Non-Profit Fundraising and Marketing in a Multi-Channel World

I’m being stalked by an attic fan.

The fan is everywhere I go. I see pictures of it next to my newsfeed in Facebook, advertisements for it appear on every website I visit, and I received a flyer from a chain hardware store telling me it was on sale. It’s clear the attic fan wants to be with me — only me. I don’t think it will stop pursuing me until I actually buy it. As the attic fan has pursued me over the last two weeks, it has me thinking about the marketing and fundraising I do every day for non-profit organizations.

Corporations are ahead of non-profits in terms of approaching consumers across all marketing channels. They recognize that consumers are going online, expressing themselves on social media, reading mail and advertisements, and doing all of this on a variety of mobile devices.

Non-profits are behind corporations, but not by much. If you go to the website of a non-profit organization, you may very well see that organization appear on your Facebook news feed, or see banner ads on websites you visit. However, not every non-profit is doing integrated marketing well — their direct mail, online, and social media messages don’t always mesh.

And, unlike corporations, the end goal is different.

The key is to find out what is working best in multi-channel marketing — what has been tried successfully and what has failed — for non-profits. A great way to discover best practices, and learn about applicable case studies, is to attend a conference where the top minds in the field get together. The 2013 Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference (known as the Bridge Conference) is where I will go to learn and share ideas.

I go because there are a lot of things that every non-profit needs to know more about when approaching people across channels. Simply observing and copying what companies do isn’t necessarily going to lead to fundraising success:

• The companies trying to sell me an attic fan want me to buy the attic fan, and then buy something else from them in few months. I imagine they want me to become their loyal purchaser. When a non-profit uses multi-channel marketing to appeal to a potential donor, they are hoping for a long-term relationship with that donor. What’s working to build these long-term relationships?

• For many non-profit organizations, direct mail reaches more donors than any other channel. How does a non-profit identify their donors when those people are online or using social media to maximize the donor’s overall experience with the non-profit?

• How does an organization appeal to major donors across all channels? In the case of these key donors, the relationship is mostly one of stewardship. Unlike the attic fan, most non-profits do not want to stalk their major donors!

• I need an attic fan. DC summers are hot and humid (which is one reason I’m glad that the Bridge Conference will be in the nicely air conditioned Gaylord hotel in August) and our house is stuffy. When a person chooses to give to a non-profit, it is more of an emotional response – one of “want” rather than “need.” How do fundraising professionals give donors and potential donors an omni-channel experience that speaks to that desire?

• Finally, let’s face it, the hardware and home goods stores have a lot more money to spend on marketing than most non-profit organizations. How do you maximize a budget for the greatest impact?

Clearly, there is much to test and explore about the implications for and applications of multi-channel marketing for non-profits. As we test these new approaches, both short- and long-term behavior must be studied.

And, maybe by August, when I walk into the conference, I will have decided whether to accept the advances of the attic fan.

I’m hoping the next ad I see offers me a bigger discount!