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Highlight Reel: Insider’s Guide Presentation

While we can’t deny the devastating impact of the pandemic over the past year, there are a few silver linings to acknowledge. One: the accessibility to conferences and trainings in this virtual world. Two: the ease of access to our nonprofit colleagues and peers, nationally as well as globally.

That’s why I was delighted when Tara Collins from the Association of Fundraising Professionals of the Mid-Hudson Valley (NY) contacted me to host a presentation on digital fundraising and discuss highlights from my book. Tara had signed up for the Bold and Bright Media Nonprofit Book Club last year and enjoyed my session from the monthly author meetups. She wanted to offer the same content to her AFP chapter members.

On March 10, we launched the webinar on Zoom with a simulcast to Facebook live. My presentation covered five major topics:

  • Digital Skeptics and Internal Barriers
  • The Purpose and Benefits of Online Fundraising
  • Growth Funnels and Digital Tools
  • Crafting New Campaigns and Examples
  • Prospecting and Segmentation

While you can watch to the 90-minute session here (which is incredibly entertaining and informative, if I do say so myself), I’ve pulled out a few of the highlights and point to the relevant content in my book.

Digital Skeptics and Internal Barriers

Perhaps you’ve heard some of these comments in your career: “We’re a traditional organization,” “We’ve never done it that way,” or “Digital is for millennials and we know they don’t give.”

Why do we encounter this incredible resistance when introducing new digital tactics? Some of these barriers stem from an intimidation of technology, a lack of knowledge or resources, or an unwillingness to explore innovation that has more to do with fear than anything: a fear of change, a fear of making mistakes, or a fear of audience backlash.

So how do address these concerns and overcome the barriers? We can start with understanding the purpose and benefits of online fundraising.

Additional resources for this section can be found in my book:
Chapter 1: Building the Menu – Defining Digital Channels and Categories
Chapter 4: Shake It Up – Navigating Org Charts, Silos and Lanes

The Purpose and Benefits of Online Fundraising

Digital is moving at lightening speed, as we’ve seen even more clearly during this pandemic. Online activities and digital media consumption are on the rise. In fact, in recent analysis by PBS, they anticipate a convergence of broadcast and digital viewing to happen in 2022, with digital to continue to rise as broadcast declines. Nonprofits need to establish a solid online presence to connect with current and future audiences.

There are three main benefits of online fundraising:

  • Diversifying Revenue – It’s imperative that nonprofits have numerous funding channels and digital plays a key role. This past year was a painful example. Nonprofits with the majority of funding coming from events and sponsorships struggled to close the budget gap. Many had to layoff their staff or close their doors permanently. 
  • Younger Audiences – I tell the story of my 21-year old daughter who is on her phone or laptop constantly. She rarely checks her physical mailbox and certainly doesn’t read newspapers or watch traditional cable TV. So how do we reach her? By establishing our digital foundations now, we will be prepared to cultivate her and her buddies when they are ready to make donations in the future.
  • Instant Results – Donors love to be a part of the excitement of hitting a fundraising goal. Digital campaigns offer the ability to provide up-to-the-minute updates and offer the transparency that donors appreciate.

Additional resources for this section can be found in my book:
Chapter 2: Launch – The Importance of Digital. And Taking Risks.

Growth Funnels and Digital Tools

The growth funnel model gives us a structure to create robust user journeys that will provide audiences with content that matches their investment in the organization. By ensuring that we have the right communications and activities for new audiences, prospects, donors, volunteers, and advocates, we are cultivating and converting at very high levels and optimizing our success.

In the presentation, we go in-depth with a six-level growth funnel: introduction, cultivation, acquisition, value exchange (donation), stewardship, and ambassadors or advocates. For example: Turning prospects into followers, followers to volunteers, volunteers to donors, donors to sustainers, and sustainers into advocates.

There are four basic tools needed to craft a successful digital campaign: a donation form, email, a website landing page, and social media. Additional tools that will help expand the reach of a campaign include such things as online ads, video, live-streaming, blogs, trivia, polls, drawings, peer to peer efforts, or events and tours.

Additional resources for this section can be found in my book:
Chapter 5: Ingredients for Project Success – A Canvas. A Toolkit. A Playbook.
Chapter 7: The Funnel Flow – Grow Your Audience. Deepen Relationships.
Chapter 9: The Regulars – The Power of an Ambassador Program

Crafting New Campaigns and Examples

When crafting a new campaign there are essentially 3 steps:

  • Determine the theme and timing
  • Map the tools and activities on the growth funnel
  • Create a campaign calendar

In the presentation, we examine a simple one-day campaign such as Giving Tuesday with the four basic tools (website landing page, email series, social media, and donation form) as well as online ads. We mapped these efforts on the growth funnel and looked at the campaign calendar.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to have an integrated or multi-channel campaign that not only utilizes all of the digital channels available in our toolkit, but can also include direct mail, corporate sponsorship, matching gifts, on-air or radio, and traditional marketing.

In the presentation, we looked at three examples of integrated campaigns and mapped them on the growth funnel:

  • A 24-Hour Live Streaming Telethon with events, corporate partners, volunteer activities, and giveaways.
  • A “Bob Ross Takeover” that focused on digital and on-air efforts including partners and trivia.
  • An 8-Week Year-End campaign that featured online, on-air, and mail efforts.

Additional resources for this section can be found in my book:
Chapter 3: Meat of the Matter – Anatomy of Digital & Integrated Campaigns
Chapter 10: The Bar Nuts – Engagement Campaigns: Keep Them Coming. Help Them Stay.
Chapter 11: Caviar – Revenue Campaigns: Serving Up the Very Best

Prospecting and Segmentation

Anyone who is familiar with fundraising by direct mail understands the concept of “churn,” or the process of donors who eventually fall off your file for various reasons. This is why acquisition, or prospecting, is so important. We need to ensure a steady stream of donors are coming into the funnel for our fundraising efforts to have continued success.

In addition to some of the tactics such as trivia, giveaways, or polls, we can utilize paid search ads, events, a Google Ad Grant, ambassadors or referrals, and mail.

When we segment communications to our audiences and utilize personalization, we create deeper connections and our campaigns are more targeted and effective. In the presentation, we looked at three categories of segmentation: by revenue, participation, and by demographic or geography.

Additional resources for this section can be found in my book:
Chapter 8: Special Seating – Defining Audiences Through Segmentation and Personalization
Chapter 12: Happy Hour and Daily Specials – Prospecting and Recapture

Q and A Session

Following the session, the group had some great questions including:

  • Can you talk about the pre-launch period needed to prepare for a campaign?
  • How much staff are needed for the campaigns you presented?
  • Can you give examples of how you change your messaging based upon the target (prospect, volunteer, donor, etc)?
  • What have you found as best practices with creating frictionless donation forms that convert?
  • What CRM are you using at WHYY?
  • Curious about the landing page – it seems like it’s accidental, that people would fall on it if they don’t know they want to donate. Will they bypass this page in general?
  • The lookalike ads – this is a way to make it part of your target audience?
  • Can you talk about creating the lookalike audiences?
  • How do you stay current with the changing landscape and digital tools?
  • Can you give us a preview of your next book?
  • What was the inspiration for the theme of a restaurant to the book?
  • What was your most successful online fundraiser?
  • Tell us about your biggest flop.
  • Why would we ever go back to events if we have so much success in online fundraising?

You can go straight to the end of the session to get the answers.

Or view the full session below.