marketing takes commitment and we want to help nonprofits achieve their goals online. A few support options to note:

First, our Help Center hosts tips on how to be successful with Ad Grants such as outlining how to create effective ads and automating your bids. Second, we have our Community forums which we actively monitor for questions. Third, we host educational livestreams and videos on a variety of topics on our YouTube Channel, including how to raise ad quality and how to select keywords. We also develop case studies regularly to highlight how our Grantees are using our program and specific product features to reach their goals. These can be found on our website. Lastly, our Grantees can also leverage the Google Ads support line for help and optimization suggestions. The number is 1-866-2GOOGLE.

———————–

Everything you do in market – brand marketing, direct marketing, content, PR – it all contributes to building awareness for your organization. With awareness comes interest, and that interest is an opportunity. A solid search strategy is a critical part of how your organization can rise up and meet that interest.

If you feel like you aren’t getting the most from your Grant account, get in touch with us here at THD – we can help.

The $2.3 BILLION coffee cup

This past week a simple setting and editing mishap resulted in $2.3 billion in free advertising for Starbucks. And the best part, it wasn’t even a Starbucks cup – it was a generic craft services cup.

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/07/starbucks-got-2point3-billion-in-free-advertising-from-game-of-thrones-gaffe.html

GoT Coffee Cup Blunder

It certainly speaks to the strength of the Starbucks brand (people just ASSUME it’s Starbucks), but it’s also a lesson in influencer marketing and how nonprofits can be a part of popular culture.

Sure, it’s unlikely that Jon Snow will show up wearing your company’s golf polo. But cultivating those relationships online and making sure your celebrity and athlete advocates have a bunch of your “swag” can better your chances of them tweeting on your behalf, or showing up somewhere (and having their photo taken) in your T-shirt.

Greenpeace opportunistically – and creatively – capitalized on the buzz by inserting themselves into the conversation and making the case for the dangers of single-use plastics.

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/game-of-thrones-coffee-cup-snafu-draws-greenpeaces-attention

Food (or coffee) for thought…

Experience Matters

Before you read the rest of this blog, I’d like to ask you a question.

How do you think your donors would rate their experience with you? On a scale of 1 to 10. Not your mission or your purpose, but the experience they have with you?

Be honest.

Do you think they would tell you that they feel truly heard, appreciated, and recognized? That they are getting something out of the value exchange? Do they feel like you know something about them — beyond when their last gift was or how much it was for?

So, with that rattling around in your brain, I’d like you to meet my friend Jane, your donor — everyone’s donor, really.

Jane

Who is Jane?

Well, Jane gets direct mail and email, and sees your social posts and banner ads. She’s largely channel agnostic in how she consumes information, and as she bounces between channels, her peers play an important role in her decision-making process.

She’s busy, impatient, maybe a touch skeptical — and her favorite consumer brands (Amazon, Patagonia, et al.) have raised the bar in terms of what she expects experientially in return for her money.

Finally, maybe most importantly, Jane doesn’t define herself in the way many fundraisers do. She doesn’t see herself as an active, mid-level, major, or lapsed donor.

She probably doesn’t even know what a “sustainer” is.

She’s a person, a person who cared enough to make a contribution to your organization.

Once we have acquired Jane and she’s gone from being unknown to known, what do we want her to do next?

Make another gift, right? So we ask her — probably a lot.

But what does Jane want? What does Jane expect?

Maybe she wants to make another gift, and if she does, great! Or maybe she just wants to learn more about who you are or what you do, what her contribution will help accomplish — maybe she wants to be an advocate or start a fundraiser of her own.

Maybe she doesn’t want to do anything at all.

As fundraisers, we look at retention rates and we get excited (with good reason) about multi-year retention rates of 70% or 75%, but that’s a percentage of a percentage. Truth is, somewhere around three-quarters of your donors make one gift and are never heard from again. Our research shows that the average lifespan of a donor is less than two years.

Of course, this leads to a never-ending (and costly) search for more Janes.

To mitigate this, we tend to ask “how?” How do we retain Jane, how do we get her to deepen her investment?

At THD, we propose it’s time to start asking “why?”

Why did we lose Jane? What about her experience caused her to drift away?

It’s time to shift our focus to understanding Jane the person, not the donor — what motivates her, what excites her, and what will keep her engaged with us longer.

How do we value a donor?

What value exists in a donor who’s empowered and motivated to go deeper? There is real value in advocacy. There is earned media value in that social video share. And we have all seen the explosion and tremendous impact of peer-to-peer fundraising.

Our data makes a compelling case for the value of multiple relationships. On average, donors with two organizational relationships (e.g., donor/advocate or donor/fundraiser) are 49% more valuable in year one and 38% more valuable five years in. With three relationships, the value factor is even greater (e.g., donor/fundraiser/advocate), 97% and 85%, respectively.

Heck, in 2017 alone, 63 million Americans volunteered 8 billion hours of their time to nonprofits. At $24.69 per hour, that accounts for a staggering $197.5 billion in value*. That’s billion, with a B.

Bottom line: the key to increasing donor value is a better experience that gives the donors options, multiple ways, and reasons to remain engaged — which ultimately extends donor lifespan.

The more ways they connect (or don’t), the more we can learn. And the more we know, the better we can make the experience.

We call this the Donor Experience Value Chain.

With so much data available to us, we can develop strategies offering touchpoints that continually inform us about what is important to donors. While every stage might not include giving, the bond between an organization and the donor becomes stronger, the term of the relationship extends, and the opportunities to ask become greater and land with more authenticity and impact.

Initial Engagement

We have identified six key stages in the donor experience. These stages will seem familiar in many ways, but it’s not the definition of the stages that is important. It is understanding the value of donors in these stages. Having a view into how people are migrating can help us refine our approaches and move people into/keep people in the most valuable stages.

Onboarding

So, this might be starting to sound a lot like donor journeys.

Journeys are presented as a set of predicted or preferred paths. While these are helpful, we think that looking at an experience, and the value of a donor at various stages of that experience, is of far greater value to a fundraiser. We aren’t trying to map people along a particular journey because, ultimately, with the amount of channels and engagement points available to a donor, the number of journeys is almost infinite.

This is where things are getting pretty exciting here at THD.

We are working to aggregate the data available to us into views that will help us understand how donors on file are progressing through their lifecycle, the value over the course of their lifetime, and how our work is influencing these moves.

Summary

In addition to the standard KPIs we all live by, we are introducing a new way to understand the health and composition of your file. This will help us augment and improve the way in which we segment and communicate with our donors, extend the length of their relationship with an organization, and, ultimately, improve the lifetime value of a donor.

We will be at the DMA conference this week in D.C. talking all about donor experience. If you see someone wearing a button that looks like this, come say “hello”!


Experience Matters

*Independent Sector https://independentsector.org/news-post/value-of-volunteer-time-release/

Google, Facebook, Network for Good and The Unknown Known

Facebook and Network for Good have done a good thing.

Partnering for native, embedded, fee-free donation processing helps nonprofits gain increased visibility, delivers a seamless experience and ensures that 100% of the money collected goes to supporting your organization, which is great for you and exactly what the donor wants.

So, everyone wins, right?

Uh... yahh... about that...

Not so much.

Turns out that all the donor data collected stays with Facebook in accordance with their privacy policy. What exactly will they do with this information is unclear, but odds are the answer isn’t ‘nothing.’

There’s your fee.

They have also partnered with Google and others to embed this giving experience (like on Google’s Knowledge Panel), and in addition to donor data never reaching the nonprofit there are real fees ranging from 3 to over 5%, but that information is not immediately clear to the donor.

Now, let’s be honest, your donors are smart people, many a bit cynical, and they have no idea who Network for Good is…

But, if they thought for a moment that any part of their gift was going to end up in Mountain View or at 1 Hacker Way, or that the act of making a gift would only be adding to the deep reservoir of data that Facebook and Google have amassed, I’m guessing they might be more than little reluctant. The partnership helps mitigate that.

Let’s be honest Part II. Both Facebook and Google need this.

DIVERSION

Attaching their name to doing good in the face of repeated data scandals and eroding consumer sentiment is just savvy PR. Facebook in particular has been going out of its way to promote the tools to potential fundraisers and nonprofits alike. They are also offering new features like allowing individual fundraisers to be able to set up their own matching gift campaigns and all the tools and resources available for nonprofits through Facebook for Social Good.

No doubt, some of you reading this have seen nice, even significant, returns showing up from Network for Good thanks to people ‘donating’ their birthdays and prominent donate buttons in the Google Knowledge Panel. And while the checks are wonderful, they must come with a nagging sense of frustration that you don’t know who these people are and you certainly can’t do anything to nurture your relationship with them.

We know the online donor is harder to attract, acquire, and even more difficult to retain.

So, what can you do when you don’t know who they are? How can you bridge the data gap?

Take a look at your donor journey and see where you can tighten up.

A couple of quick thoughts:

  1. Optimize email collection on your site. If they find their way to your site to learn more about where their money is going, make sure you are prominently promoting email capture.
  2. Don’t forget mobile. 80% of social media time is spent on mobile devices* and nearly 60% of all Google searches are on mobile devices**, so inquisitive donors are likely to find their way to you on their smartphones. Make sure your site is optimized to convert.
  3. Page Abandonment. Don’t give up without a fight. If people get to your site and sit on key pages (particularly donation forms) for too long, serve up a pop up encouraging them to complete their gift.
  4. Tighten up your remarketing strategy. Odds are, if someone makes a gift to your organization through Facebook or Google they have or will eventually show up on your site. With the knowledge that only 1.2% of nonprofit site visits result in a donation***, what about the other 98.8%? Set up remarketing campaigns through Facebook and Adwords (display, Gmail, similar audience targeting) based on site visitation, donation page bounces and/or views of key pages that appear along the path to donation. Stay in front of them so next time they come to your forms.
  5. Friends of Friends. Take advantage of Facebook’s targeting capability. If someone sets up a fundraiser on your behalf, there’s a pretty good chance they are following you. With a few hundred dollars you can set up campaigns to target friends of your friends with asks to like your page, subscribe to emails, etc.

At THD, we advocate for a diversification of your fundraising approaches and channels. Understanding your donors and their channel preferences should drive your strategy, so we aren’t going to go so far (as others have) as to say stay away from these programs. In fact, how can you? Facebook is encouraging people to donate their birthdays as they come upon them and you certainly see your friends doing the same. It’s good content.

So, continue to invest in your content and your online presence so donors think of you first and implement some or all of the steps above to make sure you’re doing everything you can to capture folks whenever and however they are showing their support.

*Comscore
**Hitwise
***Benchmarks 2017, M+R

What are you talking about?


SOAPBOX

We like to tie ourselves in knots trying to find the right mix of fundraising and cultivation for our audience segments, but have you ever taken a step back and asked yourself, “Do they care?”

It’s always a pleasant surprise to see a large gift or a number of gifts in response to a cultivation piece even though you ‘don’t ask.’ But, you’re a non-profit, you’re fundraisers and the recipient has become conditioned to anticipate an ask, even if there isn’t one. Of course, when you ask, people give, but the response is as much about a reaction to the impression, is it not?

This is a wild over-simplification, of course, and I’m certainly not saying that the right mix isn’t important. Rather, I’m using it as a way to get us all thinking about how your direct response program should be aligned with your organization’s content strategy more broadly.

Ultimately, your direct response program should be structured to make the right ask of the right people at a certain stage in their journey — online or off. That’s why it’s important that your content and messaging is consistent with or expands upon the narratives and key themes that you’re talking about further up in the ‘funnel.’ Not only will your DR creative in mail, email, social, display, etc. feel more cohesive, but it should be deepening the level of interest and engagement with the constituent; less of a blunt force ask.

The rapid feedback loop inherent in your DR program also gives you a channel to test into some narratives to see how your audience responds. Email and paid social are two channels that come to mind as lower-cost opportunities to stress test some of your messaging ideas.

Let’s not forget there is efficiency in this as well. Whether you’re developing content in house or your agency is doing so, atomizing the content in this way helps you derive more value from its production. That compelling infographic shouldn’t be locked away in a report or a blog post. Let’s leverage that in an email header, a compelling social post and more. Have an important statistic or a quote? Find a way to work them into the design or copy of your DM materials and really drive those impactful points home. That’s what your donor and prospects are looking for, right?

Proof.

By the way, when you’re planning your content development, are you paying attention to what your website is telling you? Are you looking to see what pages people are spending the most time on? What pages are driving people deeper? What pages appear most along the path to conversion? Conversely, are you investing in content that people frankly don’t seem to care that much at all about? There is a wealth of information buried in those web analytics, so dig in!

Start by integrating those content planning sessions, taking learnings from all parts of the organization and letting them inform your plans. Develop a comprehensive content calendar inclusive of your DR schedule and leverage all your content to the fullest!

Timely and relevant: Reaching your donors with news that matters

Beth Mello
Beth Mello
Senior Vice President, Account Services

These days, news travels fast…

Whether it’s a hurricane in Texas, a new drug for a multiple sclerosis, tax reform that could affect the economy or a political event that could cause instability, your donors need to know that your organization is ready and able to respond.

Communication is key…
When external events require an immediate response from your organization, it’s critical that you have a plan in place that you can set into motion. With the right planning, you can respond to an event within hours via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Responding and communication via mail may take a little longer, but it can also be done within days if necessary.

And so is a solid communication plan
Thanks to our work with health charities as well as international relief agencies, THD has developed a Rapid Response Platform that allows us to respond immediately when necessary.

The foundation of the plan is partnership: in collaboration with our clients, we put an action plan into place that can be executed within hours of a landmark event. Together, we look at:

  • Audience: Determine the audience for your outreach and have the mechanism in place to extract those names from your database. Identify a plan for prospecting efforts and pre clear any media that you may use.
  • Channel: Know the plan for each of your channels. Your email template should be ready. Gain alignment on what homepage assets will be deployed. And ensure you’ve got print on demand capabilities ready to go.
  • Expectations: Who has responsibility for each piece of the puzzle? How is information communicated between each party?
  • Execution: How quickly can the plan be executed? With proper planning, an email can go out within hours. And an urgent mail piece can reach donors within days.

A number of our clients, supported by this Rapid Response Platform were able to provide much-needed support to the victims of Hurricane Irma and Harvey thanks to a timely response and rapid execution.

It’s not all about disasters
You may find that the news you want to communicate is positive – perhaps it’s about a recent discovery, a news article that mentions you, or a bill that you helped pass. It may be more informational. In many cases, it will be something that could have a serious impact on you, your donors, or the world at large.

Whatever it is, your ability to communicate helps your donors know that you are relevant, timely, and thinking about them. That can make a difference in how your organization is perceived – and ultimately, on the health of your fundraising program.

To learn more about THD’s Rapid Response Platform, contact Eric Johnson at ejohnson@thdinc.com.

Are you tuned into the right channel?

Jeff Ostiguy
Jeff Ostiguy
Vice President, Digital Marketing

Multichannel… Omni-channel… Cross channel… Pan channel. So many buzzwords … and I think I just made up that last one on the spot.

But… wait! Don’t go!

I know you don’t want another blog post about why these buzzwords matter, so I’m not going to write one. I’d rather talk about diversification.

For direct response fundraisers, this is the lens we should be looking through. Trying to be everywhere is great, but if we’re being honest, not always realistic from a budget perspective. So instead, how do we develop strategies that are not quite so channel dependent?

Let’s start with email.

If you’re like most NPOs, somewhere between 15 and 30% of your digital revenue is coming from email. If you’re on the higher end or above, it might look good on the bottom line, but it’s something that should concern you a little bit. No, email isn’t dead, but its role in the fundraising ecosystem is changing. Attrition and deliverability are real problems, and while the tools we have available are helping us be more responsive and strategic in our approaches, we know email still requires a great deal of care and feeding to keep it viable and productive.

Email needs help.

In the grand scheme of things, email is really just another targeted ad impression. Other than search, it remains the easiest to directly attribute revenue to but if you’re judging email on that basis alone you’re doing yourself a disservice. Also, when you factor in platform costs and all the care and feeding mentioned above, I think you’d discover that your real email CPM isn’t that different than other paid digital channels.

We have seen our clients’ email programs without exception benefit from support in display and social. Opens, revenue, etc. all improve with investment in other digital channels.

It’s not just about investing in those channels to support email however – it’s about lessening the revenue burden ON email.

Invest in targeted paid digital media.

Aim to build a program that strategically leverages targeted paid digital media – such as paid display, paid search and paid social – in combination with more rewards or incentive-based cost per acquisition donor programs. Once established, you’ll find these can each become their own revenue streams and pillar strategies.

But what about attribution?

I know this opens a bit of a Pandora’s Box… attribution. Don’t freak out.

If you’re newer to some of these channels, start by establishing some simple time-based attribution models, giving more credit to view-through conversions that happen within hours and less to those that happen within days. Learn and set expectations for the number of new donors acquired through different techniques and model the LTV of these donors against the investment.

With first party data targeting you can send less email and protect the integrity of your database knowing that you’re making your impression in other channels – mail included. The objective, ultimately is simple; increase overall digital revenue through increased visibility and discoverability.

Does it require investment? Yes.

Should you expect a net positive return immediately? No.

Can all this lower funnel spending be more efficient with support from the brand? Yes, but that’s for another post.

Far too often, lower funnel direct response tactics are being asked to do both and as such, expectations for revenue are inflated.

But I digress…

Set achievable goals

You can definitely set goals for your various tactics. A 2 to 4% conversion rate for search, 50 to 60% return on ad spend through paid display, etc.

Track the value of the new donors acquired and the incremental value from renewed and reactivated donors and measure your success against the growth in your site activity and overall revenue generated online.

Over time, you will grow your digital revenue stream and lessen your reliance on email to carry so much of the weight.

And now, a shameless plug.

If you’re going to be in Chicago for the DMA conference, and want to hear more about this, come check out our session ‘Making the Most of Your Digital Program’ at 2PM Central Time on August 29th. You can heckle me if I say omni-channel or multichannel.

7 Ideas to Rev Up New Donor Acquisition

Chad Lucier
Chad Lucier
Vice President, Account Services

New donor acquisition ain’t what it used to be.

While it’s a road that continues to be traveled by most nonprofits, it’s filled with more bumps and potholes than ever, as evidenced by the Blackbaud donorCentrics Index:


blackbaud-chart

There is some positive news: nearly ½ of all organizations realized a positive change in 2016 and the median decline was only -1.2%.

Regardless of whether you’re in the 51% on the decline or in the lucky 49%, here are a few ideas that might help rev up your new donor acquisition program:

1.    Invest in paid search

The Chronicle of Philanthropy ran an article several years ago that has always stuck with me.

It stated that four out of every five donors research an organization before donating. I imagine this is even truer for new donors than existing donors. This means that optimizing your Google grants and paid search investments will ensure that your prospective donors not only find you, but that they get the message you want.

More importantly, a good paid search strategy is critical to capitalize on the awareness and intent being created by all of your on-line and off-line efforts.

If you want to read more about digital acquisition, check out Jeff Ostiguy’s blog post.

2.    Consider insert media

Insert media utilizes 3rd party companies and publications to distribute your offer directly to individuals. This can take the form of anything from statement stuffers to catalog bind-ins to newspaper inserts.

Insert media has one distinct advantage over direct mail. Because there is no postage or addressing involved, the cost to produce and distribute insert media is significantly less than direct mail. As a result of those low costs, you can reach a much larger audience and deliver a significant number of impressions.

Although response is significantly lower than direct mail, those cost savings can result in a similar upfront CPDR and by all indications life time value is just as strong. For one client we’ve seen a 20% improvement in the CPDR.

If you’ve maxed out your direct mail acquisition efforts, insert media may provide the incremental gains needed to get back on the path to growth.

3.    Use back-end premiums to boost response

Back-end premiums are growing in popularity; most insert media packages utilize them, many DRTV spots offer one for becoming a monthly donor and Peer-to-Peer campaigns are using water bottles, fleece jackets and the like to promote higher gift levels.

More organizations are using them in the mail to effectively increase response rates, and in some cases average gift size.

In three separate client tests, back-end premiums drove significant improvements. Response rates increased by a minimum of 20% and average gift improved by as much as 25%.

If you haven’t tested a back-end premium in the mail, maybe it’s time. I also recommend testing the price point right out of the gate since it can greatly influence both response and average gift.

4.    Consider front-end premiums, too

Hate them all you want. But there’s a reason a majority of organizations use them: they drive response. In many cases those address labels or note cards will increase the number of donors at both ends of the giving spectrum.

Below is one recent example of where a premium was tested against a non-premium and resulted in more new donors at all gift levels.

Compared to the non-premium, the premium generated:

70% increase in $15+ gifts
49% increase in $25+ gifts
10% increase in $50+ gifts

The average gift was $28 for the non-premium and $21 for the premium, which as you can see, can be very misleading. A gift distribution is critical to understanding the value of your premium based acquisition package.

If you aren’t using front-end premiums, they are worth another look.

5.    Use non-premiums for higher value donors

A non-premium based acquisition package won’t increase the number of new donors at the same rate as premium packages. But package costs are low and lifetime value is high so there are plenty of reasons to incorporate non-premiums into your new donor strategy.

To get the most out of your non-premium strategy, make sure you reinvest those cost savings.

While costs vary widely, many non-premium packages cost $100/M less than a premium-based package.

If you are mailing five million non-premium packages, that is $500,000 that you can reinvest in either increased volume or one of the other strategies noted above. By doing so you may actually reap the benefits of both a larger and more valuable donor universe.

Like a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds, a combination of premium and non-premium acquired donors will typically yield the best balance between growth and value.

6.    Retarget website visitors

Most organizations are retargeting their website visitors with banner ads … but how many are retargeting those visitors with direct mail appeals?

By all accounts, retailers and other commercial organizations are successfully using direct mail to convert web site visitors to customers. This usually takes the form of a postcard featuring a product that you browsed online. While application and execution may be different for non-profits, it is an exciting opportunity nonetheless.

Although this is fairly new to the non-profit space, the potential exists to convert a number of returning visitors or donation page abandoners into donors. This could be especially meaningful for organizations with significant web traffic.

At the very least, this is a new way to target a warm prospect universe.

Which brings us to…

7.    Don’t neglect warm prospects

The path to growth isn’t always through new donors. Sometimes it is more productive to mine the event names or memorial donors that are on your own database than it is to acquire a new donor.

The trick is in identifying the ones most likely to respond. For some ideas on the matter, I encourage you to read Brian Murphy’s recent post about uncovering the buried treasure in your database.

What did I miss? Please share your thoughts and ideas about how to rev up your acquisition program by clicking here.

Show Your Donors the Love

henry-youngman-quote
Hey!

You spent a lot of money acquiring those donors! And they’ve already shown you that they care.

So this Valentine’s Day, make a commitment to spend more time telling your donors, advocates, and all your constituents how much you love and adore them.

Here are a few simple yet effective ways to show them the love:

  • Thank them. The president of one nonprofit that we know takes time every, single day to make phone calls thanking donors for their support. It inspires him to speak to real live donors, and it makes each donor feel special.
  • Thank them FAST. When you order an item online, you want it delivered right away. Amazon Prime members pay $99 a year for that privilege. Responding immediately is a critical way to cement the goodwill that comes from making a gift.
  • Report back. No one wants to see their funds go into a black hole. Report back to your donors on how their money was spent and all the good it did.
  • Don’t always ask for money. Donors are not ATMs. Sometimes, they just need to know that you’re thinking of them as human beings. Send a card congratulating them on their anniversary as a supporter. Give them a poem that one of your clients has written. Show them a picture of someone they’ve helped.
  • Tell them what their donation means. Every donation is a choice – and often, a sacrifice. Let your donors know that you appreciate and value every dollar they send.
  • Remind them how it feels to give. Scientific research supports the fact that people get an endorphin rush from helping others. It can’t hurt to remind donors that giving actually feels good even while it does good.

When you express your appreciation to your donors, you get loyalty in return. So don’t hesitate to tell your donors how much they are valued, Valentine’s Day and every day of the year.

To continue this conversation with the team at THD, click here.

Five Phrases That Can Stifle Creativity

Sherri Mayer
Sherri Mayer
Senior Vice President
Creative Services

In case you haven’t noticed, creative people are sensitive souls. (Aren’t we all?)

You’d think we’d be used to having our work critiqued. And yet, we never seem to develop a thick skin. We wear our feelings on our sleeves, pour our hearts into what we do, and go into every creative presentation with high hopes.

creative-circle

And when you comment on what we’ve so painstakingly labored over, we take it personally.

Wonka

Sometimes, it can be frustrating to know just what to say to help your creative team deliver what you need them to deliver. I should know… I’m both a creative type and a manager of an entire department of creative types.

But here’s the thing: you don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can be honest and forthright. At the same time, there are a few phrases that can stifle a writer or designer’s ability to give you their best work. They are:

I’m not wild about it
It’s perfectly fine that you don’t care for what we presented. (Well, actually it hurts our feelings a little bit. So it might be good to start with what you DID like then get to what you didn’t.)

But as you know, we delivered what we thought was our best work. So help us understand exactly what it is that is bothering you. It’s o.k. if you don’t have the language to describe it… we can help there as well.

In order to fix what’s wrong, we need direction from you.

I want something out of the box

outside-the-box

I’ve been a creative director for more than a decade and a copywriter for 30 years, and I still don’t know what that means.

It can’t be that we’re not supposed to consider budget, the donor, or all the many creative constraints put upon us by format and medium.

There’s always a box. And we can always be creative within it.

Here’s how I want it done
According to an article entitled “How to Kill Creativity” from the Harvard Business Review,

Creativity thrives when managers let people decide
how to climb a mountain; they needn’t, however,
let employees choose which one.

Of course, creative people need structure. We know that there are constraints. But we can’t let those dampen our passion for the job or our ability to be creative.

Telling a creative person exactly HOW to be creative actually diminishes their enthusiasm.

Back in the day when I used to teach business writing to non-writer types, the first thing I would tell my students is simply to write. Just write and keep writing. Don’t edit, don’t hold back, don’t think of all the things you can and cannot say.

Because all those limitations will prevent you from finding inspiration.

So let your creative folk find their own path to a solution. We can always edit it later.

We tried that once

innovate

Perhaps we did. But…

  • Was the timing optimal?
  • Was the creative excellent?
  • Was it executed well?
  • Has the marketplace changed?
  • Has our constituency changed?
  • Has the economy changed?

According to Founders and Funders, James Dyson created 5,126 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner before succeeding. Steven Spielberg was rejected by famed USC Film School three times. Even the founder of Pandora approached investors 300 times before he got funded.

There are so many factors that go into the success of a direct marketing effort that if an idea and strategy are really solid, they’re going to naturally rise to the top. So even if it’s been tried – and failed – it may be worth looking at again.

They won’t go for it
I’ve been surprised again and again what people will say “yes” to if the strategy and the execution are on target.

Sometimes, it’s even good to show something that is, perhaps, a little left of center. It proves that you and your team are not letting roadblocks stand in the way of innovation and creativity.

So what CAN you do to inspire your creative team?

Who's awesome?

  • Ask us why. If your creative team is as good as they say they are, they can tell you why an execution hits the mark. And it should always come down to strategy.
  • Say “thank you.” We all need props from time to time. It feels good to know that our efforts are recognized.
  • Be specific but encouraging in your critique. Help us understand what isn’t working for you. Then engage us in coming up with a solution. That way, we’ll approach the revision process with energy and enthusiasm.
  • The bottom line? We put a lot of love into what we do. It means that we may be a little sensitive. But that’s precisely what makes our creative work stand out… and often, outstanding.

We hope this helps! If you have questions, comments, or other things you’d like us to discuss in Straight Talk, send us a note.