Are you investing enough in digital?

ALS home page featuring Ice Bucket Challenge

ALS Association home page

No, this is NOT another “ice bucket challenge” blog post. That’s been covered, and that story isn’t even new. It just validates what Heather Fignar and I, and many others, have been saying for years: give people a reason to have fun, express their creativity, employ social media and mobile technology, integrate it across all channels and all parts of your organization (especially media relations) and you have a good chance at making a splash, (pun intended) if not some real money.

No, this is about meaningful, ongoing investment in digital advertising, and why your nonprofit is probably woefully behind the times. So far behind, that I had to go to big box retail to show you the way. That’s right… a company selling hammers, power saws, kitchen cabinets, and 2″x4″s is kicking your butt in digital revenue.

Home Depot is investing 36% of its total ad budget into digital media, especially email messaging and social media. Print only gets 10%. Digital’s share is increasing. “We like the ROI” says their Chief Financial Officer.

The company says its continued transition to online sales and digital marketing are also key, according to Craig Menear, President, U.S. Retail.

“We’ve shifted to more targeted personalized messaging to become more relevant to customers, and as a result, costs attributable to print advertising are down 60% since 2010, and have been shifted to more efficient advertising.”

So how much does Home Depot sell online? Less than three percent of its sales originate at its new website. What? How can it make money by investing 36% of its ad budget (translation: fundraising budget) in a medium that generates less then three percent of its revenue? Because one doesn’t allocate one’s investment in growth based on the past; one invests based on the future, and Home Depot is betting on digital to drive future sales.

Also, Home Depot knows that the value of its digital investment goes way beyond the amount of orders actually placed online. It knows that handymen and handywomen scope out new product ideas, watch how-to videos, read emails with special offers, and then go into the store to do business “the old-fashioned” way.

Lest you think this is a new trend, an article from 2011 lays out the plan. Home Depot had just embarked on a $1.1 Billion investment in its new website, despite then-current online sales of just one percent of total retail. They knew, according to industry research, that “around 48% of retail sales will be influenced by the Internet in 2011 and projects this to rise to 53% by 2014.”

Sadly, many healthcare nonprofits I know budget their digital investment as if it were part of their continuing, proven, direct mail budget, expecting it to return $4 or $5 in revenue this year from every dollar invested. Then, they don’t even do a good job of measuring the impact of that paltry investment beyond the online donation page.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Are you testing enough? Neckties and Tactics

wrong ties

In the past, we preached, based on testing, that one longer donation page resulted in more completed gifts than several pages that each asked for pieces of the donation. No longer, it seems.

Test results release at last week’s New York Nonprofit Conference, sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Federation, indicated that users have changed, and multi-page donation processes are worth testing again.

More testing ideas:

Test the color of the “Donate Now” button. Yes, the marketing/communications people want it to blend in with your home page header. YOU want it to stand out. While red may stand out, a member of the audience pointed out that 10% of men, and 3% of women, are red-blue colorblind.

How much are you cultivating your new email subscribers before determining if they are returning enough in gifts to cover their cost of acquisition? Maybe not long enough. Most of us apply a direct mail thought process to this equation, which is based on the typical single-use permission of a rented name. When you get an email subscriber, you have permission to contact them until they decide otherwise.  Going slow — as many as eight or ten emails before a blatant fundraising appeal — might yield better results.

Are you testing gift arrays, on both your mail reply forms and web forms? (Warning: the best array may be different for each). The National Park Foundation found they were getting many $25 gifts, even though their gift array started at $35 and went up from there. So they tested a $25 amount, and found a 17% lift in response rate, with only a 4% drop in average gift.

Are you talking to event participants about the event when you contact them for further follow-up, or are they getting the same email everyone else is?

Are you testing re-marketing? There are ad networks that can show your ads on other websites that are visited by people who’ve come to your site but not made a gift. Google runs one of them. One nonprofit found that 18% of the 1,500 site visitors they re-marketed ultimately made a gift. (Yes, many of them would have someday made a gift anyway.)

Personalized copy on the outer envelope seems to get it opened more. “Donor Since 20xx” is one line (printed right under the donor’s name) that seems to work.

Warning: I suspect much of testing results include a certain “Hawthorne Effect” – the new test works because it’s new, not because it’s universally better.  Results increase at first, then decline. Remember the Eagles’ hit There’s a New Kid in Town” or those too-wide and too-skinny neckties in your closet, waiting for the fashion pendulum to swing back the other way.

What tests have you run lately? How have they worked?

 

Annual fund donors lead to major gifts

Wealth overlays alone do not generate major gifts!

At #NACCDOPAN, the conference of the National Association of Cancer Center Development Officers, Michael  Hibler of Johns Hopkins’ Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, and Cindy McGirk of Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center talked about ways to use data to enhance the major and planned giving efforts of their institutions.

Cindy exploded the myth that you can take your annual fund donors, overlay a wealth screening tool, and then stop mailing and calling the top-ranked donors, turning them over to a major gifts officer. First, wealth screening alone does not indicate the propensity to make major gifts. Second, abandoning traditional annual fund contacts via mail, phone, and email leads of course to fewer gifts.

What works, according to Michael, is a more complicated analysis that includes wealth ratings but that also includes data from their own donor database, including the longevity of giving, number of gifts, and other data.

Indeed, we at Amergent have run complicated regression analyses that search for factors that correlate between donor data and major or planned gift donors. In other words, if a piece of data tends to be much more common among planned or major gift donors than it is in the general donor population, that donor looks more like a planned gift donor, and that donor would rank higher on the list. Common data elements that correlate to planned giving status include the length of the donor relationship and the number of gifts given. The size of the gifts do not matter much.

Interestingly, there is a high inverse relationship between the gap between first and second gifts and the propensity to be a planned gift donor. In other words, the shorter the time between a donor’s first and second gift, even if both were made 20 years ago, the more likely they are to be a planned gift donor. So, if you want to help grow your population of planned giving prospects over the next ten or more years, thank new donors quickly, cultivate them, and get them to make a second gift quickly.

How do Michael and Cindy use these major and planned gift indicators? One way is to run wealth screening in almost real-time against newly admitted patients (who did not opt out of such communications). When a high-propensity patient is admitted, the major gift officers talk to the patient’s doctor, and ask them to “listen for cues” that indicate an interest in giving. Partnerships with physicians is key to identifying good prospects to visit.

How are you using your data?

Two subject lines that work

There is much to take from Daniel Pink’s book “To Sell is Human.” It’s a short and useful read for anyone in the persuasion business, from teachers to healthcare professionals to fundraisers to parents, and yes, salespeople.

In a section on how to develop a pitch for yourself, your organization, or your thoughts, he discusses the email pitch and quotes a study done at Carnegie-Mellon University on the effect of subject lines as they relate to getting email messages opened (which is the most important, but not only, purpose, of a subject line).

Two types of subject lines work well: those with usefulness to the reader, and those with intrigue. Useful subject lines promise information sought by the reader, and the more specific, the more likely they are to result in an opened message. So, “Three important facts about our upcoming gala” is more specific than, “What you need to know about our upcoming gala.”

Curiosity is another motivation, so messages that hint at a subject also rise to the top of the “to open” list. “What’s on the menu?” or “Who else might be at your table?” could be other ways to tease an email about the same gala.

The Carnegie-Mellon study also discovered that the motives have different results under different conditions. When time is tight, usefulness outweighs curiosity. When time is more available, curiosity does well. So, an email planned for arrival on Monday morning might get better results if its subject line promised useful information, but one sent to homes on the weekend might have a better open rate if it piques curiosity.

Remember, when writing emails that will be reviewed by others, to explain the reasons for your draft copy. Someone not understanding the reason for your intriguing email might say, “That’s too vague” and rewrite it, when vagueness is exactly what you strove for!

Test, Measure, Analyze, Repeat. The key to good subject lines, and better fundraising.

 

 

Does Taco Bell Care More Than You Do?

survey_image

Of course not. You’re deeply motivated by your cause, and you love your donors. It’s an insult to compare you to that entry-wage, barely-articulate cashier at a fast food joint.

And yet, that cashier gave you a receipt with an invitation to gather your feedback, ostensibly for the purposes of improving your future Taco Bell visit. Do YOU ask for feedback regularly enough?

While our mantra at Amergent is “Donor Focused, Data Driven” we don’t just rely on our sophisticated analytical processes for the “data.” We often insert short surveys in our direct mail pieces, or links to online surveys in our emails. We know there are many benefits to frequently asking your supporters a very short number of questions on a regular basis.

  1. Everyone likes to have their opinion valued. Even if they don’t complete the survey, they’re flattered to have been asked.
  2. The results  help us with segmentation of donor files and targeting of messages.
  3. The words the donors use themselves are very helpful to future copywriting efforts. By using the more popular verbs and adjectives in fundraising copy, we’re talking with the donor, not to her.
  4. If you repeat a survey question every six months or a year, you’ll be able to track trends in donor satisfaction, or in demographics

When and where to ask? Like they joke about voting in Chicago, “Early, and Often.”

  • It’s easy to include one line and a link in email newsletters.
  • It’s great follow-up content for the “thank you for donating” or “thank you for subscribing” emails and pages.
  • Sprinkle the links around various content pages in your website.
  • Don’t make it a popup on your start page, or on any entry page, or on your donation page (don’t distract people from where they want to go, especially if it’s also where you want them to go).

As an example (and because I care, too) I’ve created a short survey using a free subscription to SurveyMonkey.com, and I’d like you to complete it now. Thanks!