Direct Mail continues to generate the largest segment of fundraising revenue, but it’s getting help and giving help that accomplishes the overarching mission of most nonprofit organizations. You’ve got to spend money to make money. Let’s not get into ratios and discussions of gross revenue and net revenue. I’m talking about organization health as in active donor growth, retention and long term value. Is your organization healthy? Are your metrics improving for first year and multi-year donors? Are you moving donors up the value pyramid? The Conference offered nuggets of inspiration, true stories, real time results, wins and losses, sage wisdom– something for everyone. You just had to be there.
The biggest challenge for me was digesting all that was offered. Concurrent sessions with great speakers and content posed a real challenge. Was attending 50% of two concurrent sessions better than attending one session at 100%? I couldn’t tell you, but I do have a lot of takeaways to share. The following recap provides a slice of insight into the organizational adjustments that are starting from within and moving the needle.
The Great Recession took its toll across the board, but if you haven’t already begun digging out and seeing a positive change in your organization’s health, now is the time to get busy. Collaboration is at the heart of the forward momentum, and its intra- and inter-channel. The formerly all-telling question of attribution, or who gets the credit, is taking a backseat in healthy organizations. If you ask the beneficiaries of your organization’s mission, they’ll say the people made the difference; their actions taken made the difference. It wasn’t direct mail, not the web, not Facebook. The collaborative effort of all the channels within organizations big and small is what made the difference.
Collaboration begins “in the war room,” a phrase referenced by David Whitehead, the Sr. Development Officer for AARP Foundation during the presentation Don’t Stay in Your Lane: Case Studies from Three Leading Charities on Integrating Communications Across Departments. CEO Joan Jenkins and he led the collaborative efforts of three unique enterprises in their Drive to End Hunger Campaign, including AARP Membership, Foundation and Services. Success required a change of culture in which multiple enterprises needed to work together. Vision, leadership, shared assets and results, combined with a focus on building relationships from within made the difference. Guiding the fleet was the organizational mission. All boats rose in the tide.
Deploying effective (read: integrated) multi-channel strategies demands adaptive and collaborative approaches. There has to be a shared over-arching mission in which all channels are vested with no room for the ‘set and forget’ approach.
Looking for a simple but good place to start? Capture and record donor information by performing surveys, organizing petitions and creating great customer experiences whenever the opportunity arises. First listen, then respond. When a donor reaches out in any way— requests more infor-mation, expresses a communication preference, inquires about volunteering, clicks through the newsletter, posts a comment, votes on an issue, shares a photo—they’re sharing something big. You prompt, they respond and together it’s a conversation, like two friends. Most importantly, the content of the conversation has to be transmitted across the silos.
As with all healthy relationships, don’t just communicate when you need something. Let your do-nors know you are listening and appreciate their commitment, then disclose what you’re up to without demanding a donation. Include a return envelope of course, but allow a bit of breathing room to cultivate a deeper relationship.
Underlying the discussion of channel collaboration and measurements of success is accurate source coding, which is so very important to the coordination, execution and evaluation of integrated multi-channel testing. If you don’t have the bandwidth internally to evaluate and interpret results in a timely manner, then by all means outsource this very important responsibility.
One last factoid: Did you know that the average gift for men tends to be higher even though their response rate is traditionally lower? And, if you’re curious, the segment giving the most (regardless of gender) is right around 50 years old. Again, it’s not an either or but rather the mix that will make all the difference in the future health of your organization.
Cheryl Keedy, in appreciation of conference presenters and the DMA Nonprofit Federation, summarized themes and takeaways from the following presentations at the DMANF 2015 Washington Conference: