20% of Digital Communication Actually Works

Development directors run up against an communication problem all the time.  They are bombarded with account executives that promise that their CRM or publication or website or radio station is the one that will be the magic bullet that drives donors to give to their organizations.

Over time, many directors are frustrated with their efforts.  80% of their media purchases don’t seem to be bringing donors into the door.  In this post, we are going to give away a few secrets.  We’ve worked for years in the donor communication space.  We want to show you the 20% that works for most non-profit organization and then help you understand how to use those tools most effectively.

The 20%

So what ad buys, and communication channels actually work for nonprofits?  We have been doing a fair share of research to come up with an answer to the 20% question.  What if a nonprofit could spend most of their communication and development budget on 20% that works?

Recent studies are showing that an omni-channel communication system is deadly effective when it comes to nonprofits.  Print is by no means dead and digital is not the only way to go.

Some communication methods have modernized and strategies have had to adapt.  Print has moved over to make room for the explosive rise of digital media and the truth is that digital media has some huge benefits.  So, throughout this guide, we are going to talk largely about online or digital strategies while helping you to understand also how to leverage print assets as well.

Why does digital media work for non-profits so well?

  • It is inexpensive
  • It is exact
  • It is interactive
  • It is immediate

The downside of digital media? It can also feel cheap and temporary.  (Still nothing beats a glossy newsletter in the minds of older donors). Sometimes e-blasts, SMS broadcasts, and social posts can feel annoying if they are used improperly and can damage your reputation.  So, let’s talk about how to use these things well!  But first, some research:

The studies about the effectiveness of print

A few years back, Neilson did a study that looked at the retail sector to see how US consumers arrived at a purchasing decision.  The results were astounding in this digital age.  Believe it or not, more than half of the consumers surveyed said that they were more persuaded by printed newsletters and direct mail than by digital ads.

Google ads (and especially the Google Grant) are very effective for a lot of non-profits when they are used well and when they are first getting started.  However, we will suggest throughout this guide that in the long run, email blats and content development (with good social media cross-posting and proper SEO programming) is often even more effective once you have a good list of donors to draw from.

Then…The leading metric for digital media development was not just social media ad buys or pay-per-click, as you might expect, but a well written, old fashioned email campaign followed up by a great website.  It’s not that the other digital media does not work, but that highly relational emails and a good website simply work more efficiently.

What can we learn from these studies?

  • None of the studies are showing that you should abandon your print strategy for the sake of digital ads. You should change them, but not abandon them.  We will suggest that print ads are most effective when they are linked to your internet assets. As soon as a nonprofit can afford a monthly mailer, we have found these pieces to have multiplies results.
  • Your nonprofit needs an effective printed advertising method, a great email blast plan that is supported by a professional website.

Let’s picture your donor development strategy like a train.

The tracks the train sits on is your organization’s branding.  What I mean is that you need to decide who your donor in and then how you present yourself to appeal to that type of donor.  Your branding is important and you should not start a fundraising campaign until your brand is put together properly.

Later in this guide, we’ll touch on how to properly put your brand together.  If you don’t have a logo, and a basic visual identity for your organization, then you’re not quite ready to start fundraising yet.  You’d be hard pressed to find an “brandless” organization who really studied their donors carefully.  Organization who study their donors almost always develop a brand as part of their intentionality.

Donor development starts with getting people to connect with your organization in the first place.  There’s some good news: Our research is showing us that a large percentage of what is working right now for nonprofits also happens to be 3 of the least expensive media pieces to develop.

Web, Email and Social are the main engines that drive most effective, modern, donor development campaigns

Let’s unpack those a little right now and later in the guide, we’ll go into much greater detail

Your Website: Your Home

The home of your brand and your fundraising efforts in your website.  If you are taking your nonprofit seriously, your website should look professional.  It needs to be easy to navigate, rich in content and maintained often.  WordPress is currently the preferred platform for all nonprofit websites without exception.

Email Blasts

Secondly, develop a regular email campaign that follows up with new clients and that retargets existing clients in order to invite them back to the organization to get involved.

  • Mail Chimp is an easy-to-use and affordable tool for getting this done.
  • Some credit card processors offer a free email retargeting service as well.
  • The best we have found is GoHighLevel.

Strategic Social Media

Social media is a great way to intoduce yourself to new donor and connect with your current volunteers.  On social, you can tell people what you’re all about, connect with them on a personal level, and keep them informed. Here are some tips for getting started:

Develop a strategy for social media.

Think about how you want to use it—are you looking to promote an event? Are you trying to share news about your organization? Maybe you just want to show pictures of the people who are working hard so that people can see what it’s like inside the office. Whatever your objective is, make sure that it aligns with your overall mission statement and goals as an organization.

Show pictures of your staff.

When posting content on social media, try to keep it relevant and engaging. You can’t just post random things; make sure each post has a purpose or meaning behind it. You also don’t want all of your posts to be promotional in nature; mix it up by sharing some fun facts or cool photos too!

Be social!

Do surveys, ask opinions and engage your audience. Use polls or surveys to get feedback from your followers about what they think about certain topics or issues related to your organization

If web, social and email aren’t covered, there is no reason to move on to other, alternative methods of advertising.  For some non-profits, especially startups, this could be all the communication you’ll need to do for a while.

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