As every fundraiser knows, there is no "one size fits all" model for donor communications. This is true of donors to different organizations and just as true of different levels and types of donors to the same nonprofit.
That's why targeting and optimizing the offer to specific donor segments is so vital. At the DMA Nonprofit Federation's 2013 Washington Nonprofit Conference
last week, three fundraising professionals provided a step-by-step approach to make your data work for you to help send more targeted messages in the session "Donor-Message Matching: Increasing Response Through Offer Optimization." Here are the six steps provided by presenters Amy Barriale, membership and product manager at the African Wildlife Foundation
; John Graves, vice president of Eidolon Communications
; and Rebecca Shapalis, client services manager at Production Solutions
. 1. Know who your donors are
To create personalized communications you need to know who your donors are, what the fundamental influencers are that encouraged them to join or donate, and what the drivers are for them to remain loyal donors, Barriale said.
Let your data do the work for you. It's one of the most important factors in the equation. Use your data to segment and unearth who exactly your donors are and what motivates them to give.2. Prepare your data
Barriale said your database structure needs to support general contact information and giving history, information on key influencing triggers and actions, and organizational interest areas and preferences of your donors. She suggested asking yourself the following:
- What are the key data points for the organization?
- How can organizational interest preferences be codified and simplified?
- By what means should data be collected for the necessary segmentation?
- How can the data collection process be automated for ease of us and scalability?
Barriale said the African Wildlife Foundation had discrepancies and inconsistencies with its database — everything from struggling to differentiate between online vs. offline donors to communication preferences to a lack of collecting or tracking data on donors and their interests. So AWF embarked on a data restructure by creating standard coding and attributes across the entire organization, and created an online portal for individual management of communication and interest preferences. The result has been better targeted messages and better tracking mechanisms, and AWF plans to refine the process even further.3. Set the stage
Graves said it's important to set the stage for your messaging strategy by:
4. Establish campaign messages
- Contemplating questions to ask supporters that assist in tailoring campaign messaging
- Identifying additional means for data collection and donor engagement
- Being careful to not share too much of your data (or the appearance of that) to prevent unnerving supporters — "Big Brother" syndrome, so to speak
Graves added that you have to establish strong connections and missions of your campaign to build a fundraising strategy. That includes taking into consideration what parts of the campaign are best suited for personalization to maximize the impact and investment.
5. Synchronize across channels
To truly optimize your fundraising offer, you have to integrate and synchronize the creative across every channel — e-mail, website, social media, direct mail, etc. — Shapalis said. Your message has to be consistent across all the channels through which your supporters connect with you to convert as many donors as possible and increase retention. Plus, as studies have show, she added, multichannel donors are the most lucrative donors.6. Tweak and retool
Fundraisers and consultants everywhere trumpet the importance of testing, and for good reason: Not every message inspires donors the way you had intended, Shapalis said. That's why it's important to test, test and then retest because little tweaks can make a big difference. You should never be satisfied with your control.
To wrap up the session, the presenters offered the following final thoughts.Data
- Resource allocation — ensure the bones of your database structure can support your program in the short term and the long term.
- Be mindful of how much is too much with personalization and data sharing.
- Identify the key interest groups of your donor base through data.
- Understand the facts of who is one your housefile. Don't rely on gut feelings!
- Have the conversation — engage in a dialogue early in the process to developed a better rapport with your team and your donors.
- Be willing to take risks.
- Be patient, and plan for the expected and unexpected issues that inevitably give you problems when executing a campaign.
- Be mindful of costs, and development partnerships to get the most bang for fundraising campaign buck.
- You must test to determine if the ROI — both financially and staffing resources) justifies the campaign.