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Vice President, Strategy & Development, Eleventy Marketing Group

Navigating Off the Napkin

By Angie Moore

About Angie

Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group


Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
 
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.
 

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'Are We Mailing Too Much?' Is the Wrong Question

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I promise this blog will be about much more than direct mail, but I just can't resist the urge to talk about the question I hear more than any other — from marketers, fundraisers and the C-suite: "Are we mailing too much?"

I'm not saying that your program of 38 touches is or is not a good thing. What I'm saying is the question about frequency is the least important question you should be asking right now. And if you saw the DMA Nonprofit Federation presentation by Chuck Longfield, chief scientist at Blackbaud, at the Washington Nonprofit Conference two weeks ago, I would say everyone should be asking some very serious questions.

Here are the questions you should be asking ...

  • What do my donors expect from their relationship with my brand?
  • How satisfied and committed are my donors to the brand? And, what's driving satisfaction and commitment to my brand?
  • What's the "story" I'm telling my donors across all of my touches? And, what messages truly resonate with what my donors need to hear?

And yes, you are right — donor input is required to answer most of these. We have long built our strategies, segmentation and messaging based on what has worked in the past. Looking in the rearview mirror has worked very well and is not necessarily the wrong approach — but it is a partial approach. Not having donor input to inform your strategies is a crippling element to future success.

Let's break this down …
For many years, there has been a feeling that being a direct-mail donor is like being an anonymous donor — at arm's length and not very personal. There have been enough studies in the industry (Russ Reid, DonorVoice, Merkle, etc.) that have shown us this is not true. Not only do direct-mail donors want a relationship with the organizations they support, but they also have expectations. If you think they simply want you to use their gifts well, you are very under-informed. Today's donors want to provide you their preferences, they want to receive information that is specific to their interests, they want to be asked for feedback, and yes, some of them even want to broaden their relationship and do other things with the organization. There's no way to actually know what to do to meet their expectations if you don't ever talk to them about their expectations.

Going deeper into the conversation with our donors, it seems like there is a lot of focus on "scores" these days. As someone who has worked with the C-suite quite a bit, I understand that there is a place and time for a "score" — be it a satisfaction score, a loyalty score, referral score, etc. As an overall indicator of where your donors stand and for an executive report, it can be very powerful. 

But, the score is only the tip of the iceberg. To further cloud the issue of scores, we have a tendency to focus on the "positive" score (i.e., "68 percent of my donors are somewhat or very satisfied") — but what about the 32 percent that are somewhat or very dissatisfied? Hands down, the most important part of this type of constituent input is learning what is driving a great experience and what is not working and creating a negative experience. You have to get underneath the scores (both good and bad) to understand why people feel the way they do and what is improving or degrading their experience with your brand.

Lastly, do you really know the "story" that's being told throughout the year to your donors? Whether you use an online tool or prefer the "old timer" method of having a clothesline across a conference room or taping things to the walls, taking the time to put your touches "up" in the order donors receive them is a critical step to truly walk in the donors' shoes. If you have never walked the donor path and read the "story" they get from one appeal to the next, you are missing a critical element of your strategy.

And for all of you out there saying, "Well, they don't read every communication they get" — yes, you are right. But so what? The key is for you as the marketer to experience the "communication story" in order to see if it is consistent and relevant. But, let me warn you … if you don't know what your donors want and expect and what messages truly motivate them, you will only be able to scratch the surface when reviewing your communication story.

Now you know why I believe the question of, "Are we mailing too much?" is the least of your worries. And to further put your mind at ease, a recent industry study in 2011 found that "too much" was only a problem if the messaging wasn't relevant. Hence, the questions we should be asking ourselves are what our donors expect, how they feel and what we're doing to drive a great communication experience with our brands.

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