I’m in the process of updating one of the lessons in an online class I teach, Marketing Your Nonprofit. It’s the lesson on online marketing so I’ve been reviewing and researching, looking to see what is new. And as I’ve been reviewing and researching, I find myself having so many “Oh, yeah!” moments—and remembering things I need to do to market my business the research aspect ends up moving very slowly.
As one of the sources I’ve been looking at notes, digital marketing is less about digital and more about marketing—which reminded me that it is equally true that digital fundraising is less about digital and more about fundraising.
While the tools you use for marketing and for fundraising change and morph, the things you are trying to accomplish and the steps you must take to accomplish those things actually remain pretty static.
For both marketing and fundraising, there are a few common steps that are critically important.
The first is identifying your target market. Who is it that you want to reach? Once you know that, you must learn more about them and one of the first things to learn is how can you best reach them. In marketing, it is figuring out where they hang out. Are they reading magazines and newspapers (and if so, which ones)? Are they on social media—and which platforms would they be on? For fundraising, it is all that plus knowing who is an insider with you (staff, board, volunteer, donor), who knows this person or organization and can connect you to them.
Now that you know who they are, where they are, and how you can reach them, the next step is figuring out how to get them connected. In marketing, you are thinking about how to make your target audience aware of you. In fundraising, you are cultivating them, so they become interested and, hopefully, get involved. Not so different. In fact, the fact is that without an awareness of who you are and what you do, there can be no interest. And without interest, there is no involvement.
We make connections by offering something of value. For prospective donors, that is often a mission that is meaningful. I care about, for example, equity, justice, opportunity, and so I will support the work you do. In marketing, it is often more of a quid pro quo.
Quid pro quo means “something for something.” So I—the person or organization marketing something—will give you—the person I hope will become a customer or client—something that you think is of value.
I, the marketer, will give you a gift, information, a discount, in exchange for you contact information so I can continue to develop our connection.
Once a connection has been made and (hopefully) deepened, it’s time to ask for something. I may be asking you to buy a product, or to make a gift. I might want you to serve on a volunteer committee, or become an advocate for what we do. What I am asking for is less important than the fact that I am asking for a commitment. In fundraising, this is the solicitation. In marketing, it is conversion rate.
Too often, nonprofits think this is a “one and done” effort. As soon as I have a way to connect with you, I make an ask. You say yes. You say no. Either way—our relationship, which has barely begun is pretty much over until the next time I want to ask you for something.
Digital fundraising has taken this to extremes. Make a gift online and in most cases, you will get an immediate digital thank you that also asks for another gift!
And then, as if that wasn’t enough—every time the organization reaches out, they ask for yet more support. Is it any wonder that donors leave in droves? Indeed, by all measures, donor attrition is over 60%, meaning that fewer than 40% of all donors ever make another gift.
Taking the time to develop strong connections, with baby steps along the way and asks (or in fundraising-ese, “Solicitations”) that start small and build slowly will pay off big time over time.
In order to build, you must keep your donors or your customers happy. Whether my action is to click a link, provide my contact information, make a gift, or purchase something, each step is one step closer to increasing my value to the organization. If I do any of the above once and only once, you have spent a great deal of time and money for very little return. So how do you ensure that I return again and again…and again?
Customer building in marketing typically involves ensuring you are providing a valuable product or service, making that product or service easily accessible, communicating well with your audience, delivering what you promised and then repeating the process. In fundraising we call this stewardship. Stewarding your donors means thanking them and showing them the impact of their gift. In both cases—building customers and stewarding donors—your job is to make sure that those who support you feel, in turn that you are supporting and nurturing them.