By: Jim Jacobs, Vice President of Digital Services at PS Digital
Is your nonprofit maximizing the power of digital for your fundraising program? Digital marketing has grown to be a substantial part of many nonprofit’s fundraising programs, and continues to grow with some nonprofits receiving 20% or more of their overall revenue through this channel. According to the 2016 M&R benchmark report, the industry saw a 19% increase in digital fundraising revenue last year alone. Yet despite that, many small organizations struggle to find the success they are hoping to see. The causes can vary from a lack of resources to constantly changing technology to undefined goals, to name a few! It’s easy to be overwhelmed, but there are a few simple ways to start getting your digital house in order right away.
- First thing’s first, what’s happening with your digital program right now? Take stock and evaluate your current campaigns, priorities, and results. Keep it simple – how many emails do you send in an average month? Is your list shrinking or growing? How up to date is your website? What’s happening with your Google Analytics? Is your revenue growing year over year? Evaluating high-level, key metrics such as these will help you better understand your program and identify areas of opportunity.
- Make a plan! You can’t get ahead without some planning. Again, keep it simple – create a rough schedule based on last year, adding any new campaigns or goals relevant to this year. Look for campaigns that performed particularly well or poorly as you build the schedule. How can you increase already successful campaigns? Add elements such as additional emails, A/B testing and tactics such as lightboxes, intercepts or social media integration. Consider removing or replacing under-performing campaigns.
- Evaluate Your Technology! In order to save money, many organizations under-invest in their systems, a decision that may ultimately cost more in lost opportunity. It’s a sad truth that many nonprofits have email data that isn’t syncing properly with their offline database, inconsistent (or nonexistent!) source codes and other ugly data issues. The resulting data can make it practically impossible to determine what’s really working! Now that you have a plan, make a thoughtful evaluation of the functionality needed to execute those campaigns and whether your current systems will meet the need. There may not be a “one-size fits all” solution, but these days there are plenty of options available for nearly all budget levels.
- Do your research – There are so many resources to help an enterprising non-profit build a successful digital fundraising program!
- Use M&R’s benchmarking report (http://mrbenchmarks.com/) to compare your organization’s metrics to the overall industry as well as those in your fundraising vertical.
- Read everything! Many industry organizations provide free or member-exclusive content. Case studies, white papers and blog posts can all provide valuable tips and training materials to help elevate your program. Try AFP (https://www.afpnet.org/), DMAW (http://www.dmaw.org/) and NTEN (http://www.nten.org/) to start!
- Learn the best practices for your organization and network with similar organizations at events such as The Bridge Conference (bridgeconf.org). These events provide an incredible amount of educational material, in addition to networking with other similar organizations.
By using this approach, you will evaluate your program to identify areas of opportunity, which will lead to a strategic action plan, leveraging available technology, and, finally, strengthening your skills to make it all happen! If you’d like to learn more, attend our session “Getting Your “Digital” House In Order” at the Bridge Conference. You’ll hear more about the latest trends and best practices in efficient and nimble online marketing as we discuss how Capital Caring invested modest amounts of money in their digital tools and resources to achieve an impressive ROI.
Jim Jacobs is the Vice President of Digital Services at PS Digital, the digital marketing division of Production Solutions. He oversees the talented team of strategists and digital producers, as well as a network of proven experts in all fields of web marketing support. He has been supporting nonprofit, commercial, and government clients with web strategy, design, content, technology, video, social media integration, and advertising since the web began.
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