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More Email Equals Higher Donor Retention

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!

How to Find Fundraising Technology for Your Nonprofit

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.”

 UConn has hired a position to focus on "business intelligence" and finding the best technology to lead their engagement and fundraising efforts.

UConn has hired a position to focus on "business intelligence" and finding the best technology to lead their engagement and fundraising efforts.

“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.

M+R Study Shows Changing Face of Philanthropy Looks More Digital Than Ever

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)

 Simple, authentic video on Facebook is both affordable and effective for engaging donors and landing gifts.

Simple, authentic video on Facebook is both affordable and effective for engaging donors and landing gifts.

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.

HOW TO Build Multi-channel Fundraising Campaigns

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. 

Find New Major Donor Prospects Through Online Campaigns

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

It's simple - the more wealth a person has, the more active they are online (according to a massive and growing number of studies from researchers at places like Fidelity Investments to Accenture).

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.

Rethinking the Online Giving Day

Online giving days and events like #GivingTuesday are adding hundreds of millions of fundraising dollars to nonprofits every year. And this trend shows no signs of slowing any time soon.

So it makes sense that nonprofits would be feverishly trying to find the best, most significant dates in their calendars to launch an inaugural online giving day. Or maybe improve a long-standing giving day.

But maybe the organizational calendar is the wrong place to look for the right date for your giving day? Instead, shouldn't we be asking our donors - individually, in some cases - which date makes the most sense to them?

Have a look at this astonishing online-ambassador fundraising event conducted by Marquette University...

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The $1 million Challenge launched in 2016 when Marquette alumnus Lemonis offered up a $300,000 match to spur giving at all levels. Using his enormous social media clout, Lemonis led the charge in tandem with the Marquette development team to raise more than $1 million, including Lemonis' matching gift.

Lemonis and Marquette teamed up again in 2017, this time on a $1.5 million matching gift from Lemonis. The result? An additional $1.7 million raised in addition to Lemonis' match for a total of $3.2 million.

Major Donor Online Ambassadors

The key to successful campaigns like Marquette's giving challenges with Marcus Lemonis is in finding your online ambassadors who also have major gift capacity. And they are out there. Right now Groundwork Digital is combining influencer screening with wealth screening to single out the big-time social media users with the capacity to give transformational gifts.

But finding these large-gift-donor ambassadors is only part of the process. Next, work with gift officers and prospect development to enhance solicitation strategies with the newfound digital data on prospects. This step includes merging gift officer knowledge with donor info in the database plus the psychographic info pulled from the social listening data (the data that came about via the influencer scan).

The goal is uncovering digital campaign concepts that match important aspects of a major gift prospect or donor's life. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations - any life event could be leveraged to build an online campaign that has deep personal meaning to the donor or prospect. And that deep personal meaning translates into fervent online ambassador activity from the major gift donor or prospect.

This major-donor-centered digital campaign could be short and intense like a 24-hour giving day or it could be longer duration, like a crowdfunding campaign. Regardless of the specific parameters, building digital fundraising events around a personal milestone or cause of a major donor can both lead to new major gift prospects from the donor's network and a significant boost in small-gift giving in support of the campaign.

How to Build Digital Campaigns Around Major Donor Ambassadors

For a quick recap, here is how Groundwork Digital works with clients to develop major-donor-centered digital campaigns:

  1. Conduct a social media influence screening for your entire database of donors. (In addition to uncovering major donor ambassadors, you can use the larger group of annual fund influencers to build a comprehensive online ambassador program to assist fundraising and communications at all levels)
  2. Segment your influencers based on existing wealth data or conduct a wealth screening on the list of those with significant influence. (Klout scores of 50+, for example, would indicate significant influence)
  3. Meet with gift officers and prospect development to merge existing knowledge with new data from social media and online sources to create enhanced, hyper-targeted solicitation strategies.
  4. Leverage digital campaign opportunities as part of your ask to unlock big gifts from these digitally savvy donors.
 Innovative nonprofit Charity:water leverages personal events to build substantial online fundraising campaigns around celebrities and major donors.

Innovative nonprofit Charity:water leverages personal events to build substantial online fundraising campaigns around celebrities and major donors.

To be clear, the traditional online giving day is a tremendously effective fundraising and marketing tool for your organization. The exposure and excitement around broad-based giving days rapidly grow an nonprofit's culture of philanthropy adding new donors and enthusiasm to a development program. 

In addition to the traditional giving day model, consider expanding your digital fundraising by rethinking the giving day and adding a number of major-donor-ambassador-led campaigns throughout the calendar.

Are you interested in finding digitally active major donors and prospects and working with them to launch huge online campaigns in 2018? Groundwork Digital is helping multiple clients do exactly that right now. Click here to send us your email and we'll be in touch on how we can help your organization rethink the giving day in the new year and beyond.

The Next Big "Giving Day"

Hundreds of millions of dollars raised … millions of donors taking part … scores of new supporters engaged … long-time supporters reinvigorated …

Online giving events such as #GivingTuesday and org-specific giving days have changed the face of fundraising.

Unfortunately, most fundraisers are leaving donors and dollars on the table during a giving day. The good news is, the experts at Groundwork Digital have the experience (more than four dozen giving days under our belts) to unlock those donors with proven tactics.

Equally as important, we can help integrate your giving day into a year-round digital fundraising effort that revolutionizes donor engagement for your program.

Raise your giving day to the next level with Groundwork Digital’s Giving Day Elevator package

The Giving Day Elevator package includes:

  • A full-day, on-site workshop to bring your team up to speed on the latest sure-fire tactics for launching an awe-inspiring giving day or #GivingTuesday event
  • Technology consultation to either select the right vendor or adjust your strategy to make the most out of your current online giving technology
  • Content marketing, email, and online ambassador strategic planning
  • Post-event analysis, peer benchmarking, and recommendations for the next 12 months of online fundraising

Groundwork currently offers this Giving Day Elevator package at the discounted price of $10,000. Click “Learn More” and give us you contact info. We'll get in touch to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation to determine if Giving Day Elevator is right for your operation.

Giving Days, Major Donors, and Building a Culture of Philanthropy

At large institutions and organizations, the online giving day is a cacophony of activity. Annual giving, marketing, donor relations, the major gifts team, corporate relations... giving days are an all hands on deck extravaganza of fundraising activity.

When done well, that means a giving day can have far-reaching impacts on many aspects of a development operation. For the University of Idaho, during the school's first giving day in 2016, the reach of the giving day extended to major gifts, student giving, and across the advancement team as a lightning rod that stimulated team building.

In the video below, Stacy Rauch - Idaho's Associate Director of Development for Engineering - talks about how her team connected with major donors to secure challenges, engaged team members across campus, and led the communication blitz that led to big fundraising bucks.

Groundwork Digital's team members have built many giving days, like the one detailed in the video above. To find out how Groundwork can help you launch your first giving day or expand your current giving day, click the the button below to schedule a FREE giving day consultation. 

 

Introducing Groundwork Digital

Welcome to Groundwork Digital! We are a strategic consultancy serving nonprofit organizations and institutions. We use digital (online, social media, and video primarily) to help your development operation:

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  • Acquire new donors.
  • Retain current donors.
  • Rethink stewardship, especially of online-acquired donors.
  • Engage new, previously undiscovered segments of major donors.
  • Build a truly multi-channel approach to fundraising.

More than half the planet’s population is online. Two thirds of North America is active on social media. New donors are spending hours online everyday and waiting to be engaged on those platforms. Our firm is focused on strategies and technology that connects you to those future donors and engages them in a way that is meaningful (and data-backed).

For example, did you know online ambassadors can be more powerful for the major gift program than they are for the annual fund? Check out the video below with Co-Founder Justin Ware to see how:

When it comes to acquisition of new donors, giving days and crowdfunding have been the hottest new trends for many years now. And you can’t find a team with more giving day and crowdfunding program experience than Groundwork Digital.

But perhaps more importantly, how do you retain all these unique, first-time online donors? Our team is especially well equipped to help you answer these difficult retention questions as well. Have a look at the following video with Co-Founder Rosa Conrad for more on how we support modern stewardship:

Groundwork Digital’s team has:

  • Co-led the planning for more than three dozen online giving days.
  • Helped establish hundreds of crowdfunding projects.
  • Built more than a dozen successful online ambassador programs.
  • Worked with clients to produce major donor-engaging digital strategies that elevate cultivation, stewardship, and solicitation.

Keep your eyes open for more posts like this with tips and tactics on engaging donors at every level using modern media. To be sure you don’t miss any updates, follow us on…

And always feel free to email us at info@groundworkdigital.com.

We can’t wait to start brainstorming and reinventing philanthropy with you!