Still have questions? Would you like to know how you can incorporate digital to increase giving from the annual fund to the major gifts program? Complete the form below and Adrian or Justin will get back to you shortly:
We’ve all heard about the trend of “donor decline.”
And a lot of us have experienced this deflating feeling of fewer donors giving to the institiutions we love and support.
But here’s the thing - it doesn’t have to be this way. All it takes is a little resource reallocation and you can enjoy a development operation with donor participation on the rise - from the annual fund to the major gifts program.
Join Adrian Matthys, from the University of Texas Austin, and Justin Ware, Groundwork Digital president and co-founder, for “Increasing Participation with Online Fundraising” - a free webinar on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 2pm ET/11am PT. Click the button below to sign up:
Agile fundraising unlocks new giving from every corner of your development operation, often from donors who were not planning to make a gift.
Case in point? The University of Minnesota's Super Bowl Marching Band campaign. The following are the highlights from that campaign...
- $183,000 raised in two months: $83,000+ in small gifts plus a $100,000 gift from a major donor
- New donor acquisition: More than 110 new donors who have never given to the University of Minnesota – 80 lapsed donors reactivated
- Major gift referrals: 12 major gift prospects referred to development officers from this project
For more on the UMN Marching Band campaign and "Agile Fundraising," check out the following video:
Groundwork Digital's innovative "digital development program" incorporates agile fundraising, along with other modern fundraising mechanisms to reverse donor decline and grow philanthropy at every level using digital, content-driven tactics. We specialize in:
- Digital major donor engagement
- Giving days
- And more...
Is your phone program barely breaking even? (or worse?) Could your direct mail benefit from a multi-channel marketing boost? Fill out the form below and let's talk about we can rebalance your resources with cutting edge digital strategies to grow your fundraising program.
- $183,000 raised in two months: $83,000+ in small gifts plus the $100,000 gift from a major donor
- New donor acquisition: More than 110 new donors who have never given to the University of Minnesota – 80 lapsed donors reactivated
- Major gift referrals: 12 major gift prospects referred to development officers from this project
The big game, a big donor, crowdfunding, and a road trip
Those ingredients, combined with a skilled and agile fundraising team, led to an exciting multi-channel, “agile fundraising” campaign win that will ultimately send the University of Minnesota marching band to their first road game performance since 1996.
It starts with that closely trademarked “Big Game.” During this “Big Game” football event in Minneapolis, on February 4th, 2018 (wink, wink), Justin Timberlake invited the U of M’s Pride of Minnesota marching band to perform with him during the halftime show. The Pride of Minnesota knocked it out of the park with a flawless performance, and local news took notice.
The University’s Foundation and it's College of Liberal Arts fundraiser, Jake Muszynski, saw the potential in advance. A small group within the Foundation had access to the privileged and secret information about a band half-time performance several days before the Big Game event. The skilled team of fundraisers, communicators, and strategists quickly turned to a generous band donor. Within days, the donor offered to match up to $100,000 to encourage an influx of donations to the band that could be used for travel with the football team for a B1G game. (Funding a road trip for the University of Minnesota Marching Band comes with a $100,000 price tag) In 2018, that game would take place in Lincoln, vs. the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The campaign was an instant success. Thousands of dollars were rolling in during the first few hours, with more than $20,000 raised in the first week.
The fundraisers behind the project flexed their promotional muscle with a strong news media push, emails to supporters, social media marketing, and engagement of U of M social media influencers to drive the effort. Almost all of the marketing and fundraising was done online, with some gifts coming in-person and 10 percent of the final total raised through telemarketing. This communications work elevated the campaign and kept the momentum strong through the first $50,000+ raised.
Then, a short stall – the fundraising stayed locked in the $50,000 range for the final weeks.
So back to work.
The communications team fired up a video-based email and Facebook Ads campaign to drive toward the finish line. The final week total: $73,000+ raised by the April 6 deadline. Additional gifts trickled in after the “deadline” bringing the total to more than $83,000.
"I had conversations with top donors leading up to the launch of this project, but the incredible thing about this campaign is that everything was organic. There were no gifts set up ahead of time--this campaign was truly built around excitement and timing, and it proved to be extremely successful," says Muszynski.
The elements of the U of M Marching Band campaign were no coincidence. This approach of connecting with major gift capacity donors and working to magnify their generosity through donor-acquiring (and retaining) digital events was a very deliberate strategy on the part of the University of Minnesota Foundation. The Foundation’s team brought talented fundraisers and communicators together with forward-thinking strategy to connect digital-savvy large gift donors with online fundraising campaigns that aligned with the donors’ passions.
And, they were “agile”
“Agile marketing” is essentially the practice of marketing that rolls with the blows, so to speak. We live in a real-time world, which means we expect real-time everything. 10 years earlier, a commercial that was tone-deaf to the events of the day would be understandable. Today, that faux pas is inexcusable. This is true not just of our news media, but also the marketing aimed at us. (Think of the classic “Oreo Big Game Power Out” tweet for a perfect example of real-time, agile marketing)
Agile marketing helped the U of M Foundation team find success, despite the tight-timeline. In less than a week, a CLA fundraiser had the generous matching gift of $100,000 ready to go. The communications team quickly followed with their email and social media strategies, the Big Game happened, the band performed, and now that same band is on its way to Lincoln for a long overdue B1G road game. In addition to funds raised, the project saw many other gains.
"This project became a great cultivation tool, as donors told stories through their giving. Many donors left a note on the crowdfunding page saying who they were or why they were giving, and it made for a great way to follow up with those donors in a thank you," says Muszynski. "I was very surprised and excited at the number of new donors this project uncovered."
Your fundraising organization can realize similar success to the University of Minnesota’s band campaign. Below are tips for launching and growing an agile fundraising program.
- Foster open, cross-team collaboration – fundraisers, communicators, prospect development, and strategists should all be meeting regularly to discuss opportunities in the digital space
- Hire smart, nimble staff who can adjust on the fly to run digital fundraising campaigns that align with the media and news cycles
- Integrate digital with the major gifts AND annual giving programs and encourage both groups to work together – provide training for gift officers and leverage online data for sophisticated major donor prospect development research
- Produce more video – the centerpiece of great, multi-channel content marketing campaigns
From video, to digital for major gifts, to email, to online ambassadors, and more - Groundwork Digital builds programs that produce results like the UMN Marching Band campaign. Click here to fill out our contact form and we'll be in touch soon with how we can help.
What does the #MPRraccoon have to do with modern fundraising? Everything.
In case you missed it, #MPRraccoon is the tale of a raccoon who was observed scaling the side of 25-story building in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota. Quite literally, millions (billions? It was the top trending story on Twitter worldwide at one point) followed this furry little critter's harrowing climb up several hundred feet in the middle of a busy work day. (Thank you, social media) It was a unifying event that, according to many tweets, inspired observers across the globe.
So what does this have to do with fundraising? Again, everything ...because online fundraising works best when you are able to catch potential donors at the right point in time.
In most cases, we try to accomplish this by tying digital campaigns to established events we can anticipate. #GivingTuesday, national awareness days, founding anniversaries ...and that can be successful. But rarely are those events as inspiring as a sudden, viral Internet sensation.
So how on Earth can you prepare for something as random as a miniature mammal taking center stage before the world? If you're an conservation or animal welfare organization, the answer should be obvious. Early the day after the #MPRraccoon hit the news, you should have had a social media campaign with promoted tweets and Facebook posts ready to fire. Emails should have been created and sent - a giving page with a screen grab of the raccoon and clear call to action should have been ready to go.
The messaging? For animal rights orgs: "Not all wildlife achieves the fame of #MPRraccoon - give today to ensure happy endings for all those animals who aren't trending topics"
For the conservation org: "Don't force more raccoons up high rises - give today to preserve habitat for generations to come"
It's concept we at Groundwork have coined "agile fundraising" (a play off the more well known "agile marketing" term). You can prepare your fundraising shop to leverage this concept and react nimbly when the social media gods deliver opportunities that align with your mission. Here's how:
- Hire internally or outsource a team of quick thinking communicators and producers who can work with the news cycle. (This is why Groundwork aims to hire fundraisers with experience in the news industry ... women and men who are accustomed to delivering impactful stories that align with the events of the day on excruciating tight timelines are fundamental to our strategies)
- Be ready to quickly produce short, succinct video which can be deployed via social media. OR ...create video content in advance that can easily be connected to a more predictable news item with a slight edit. (A full screen graphic, for example)
- Use technology that allows you to build a content-rich online giving page in less than an hour. Most crowdfunding platforms allow for this.
- And develop a strategy that prepares your team - from major gift officers who secure matching gifts in less than a day (our clients have done this - it is possible if you've built the framework in advance) to content producers ready to turn on a dime to leadership who is comfortable with the pace.
At Groundwork, we are doing agile fundraising for our clients right now and we have examples of how this has helped raise hundreds of thousand of dollars and hundreds of new major gift prospects. In fact, later this summer (2018), we'll be releasing a case study about our most recent agile fundraising campaign with one of our client partners. Click here to let us know if you'd like to be added to the email list so we can send you a copy when it's ready.
Agile fundraising is not without it's challenges, but the opportunity that exists with this strategy is tremendous. Have you had success with agile fundraising or agile marketing for your nonprofit? If so, let us know in the comments!
Want to increase your retention? Email your donors MUCH more frequently.
Seriously. Data says so.
A M+R Benchmark study of 4,699,299,330 email messages and 11,958,385 donations tells us that EVERY additional fundraising message per subscriber was related to 0.2% increase in overall donor retention for the year. And there were no signs of that correlation dissipating as the emails increased. The formula looks simple: more emails = more retention.
Of course, while I don’t have data to prove this, it stands to reason that emailing your donor database every day with a subject line and body that basically says “Give again today!” will not lead to better retention. (Just a hunch)
So how do you develop a high-frequency email program that does encourage higher donor retention? As with anything, content counts. Here is what Groundwork recommends…
Treat email as a gateway, not a final destination
Assume people are checking and not reading email. Keep you emails short, succinct, and to the point. Link out of the email to your website where great content (preferably video) awaits the reader. Include only one call to action and highlight that CTA in bold with the hyperlink to your website. In most cases, we want an email to grab someone’s attention and send them to an online destination where they can “learn more,” “sign up,” or “give today!”
Key to this approach is producing great content for your website(s) and gift form(s). Investing in powerful video content is one of the most important moves a nonprofit fundraising organization can make. The relationship between high email volume and increased retention is just one of the many reasons why content is critical.
Always Be (A/B, get it?) Testing
A/B test to no end. The “gateway not a destination” recommendation I just gave above? Test it. Try long form emails with group A and three-sentence emails with group B.
But to bring this back to retention, conduct a year-long email retention test. Send donor group A your current planned frequency of email and then send donor group B three times that number. Do your best to provide quality content and keep the solicitation ratio equal across both groups. (Group A gets 4 soliciations and 8 impact of giving emails, group B gets 12 solicitations and 24 impact of giving emails) Which group retains better after 12 months of this approach? Everything can be A/B tested including this high email volume = better retention theory.
Thoughts? Is dramatically increasing email frequency a tough pill to swallow? We would love to hear from those who have experimented with email frequency in the comments below!
There is an amazing amount of powerful, game-changing technology on the scene today. Whether you’re launching a giving day, identifying online ambassadors, or engaging major donors around their social media behavior, in modern fundraising, if you want to do it there is probably a tool for it.
But this embarrassment of riches has its challenges.
First, there is option paralysis. In our efforts to continually improve Groundwork Digital’s services, I just did a search for “social media influencer platforms.” The first page of search results was littered with blog posts promising “25 best…” “40 best…” “57 best … influencer identification platforms!” Even artificial intelligence and machine learning now have multiple players in the nonprofit space with wonderful platforms like Gravyty and QuadWrangle continuing to expand their tool sets and client lists.
Then, once you’ve made a decision and purchased software, do you have the talent to make the most of your investment? This is the issue that we so frequently see in the nonprofit and higher education spaces – amazing tools that are collecting dust on the shelf, because the fundraising teams either don’t know or don’t have time to learn how to use those tools.
Some forward-thinking organizations have hired to manage new technology. The University of Connecticut Foundation is one of those organizations. After recently taking the reins, UConn President and CEO Joshua Newton quickly hired a “Director of Business Intelligence” to “change the way we communicate with and solicit our alumni.”
“Knowing of the micro-targeting and customization in how we are approached as consumers, (the UConn Foundation) wanted to utilize that same approach and technology,” said Newton. “We hired a Director of Business Intelligence from the corporate world. It was a deliberate and intentional move on our part to begin to allow us, and each alum, to have an individualized relationship with the university.”
Hiring a technology expert is something we at Groundwork would recommend every large organization consider. Or, consider restructuring the responsibilities of your current team to better utilize technology your shop owns now or may soon acquire.
Whether you’re hiring or restructuring a position, the following are talents and skillsets present in the right candidate to lead your nonprofit out of the dark ages and into an innovative and more efficient future.
First and foremost, your new technology expert should be a top-level fundraising strategist.
And they need to be more than a digital expert – they need to know multi-channel fundraising. Coordinated and aligned multi-channel fundraising campaigns typically perform best. That’s why your technology expert should know how email, direct mail, digital advertising, phone programs, and social media work together.
A technology expert also needs to be more than an annual giving specialist. Perhaps even more important than online giving software are the increasing set of tools that make major gift work more efficient and effective. This is why your technology expert should be aware of what keeps gift officers and directors of development up at night. The tech expert should understand what is possible in terms of data capture and management and which platforms can make the most of your data as it relates to your most capable donors and prospects.
Next, find an innovator to operationalize your technology.
An “innovator” is someone who can think out of the box and reimagine your current technology suite. The innovator can also recognize how the right new platforms could transform your fundraising shop. This is particularly difficult to do with in-house staff as their ideas and concepts are intertwined with your existing approach. With technology, a fresh perspective can be tremendously helpful.
Finally, you need unbiased ideas and recommendations.
It may seem obvious, but you can’t turn to a tech vendor for tech recommendations. Oddly enough, sometimes the tech vendors are not even the best ones to actually sell you their technology. A vendor only knows your team so well. The full toolset, the politics, the capabilities of your team – all are important factors in selecting new technology and an internal team member or consultant who knows you well is in a far better position to select the right technology based on these factors.
Between CRMs, websites, online giving technology, and a host of other platforms, your organization likely spends well into the six figures and possibly more on technology. This is a good thing, but also a substantial challenge. To make the most of this technology, you need a person or team focused on integrating the technology with your operation. Find someone who is equal parts fundraising pro and technology geek to take the reins of your tech and watch your operation grow because of their presence.
Need help? Groundwork Digital leads technology selection and implementation projects for our clients. Click here to email us and learn more.
Online giving is continuing its meteoric rise in prominence with a 23 percent increase in 2017 after a 15 percent jump in 2016.
This coming from the always wonderfully comprehensive M+R online giving benchmark report.
While the M+R reports shows online giving is up, securing those online gifts has become more complicated as the historically chief digital channel – email – is seeing engagement drop across the board with click through rates, open rates, and conversion rates all seeing reductions of six, one, and six percent respectively.
BUT, notably, email revenue increased 24 percent and accounted for 28 percent of all online fundraising. In part because we are emailing our supporters more than ever before.
So what does this mean? Ultimately, some nonprofits are doing online fundraising very well and gobbling up big numbers of the massive online audience. Which means those who are not taking advantage of digital will increasingly be losing their donors to the organizations that are doing digital right.
What can you do to be sure your development operation is among the digital winners? Below are three paths to consider following right away…
Everything starts with video – so start producing more video
57 percent of everyone who watches a nonprofit’s video will eventually make a gift to that nonprofit. (Google, 2013)
Video is, by far, the Facebook algorithm’s top choice for allowing content to be seen by your fans. And the Pew Research institute’s numbers tell us that roughly four out of five North Americans are now on Facebook.
Yes, video can be expensive. But it is worth its weight in gold when you consider how powerful video can be on social media, online, and with email.
And video doesn’t have to be expensive.
According to ThankView, the more raw or authentic the video, the more likely it is to drive giving. When comparing “uploaded” and often higher quality videos to the spur-of-the-moment “webcam” variety videos, the webcam videos enjoyed a 15 percent click through rate on a call to action (most typically “give now”), while the more polished “uploaded” videos only saw a 10 percent click through rate. A five percent difference on clicks to a “give now” button is substantial and has an immediate impact on fundraising.
In other words, don’t allow a desire for perfection to paralyze your video production efforts. Instead, democratize your video. Train your staff, volunteers, donors, students, grateful patients – anyone with a smart phone – to become guerilla video producers for your cause. Not only is this an affordable way to increase your video output, but data is telling us this lower-quality content might even be more effective at securing gifts than more professional-looking video content – especially when viewed online.
Make sure your video (and all digital content) gets seen
As prominent as Facebook is, the platform’s algorithm is now rendering the network virtually worthless to organizations if you’re not willing to invest in ad spending. While that is discouraging, the good news is that it doesn’t take much spending to make a big difference on Facebook. A $200 campaign, boosted by online ambassadors, can have tremendous reach and real impact in terms of fundraising success.
And again – ambassadors matter. Facebook will reward content with far more views if it notices a large number of people engaging with that content. If you can reliably drum up a few dozen likes and shares with your ambassador core, that will lead to substantial viewership for that content. Couple ambassadors with a small ad spend and the reach will grow exponentially.
In addition to deploying ambassadors and ad spend on social media content through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, be sure you’re sharing content via email, as well. Groundwork’s clients have been enjoying newfound email success through a combination of simplifying email messaging and relying on video to carry that message. Here is a quick outline of how to make this happen for your organization:
- Focus on minimal text in the email body – ideally, the email’s body should address the recipient by name, include a pithy one- or two-line message and a link (maybe with a thumbnail) to a website featuring a video. Essentially, the email is a gateway that introduces and redirects the recipient to your website to consume the content. (Don't try telling the entire story in the email ... email is a gateway, not a novel)
- The website to which the email directs recipients should be a simple page featuring the video, a call to action (“Give Now” “Register Today”), and not much more (Resist the urge to send them to your homepage ... in most cases, you want to be more focused)
- Test everything you can – sender, subject, format of content
- Use the word “video” in subject lines …and test it against emails that don’t have “video” in the subject line
Ultimately, it’s about multi-channel donor engagement, because our donors use multiple channels. And when we produce a sophisticated, coordinated, and aligned campaign across email, social media, and traditional channels like phone and direct mail, we see gains in fundraising across all channels.
Get mobile right
The M+R report was clear about the necessity of providing a quality experience on mobile. For example:
- 40 percent of nonprofit website visitors arrived at the sites via mobile in 2017, up 9 percent from 2016
- Mobile transactions increased by 50 percent in 2017
Groundwork’s clients are seeing similar trends. During our most recent client giving day (a large, land grant university), mobile donations were nearly three times greater than then were in 2017 (from 106 in ’17 to 287 in ’18) and accounted for roughly 1/3 of all giving in ’18 after accounting for roughly 1/5 of all giving day gifts in ’17.
If you want to be positioned to secure your organization’s share of the critical online audience, you must have a website, content, and giving experience that is optimized for mobile. Not just in technology, but also a fundraising strategy that lends to easy giving opportunities from mobile devices.
The continued rise in online giving is a difficult adjustment for some nonprofit fundraisers. Unless you are magically experiencing a boost in your operating budget, doing more in digital means doing less in traditional channels such as mail and phone. But the ROI is there. Savvy, digitally-minded fundraisers are raising more money, more efficiently. To learn more about how, click here and send us an email. We’re happy to share more clients stories and offer tips for your organization to revolutionize fundraising with tested and proven digital tactics.
Whether a giving day, end-of-calendar-year campaign, #GivingTuesday, spring appeal ...whatever the cause for the solicitation, TRUE multi-channel fundraising campaigns are proven to significantly increase fundraising outcomes. (Online and offline)
So what is a "true multi-channel campaign?" We explain in the video below. Just click to watch... *NOTE: the content starts at the 2:10 mark. (There is nothing wrong with your audio!)
Do you want an expert leading your multi-channel fundraising strategy? Groundwork Digital offers packages to align and modernize your fundraising efforts across social media, email, direct mail, and phone. Click here to send us an email for more information.
Online ambassador programs continue to prove their value in the leadership and major gifts spaces.
Groundwork client Trinity Health Foundation is enjoying the fruits of a project that finds, engages, then deploys leadership annual giving and major donors through digital campaigns. Watch the video below as Trinity's Beth Marsoun talks about how this online fundraising effort is uncovering new major donor prospects for the hospital:
Here are the numbers for the first (of many) Trinity digital leadership annual giving fundraising campaigns:
- $15,000+ new money raised in just 72 hours
- 94 gifts
- 80 percent new donor acquisition rate
- Three new major donor prospects uncovered through the mirco campaign
And wealthy people know other wealthy people. When we empower our leadership and major donors with online campaigns built around their generosity, we not only raise more from the initial donor organizing the online campaign, but we also unlock wealthy prospects within their networks. All the while, feeding the annual fund with exciting new giving opportunties.
Going digital for major donors provides a short-term boost to your operation with small gifts while spreading rocket fuel on your new major donor prospect recruitment efforts. It's a win-win now and next year (and beyond).
And Groundwork knows exactly how to build a program like this for your organization. Click here for our "contact us" form and we'll be in touch to discuss potential strategies for your organization.