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Ideas that work: Marketing with today’s expanding communication choices

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Temple Elliott

Temple Elliott

Temple Elliott

[Publisher’s note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

There is a lot of buzz in the industry about multi-channel marketing. Anyone can Google the term and get a quick overview of the latest seminars, blogs and other resources that define the subject.

However, nonprofits want to know what part of multi-channel marketing is relevant to their particular organization.

There are many channels to choose from, but what is right for a nonprofit’s size and budget? How does an organization decide where to start?

Beneath all of this noise are four basic ideas that work:

1. Let the donors determine how they prefer to communicate, then respect those preferences. Remember, the donor is in the driver’s seat. They often communicate using more than one avenue. You can infer their preference by behavior, or elicit their preference directly.

2. Integrate communication channels, but don’t replace one for another. For example, don’t replace a direct mail program with an email. This is not multi-channel marketing and may actually reduce an organization’s annual net revenue, instead of increasing it.

3. Don’t silo a donor, even if your organization is siloed. Donors who give through multiple channels are exponentially more valuable long term than those who may use only one channel.

4. Encourage donors to communicate with multiple channels by offering an array of opportunities for them to interact with the organization – financial or non-financial opportunities.

How an organization uses these ideas rests at the heart of the database, because only with careful segmentation, measuring and benchmarking can the impact be maximized for offering multiple channels for interacting.

Examples of what is working in multi-channel marketing:

  • Joint communications planning and reporting by constituent segment as well as department.
  • Segmenting and communicating with donors based on the channel of their initial gift in the first communication.
  • Measure ROI and net income for all new donors in the current fiscal year by channel, then measure it in every subsequent year. Which channel has the greatest retention of donors and dollars?
  • Every direct mail piece has an opportunity for a potential donor to give through a return reply envelope or a secure web site. Some donors may want to do both.
  • Track donors who give through more than one channel, and track the average annual value per donor. Treat these donors specially by giving them recognition.
  • Identify donors willing to fundraise on Facebook and through other social media, then connect with them and develop a sense of community for a specific cause.
  • Prior to sending out a direct mail piece, send an email that explains that direct mail piece and even send a follow up e-mail for those that may have missed it in their mailbox.
  • Test! Measure each test based on the same set of core metrics, for example: average annual value per donor, return on investment, net income, subsequent giving and retention.

The name of the game is to offer donors multiple opportunities to do what they want to do, which is support your organization, and let them show you how they want to do it.


Temple Elliott is principal consultant at Blackbaud.

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