An Annual Campaign Story Part 2: 6 Tips to Improve Fundraising Results

An Annual Campaign Story

A Trio of Posts on Re-energizing an Annual Campaign

Making the decision to use a wide variety of media means that you have a toolbox chock full of entertainment nuggets and assorted information platforms for your fans to learn about the latest awesomeness inside your organization.

By telling your story repeatedly but with new and fresh approaches, current and prospective donors will feel much more connected with your organization and in turn, supporters will be compelled to contribute larger donations and the door will be opened for new supporters to participate.

Align Your Media

While it may seem to be a daunting task to take on every media platform, it does not mean that every media holds the same weight. It’s important to select which media will become the workhorses for the campaign, while others are used to deliver messages to specific segments of your audience.

For example, if your main audience is early boomers, then a media split which focuses on more traditional delivery vehicles and enhanced by mainstream social and email will work well. A strategy that leans too much on cutting edge social will no doubt create some buzz, but will not deliver the needed donors to reach your intended goals.

However, if you are targeting a much younger audience, traditional vehicles might help to reinforce, but the energy and groundswell you want from the grassroots will be much more easily delivered through social media.

Week 0 of the Campaign: Setting the Stage

No successful campaign can begin on day one at a cold stop. Even if you haven’t sent an e-newsletter for months, there’s still some momentum from all of your past work.

The trick is to spend weeks, if not months moving up on the internal list of your fans so that when the time is right, and your campaign begins, folks are already thinking of you or at the very least, have heard from you recently.

A random, one-time letter out of the blue with no follow-up and no strategy simply will not work. And while many of us do not have the luxury of large staffs to be creating content, simple marketing outreach in the build-up to your campaign will pay dividends in the end.

Our organization has the luxury of having access to a media producer, writer and tech person on staff to assist the campaign manager. We spent almost a month setting the stage, introducing the backstory on many of our young participants, so that when we eventually asked for a contribution, it was a natural next step in the process of our communication relationship with our fans.

Whether this strategy got us off to a better start then we would have otherwise experienced is hard to say, but when evaluating the results of any successful campaign, it is hard to argue the results.

Working the List

How well do you know your database? Are you on close personal terms with it? Or are you on a blind date every time you open the program?

If you’re  like our organization, many years of churnover from young staff, had left our database in a bit of an unwieldy mess. However, having a second year veteran at the helm of parsing, slicing and becoming intimate with the names and contacts, we were able to more efficiently and effectively reach our audience. Lower postage bills and a more targeted message allowed supporters feel as if they were being treated as the important members of our movement that they are.

By no means do you have to be a technological wizard to make this happen (although it doesn’t hurt to have one on stand-by).  In absence of a tech guru, you must have a resolve to work until you’ve refined the list to the absolute cleanest it can be.

By manhandling the database, in some cases line by line, we were able to experience 78% retention of our donors from one year to the next.

Once again having a high retention rate isn’t the only component driving success, but it is an example of all of the pieces coming together on a puzzle to make for a magical outcome.

Telemarketing Ain’t Dead, Yet

Many do not have the time or personnel or resources to manage a telemarketing campaign to support your fundraising efforts. And while the data may not show that tens of thousands of dollars were raised during any given week of our outbound telemarketing campaign, we do know that is was one more important piece to the puzzle that contributed to the results we experienced.

As for the nuts and bolts, I would strongly research some of the options that are available in our tech world that allows you to use politically-based platforms to reach as many numbers as possible as efficiently as possible.

The system we engaged allowed us to prerecord an outbound message for leaving voicemails, while allowing our staff of 4-5 to only speak to individuals who were brave enough to answer the phone.

Before you wade off into the sea of telemarketing, be forewarned it is fraught with dangers like abandoned calls, wrong numbers, hang-ups and those who have had negative past experiences that will want to lash out at you.

Our strategy is always based on using every tool possible at our fingertips, and if the telephone (as archaic as it may seem) provides results, then you need to utilize it for your maximum results.

Remember also if your donor base is a little older, then communication by telephone may actually be preferred.

Aligning the right media and the right message with the right fan is what will get you the ultimate results you need.

You actually can learn something from politics

Whatever you feel about present day politics, there is one thing you cannot forget: they do know how to market their candidate and their positions. When hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on political advertising, you know there must be some very smart political advisers behind the scenes.

I stumbled on the similarities very early on that we run fundraising campaigns, so why should they not be run like political campaigns?

In all reality, they are not that different.

Successful politicians do a very good job of identifying their constituencies and delivering on the message.

Recently, we’ve seen more and more candidates going to a small, grass-roots donation strategy. Brought to popularity in the 2008 presidential election, by casting a very wide net, accepting $5, $10 and $25 donations made participation in the political process much more possible for the average person and built a connection between the candidate and his supporters.

Being able to identify the most likely voter and reach them with the best message via the media their most comfortable with is a lesson that politicians learned long ago, and one that we as marketing fundraisers should follow.

Efficient advertising is beautiful. The lack of having to effort above and beyond in order for an ill-advised or inefficient message to be delivered is the definition of effectiveness. The opposite causes all marketers to lose a little.

Marketing simply doesn’t get any better than the elegance of delivering a meaningful message to a willing recipient.

Some skillful politicians and their consultants are able to do that. Unfortunately, there are far too many hacks both in marketing, fundraising and politics who poisons the pool for the rest of us.

The Game, The Chase, The Challenge

Long a favorite of the public radio fundraiser and telethon, never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned challenge. Whether you are matching dollar for dollar, accessing Leadership Circle monies, adding an amount to every donation, challenge fundraising works… and it’s fun.

Whatever methodology you choose to employ, the ‘gamifying’ of fundraising allows you to communicate with everyone on the same level, and to get everyone paddling in the same direction with a definite goal and timeline.

Sounds like challenge fundraising is the ultimate solution, right? Well, no. You cannot make your entire campaign solely about the challenge. As with all things, if you are able to execute the plan in moderation, a challenge can help you for a specific time period in the middle or towards the end of your drive.

For our test case, we had risen to a level of our past number of total donors, however we felt we were about to plateau, so we engaged a simple “donation-plus” convention to create our challenge. We set up a challenge for ten days and had a goal to hit which would put us within 20% of our eventual ultimate goal.

And it worked. It worked so well, that we were able to secure additional monies from the Challenge Funders as they had signed on to match every donation for all ten days, not just a single goal number.

Check out the next installment of our Annual Report Trilogy when we take a brief tour of the timeline on a week by week basis through the campaign.

Thanks to the team at YEA! for their work and contributions on this campaign: Brad Martin (fundraising), Mike Simaska (tech), Allison Watkins (social) and Dieter Wiselogel (media).

About

Sean King has been consulting with small businesses and non-profit organizations for 25 years. Currently, Sean is a principal in the Aspire Consulting Group providing solutions and training for arts, events and non-profit marketing professionals and their organizations. Clients include Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) and a growing list of satisfied organizations. Sean speaks regularly throughout the U.S. including at the IFEA Annual Conference, Arts Reach Conference, AFP, 92Y, CiviCRM User Summit, PA Council on the Arts, Michigan Festivals & Event Annual Conference. Sean serves as the Marketing Chairperson for the Hamilton District Main Street, a program of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce in Allentown and is a Co-Chair of the Arts & Culture Committee for the Upside Allentown initiative. You can follow Sean on Twitter @skingaspire or email him anytime at sking.aspire@gmail.com

Posted in Content Marketing, Fundraising, Marketing, Motivation
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About Sean King
Sean King has been consulting with small businesses and non-profit organizations for 25 years.  Currently, Sean is a principle in the Aspire Consulting Group providing solutions and training for arts, events and non-profit marketing professionals and their organizations. Clients include Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) and a growing list of satisfied organizations. Sean speaks regularly throughout the United States including at the IFEA Annual Conference, Arts Reach Conference, AFP, 92Y, CiviCRM User Summit, PA Council on the Arts, Michigan Festivals & Event Annual Conference.  Sean serves as the Marketing Chairperson for the Hamilton District Main Street program in Allentown and is a Co-Chair of the Arts & Culture Committee for the Upside Allentown initiative. He also blogs a artsmarketingblog.org.  You can follow Sean on Twitter @skingaspire. Sean resides with his wife Natalie and son Haydn in the global crossroads of Fogelsville, Pa.