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.

Tax Reform and You. What Does It All Mean?

Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson
Vice President, Business Development

With President Trump unveiling his tax reform plan in recent days, we’re left wondering what it all might mean for donors and those that do the noble work of fundraising to help others.

In short, we don’t really know quite yet.

We do know that the once-feared reduction in the charitable tax deduction is not part of the President’s proposal. At least for now. And that’s a good thing.

Or is it?

The Trump plan holds the charitable deduction as-is, but looks to double the standard deduction. This change might actually reduce the number of Americans that need to itemize the charitable tax deduction.

If fewer Americans itemize the charitable tax deduction will they actually give less? Tim Delaney, president and CEO of the National Council of Nonprofits seems to think so and was quoted as saying, “Pronouncements of keeping the existing tax deduction for charitable giving create the impression that the status quo would remain, but proposals to double the standard deduction would effectively eliminate the tax incentive for millions of individuals and couples to give to support the work of charitable nonprofits in cities, towns, and rural areas across the country.”

The President’s statement was released on Wednesday, April 26th and has been described as “skeletal” and “a single page filled with bullet points.” In other words, there are plenty of holes and questions outstanding.

As the details of the President’s tax plan become clearer, so will the potential impact on your donors and their financial support. Until then, we recommend these articles for perspective and opinion:

New York Timeshttps://nyti.ms/2plNwHw

The NonProfit Timeshttp://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/initial-tax-proposal-leaves-charitable-deduction-alone/

Forbeshttps://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2017/04/26/trump-tax-reform-save-for-charities-is-illusory/#7094dfda7888

Beyond the obvious of keeping close tabs on potential changes, nonprofits must strive to be highly-relevant to their constituencies. This will help ensure that contributions won’t decline, even if the tax plan impacts the charitable deduction directly or indirectly.

While THD doesn’t have a crystal ball, we know using data, being nimble and responding swiftly ensures organizations continue to deliver on their missions when donors are faced with issues like tax reform.

To weigh in on this important topic click here.

Is there buried treasure in your database?

Brian Murphy

An interview with Brian Murphy, Senior Vice President, Marketing Analytics & Technology

Q: Brian, acquisition is getting more expensive by the day. And as many as 70% or more of new donors won’t ever give a second gift. But what are the alternatives?

A: Well, a number of nonprofits own an asset that isn’t being utilized to its fullest: their database. There can be hidden treasure in a database – names that have been acquired and paid for but for all intents and purposes are buried.

treasure

Q: What kinds of treasure are we talking about?

A: Untapped revenue sources.

One of the largest sources may be donors who have been lapsed for a decade or more. But they could also include event participants and donors, advocates, and people who were engaged in other types of peer-to-peer programs.

We’ve found that if we approach these audiences a little more creatively, they can be cost-effective alternatives to acquisition in many cases.

Q: You say that you’ve been able to reactivate donors who’ve been lapsed for 10 years or more? How?

A: It’s hard to reactivate long lapsed donors when you’re using RFM, which treats everyone within a segment the same way. But a number of nonprofits have experienced great results through modeling at the individual level.

Q: How about modeling for lower dollar donor records? Those that have given before, but gave a small gift.

A: I’m glad you asked about that and you’re right. While the “M” in RFM – monetary – is really important, a well-built model looks well beyond the amount of a previous gift and identifies donors with both the ability to give again and give at a higher level.

Q: What can modeling do that RFM can’t?

A: To give you an example, THD’s lapsed reactivation model leverages thousands of data points – psychographic, behavioral, transactional, engagement, motivations, preferences and far too many more to name – to pinpoint with surgical precision the lapsed donors most likely to renew their support.

To continue the buried treasure analogy, it’s the difference between sweeping the ocean floor with a net or using the most sophisticated radar technology available. With the technology, you have the equipment you need to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Q: Beyond long lapsed and low dollar donors, where else have you seen success?

A: Over the last few years, we’ve also seen a dramatic fall off in nonprofit peer-to-peer programs like Family and Friends Drives and Neighbor-to-Neighbor Campaigns. This is another area where modeling can make a huge difference. We can model participants as well as donors.

Q: The same basic principle applies to event names as well, correct?

A: That’s right. And for nonprofits who do a great deal of advocacy, those names could be another source of untapped revenue.

Q: Isn’t modeling costly?

A: I think there is a real misconception about the cost of modeling. Many modeling vendors, including THD, will build a model and execute a test to measure model performance at little expense to the client. Test costs are typically much lower than other alternatives – for example developing and testing a new creative package. And the risk is very low because you only need a test panel with enough volume to get a statistically valid read.

But the exciting element of modeling for me is the immense VALUE it is driving for our clients’ programs. The return on investment (ROI) is usually very high.

Q: So you consider modeling a low risk and high value method of mining your database for “buried treasure.”

A: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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

To Make A Long Story Short…

pencils 2“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”.

Over the years this quote has been attributed to Mark Twain, T.S Elliot, Churchill, Cicero and others, and rings absolutely true to writing digital fundraising copy today.

Inboxes are cluttered, difficult places to navigate, so how do we rise above the noise?

Timing, segmentation, personalization, great offers and great stories to be sure, but we all know that already.

What else?

In M&R’s most recent annual benchmarking study, there are a couple of data points that really stood out for us here at THD.

  • Email attributable revenue, up 25%
  • Email fundraising page completion rates, up 3% (nice job on those responsive forms!)

All great news, but how is this possible when open rates, click through rates and response rates all declined during the same time period? M&R posits volume (more people, more sends) as key factor, and that’s hard to argue against– but is there more?

Is it purely volume or is it a sign that the role of email in the conversion process is changing?

There are more organizations competing for share of mind and share of wallet than ever before. And they are doing so through more channels – email, direct mail, telemarketing, display, search, social, video, native, et al.

The donor is bombarded as a result of all the “multi”, “cross”, “pan”, whatever-you-want-to-call-it-today, channel approach — and they are self-selecting not just the organization but their preferred conversion channel.

That carefully timed and versioned email you’re sending is becoming the final trigger to convert the donor after they have been engaged with your message in so many other channels. Could it be that this is why response rates are down, but revenue is up?  Are your other channels simply teeing up the best donors to respond to your email – and if so, what does THAT mean?

For one thing, let’s start with the premise that fewer and fewer people have the time or interest to read a letter style email.

Also, with all those other channels helping support the campaign narrative, do you really need to say that much? Particularly if we acknowledge that a longer form approach won’t hold the attention of your audience (this is broad strokes of course – through testing you can learn the best approach for your various audience segments).

So, it’s time to start viewing your approach to email more like digital display advertising. Bright, vibrant images that “win the inbox” and the preview panel.  Start looking for ways to dial back copy. Let a headline, an image and a call to action finish the job that all the other work you’ve been doing started.

This is particularly important in mobile, where more than half your audience is opening those emails. Don’t make them scroll and read – give them a compelling visual experience that will drive to action.

Facebook paid $1 billion for Instagram and recently Mark Zuckerberg said he thought Facebook would be mostly video in 5 years. We live in a visual time.

Every day, we all receive dozens of appeals from worthy organizations with incredible stories to tell, but those stories get lost in the sameness of the layouts and paragraph after paragraph of copy. Take this shift as an opportunity to be creative and differentiate your brand visually.

Your Flux Capacitor Needs Service

Flux Capacitor
Today is October 21st, 2015.

It’s the late Dizzy Gillespie’s 98th birthday, Kim Kardashian’s 35th, and THD’s own Sherri Mayer and Cris Parisi are celebrating today.

The USS Constitution “Old Ironsides” was launched on this day in 1797, cement was patented in 1824, Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb in 1879… and in 1985 Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox traveled through time in a Delorean.

As Marty and Doc, they got their hands on enough plutonium to generate a charge of 1.21 gigawatts and set the date to October 21st, 2015.

The movie, released in 1989, made some pretty bold and surprisingly accurate predictions.

Some have come true…

Flat screen TVs, drones, 3D, Holograms? Check.

Artificial Intelligence? Hello IBM Watson.

Some seem close…

Hoverboards? Getting close, thanks to Lexus. Flying cars? Not so much, but probably only off by a decade or so. They also predicted fax machines on every corner… whoops!

All this got us thinking about, well, 1985 and what we, as fundraisers, might have predicted.

“My fundraising program won’t survive – my donors are dying!”

Here we are in 2015 and charitable giving is at an all-time high. Your audience has shifted, sure, but a huge number of baby boomers are just entering the most charitable stage of their lives.

“I just added an 800# into my last direct mail piece! My fundraising practice is REALLY integrated now!”

None of us could have predicted that “integration” would grow to include such an incredible, ever-evolving mix of channels. Or that good ol’ direct mail – whose demise has been forecast for decades – would continue to thrive as a cost-effective part of your marketing mix.

“My brand? What do you mean, my brand?”

In 1985 we were organizations. Not “brands” with stories, unique voices and instantly recognizable wristbands, clothing lines… or ice buckets.

Fundraising databases were stored on mainframe computers that covered the area of several football fields. Imagine telling someone in 1985 they would be in a “cloud”.

In 1985 “Omnichannel” was likely to be a new venture brought to you by Ted Turner. “Cross Channel” was a swim from England to France. A “viral” campaign was something you probably wanted to avoid. And “mobile” was… well, moving.

What hasn’t changed?

Americans continue to be among the most generous people on earth. They might lend their support differently than they did in 1985, but their ability to feel compassion – and act on it – remains the same.

Say what you want about the impact of modern technology on our lives. But no one can challenge the fact that it has provided us with new and innovative ways to support the things that mean something to us.

It’s an exciting time to be a fundraiser! Imagine what we’ll have accomplished when Marty and Doc land in 2045, in their fully electric, self-navigating Google Delorean.

BTW, the movie also predicted the Cubs would win the World Series in 2015. As of this writing…