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What Fundraisers Can Learn From Direct Marketing

Direct marketing campaigns and high-performing fundraising appeals have more in common than you might think. At the heart of it, you’re both trying to craft a compelling message to convince an audience that you possess something they value. Most fundraisers realize that many of the same techniques being used to sell the latest phone can be repurposed to help them increase dollars and donors. Here are some of the ideas you should use to get started: 

Track the effectiveness of your campaigns.  

It may seem like a no-brainer, but it requires skill and organization to track the effectiveness of a many-faceted annual giving campaign. Generate a list of metrics or questions you’d like to know about. Focus your data collection on key areas such as messaging, channel, audience, and timing. Watch your numbers year-over-year and make adjustments. Track your adjustments–did they substantially improve your ability to raise money? Learning how to collect data, organize it in a useful fashion, and then act upon takes practice. Many direct marketing operations have this down to an art form. Fundraisers who are able to take these best-practices and reinvent them for university fundraising are able to more effectively raise money for their organizations.  

Assess your spending for your best return on your fundraising investment: learn how to do it with the Activity Based Cost Framework  

Test your materials using A/B tests.  

Direct marketers don’t just send out one advertisement and hope it works – they run ads against each other to see how audiences respond. Changing only one variable at a time so they can track what works and what doesn’t, direct marketers will use a small part of their budget to test messaging, channels, audiences, and more. Once they’ve dialed in what works, they use the bulk of their budget reaching audiences with the proven ads.  

A/B testing is a great tool for annual giving teams to use – especially when they need to make every dollar count. A/B tests help you reduce your spend on appeals that won’t work, and refocus the bulk of your resources towards sending out appeals that will. Get the details on how to set up and test the messaging of your annual giving appeals.

Segmentation Works  

Many direct markers amass vast troves of personal information about their markets. They’ll slice and dice this data and use it to create narrowly targeted advertising designed to optimize conversions. Researching and creating personas of the audiences they’d like to reach helps the whole team understand who they are selling to and effectively craft messaging.  

As an annual giving professional, you’ll have different resources and different priorities than a direct marketing team, but you’re still trying to reach your constituents in the most effective way possible. First, start by segmenting your constituents based on who is most likely to give.  Getting an accurate read on who is willing and able to donate to your institution is the most important step. Once you’re able to do that, you can sub-segment your most likely donors into different personas and use these unique perspectives to influence your messaging, timing, and channel approaches.  

Harness the power of the personal appeal.  

Direct marketers are using big data and smart segmentation to deliver personalized advertising to their customers. They’re using powerful automation software to deliver the right message at the right moment to thousands of individuals. This strategy works.  

Annual giving teams already know the power of person-to-person fundraising. Phone programs have traditionally relied on the personalized connections donors make with student callers. The next step is to create a personalized approach to reaching donors across all your channels. Get started small – for example, if your institution employs students to solicit for annual giving, have the same student who makes the phone call to a certain group of donors sign off on the emails these donors receive, or be the name in the text solicitations. Connecting a student name and story across channel types helps reinforce to donors the direct, personal impact of their donation and provides them with a sense of continuity.    

How are the next generation of annual giving professionals taking advantage of new technologies and capabilities? Download our whitepaper A Multi-Channel Strategy to Save Your Annual Giving Program to find out.  


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