Apple Pay, Twitter Buy, Facebook e-commerce, and your nonprofit

Did your mood change between the first six words of this headline, and the last two? Did your technological curiosity shift to something short of terror when the headline suggested that these technologies might have an impact on something bigger than how you buy a Big Mac or a sweater?

Good. You get it.

I think I’m a cool mobile/social consumer every time I order a coffee at Starbucks and pay for it with my mobile app, linked to my PayPal account. However, mobile and social e-commerce is advancing quickly, and your nonprofit needs to get on board. Consider these recent developments:

Apple Pay, the mobile payment technology that allows you to pay for things with credit cards tied to your iPhone, is launching in McDonald’s and Whole Foods. But… according to the same article, “you’ll be able to pay for your Uber, buy baseball tickets with MLB.com and order food from Seamless with one click.” Which means there’s no reason iPhone users can’t also just as easily donate to your organization, or buy tickets to your event. No reason, except, you’re not ready for it.

Twitter just announced a “Buy Now” feature that will appear in certain tweets, allowing subscribers to purchase a product (or make a gift) through a Twitter app, also using existing credit cards. Pretty soon you’ll be able to get donations through tweets as easily as @Megadeth sells concert tickets and tee-shirts. Once you figure out how, when, and for how much, to ask.

And, Facebook has begun adding “buy” buttons into the ads it places into users’ newsfeeds. This allows users to directly purchase items and services offered for sale. Since 62% of Facebooks’ revenue is now coming from mobile users, the combination of mobile and social with e-commerce is staggering. An article in Institutional Investor’s blog says, “Simply put, Facebook newsfeed ads deposit users directly into the mouths of the sales funnels of mobile-first companies.”

And, if the above isn’t scary enough, this just in from @NonProfitTimes :
“United Way Worldwide (UWW) is joining the digital currency world, announcing that it would begin accepting bitcoin donations. It is the latest 501(c)(3) to adopt the digital currency.”  Let’s just leave this one off the table for now. It even scares me.

I’m not suggesting that you abandon efforts to improve your next direct mail letter. That’s going to bring in more net money this fiscal year than any of the above. But you have to carve out some time to start playing in these mobile/social sandboxes, and get comfortable, because there’s a lot of opportunity there, especially among influential early adopters.

What is your nonprofit doing in mobile/social and ecommerce?

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.

 

 

 

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?

 

Do you talk about patients or research in your appeals?

‘People give to people’ is the old adage, and successful fundraising letters and emails are illustrated with photos and stories about hopeful, hungry children and homeless people. But does it work in healthcare fundraising?

We have found, time and again, that stories about research produce better fundraising results than those about patients. Imagine, a fact-filled, scientific explanation of some new technology producing more, and bigger, gifts, than a heart-rending or -warming story of a patient helped by the same technology! Exactly.

It’s not  just Amergent’s results, either. Recently John Graves and Dennis Lonergan of Eidolon Communications presented some test results at DMAW’s DM201 workshop. Here are two letters they tested side by side for a hospital:

dm201-creative-testing-lonergan-graves1            dm201-creative-testing-lonergan-graves2

The letter on the left is a story about how a new technology saved a patient’s life. The letter on the right is all about the technology itself. The tech-heavy letter, according to Graves and Lonergan, produced 43% more gifts, and a 3x lift in average gift (from $27 to $83)!

Why? That’s a trick question. I’m reminded by my very first bosses in direct marketing that “why” doesn’t matter. It’s tempting to speculate, however, and my speculation is that every family has a patient story, but technology reflects the hope of the future.

So, people may indeed give to people, but the people to whom people are giving might be research scientists and laboratory technicians.

What research stories do you tell? Do you have testing data that contradict ours?

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.