Seven TrueSense strategic and creative leaders sat down recently for a conversation about multichannel integration. Their chat turned into a wide ranging discussion of strategies, tactics, and emerging technologies. This first installment deals with broad-brush strategic considerations for nonprofit fundraisers thinking about integrated multichannel fundraising.
- John: Okay, Natasha, can you lead us off? What exactly is integrated multichannel fundraising creative strategy? Why is it so important?
- Natasha: Sure, and the name “integrated multichannel creative strategy” sounds so much more complicated than really what it is. At its simplest, “multichannel integrated marketing” is really just the practice by which companies interact with their consumers via multiple channels, direct and indirect, to sell them goods and services. Same thing with fundraising. If we think about how connected the world is today, the consumer technically controls the buying process rather than the marketer, and therefore, as donors, they expect to control their charitable investments as well.
But with all of those channels available to fundraisers, how do we reach each of those donors seamlessly, with one voice? We have email, search, social media, mobile, and then of course all the traditional channels: list, print, direct mail, broadcast, video.
Many organizations have a lot of operational challenges to make that approach so seamless.
- John: But how do you do it, Jason? How do you break down those strategies across all those channels?
- Jason: I think, honestly, it starts at the very top by identifying the goal of your direct response fundraising program as a whole and not so much the goal for our direct mail, or our phone, or digital departments. Looking at all of the channels that have a role in enabling us to hit the metrics for each individual campaign.
The first question to answer is who’s leading on the program. Take an annual fund appeal, for instance. If there’s one consistent and clear leadership group that includes account management, creative directors, strategists, and the commensurate client-side leaders, and they are considering all of the tactics that allow us to hit that goal and then creating one offer that supports the campaign, there will be a naturally integrated end product. It may be around meals or it may be around homelessness, for example, but the coordinated, leadership-led strategic goals ensure that the offer is expressed appropriately for all of the channels. And you can express it so many different ways.
- John: OK, Jen, as Jason just mentioned, these singular offers can travel across a wide variety of media. As a Creative Director, how do you balance them correctly across traditional media and new technologies? What are those common drivers and how do we make that stand up?
- Jennifer: That’s an interesting question because there are a lot of emerging technologies that change the way we communicate with people and how quickly we communicate with them. However, most of the reasons why people respond are as old as time, regardless of the technology being used for the message or transaction. Things like empathy, optimism, and compassion. Those are all trigger points that people respond to regardless of whether you’re reaching out to them on social media or through direct mail, email, on your organization’s websites, or at events. Although we may change the spackle and paint, in terms of how we package up that offer, the core of the offer—the emotional levers that we’re trying to pull for a donor—is typically the same.
- John: That’s a very good point. We hear a lot of terms thrown around—channels, media—and there may be some kind of difference between them. Can you expand on that just a little bit, Sam?
- Samantha: Like Jen was saying, your donors are going to be found in multiple channels. They’ll look for your message in email, and social media, and a direct mail piece. That message should be consistent, although you don’t want it to always look exactly the same. But remember, those may not be the channels your donor prefers to donate in. For instance, you may ask for money via email or direct mail, but your social media channel can be used to give information on the background of your mission and history of your organization. You can use those channels to make donors feel good about their support. Their Facebook newsfeed, for example, can be used to communicate feel-good content that donors want to digest as well, and it can affirm the value of their support.
- John: Steve, when we talk about fundraising, we’re often talking about organizations with limited budgets. On the other hand, there are emerging technologies in commercial that we could be taking a lot of lessons from. So, as we start to think about these varieties of channels and media, what should we be watching in terms of commercial findings that will help us someday in the fundraising area?
- Steve: Well, one of the big emerging areas of interest is around artificial intelligence (AI). You’re hearing a lot about this with the Russian bots influencing elections and changing the way people think about certain events or things happening in society. Commercial brands are using those same technologies in a much more ethical way to engage in an authentic conversation with their audiences. One of the things that AI is able to do is listen in on social media and find spikes in certain topics. Let’s take, for instance, homelessness. As a creative director, I would want to know about current social conversations about homelessness as soon as possible, so we could capitalize on them and get our message out there at that point in time, to that type of audience. There’s no reason charities can’t do that.
I’ve also seen a couple examples where the charity has used augmented reality or virtual reality to pull the donors into the mission and make them feel like they’re a very big part of what is happening and really affirm their belief in that organization.
- John: Let’s follow-up with more on that later, Steve. Jeremy, we’ve had a number of conversations about taking offers across channels, when to do it, when not to do it. Can you expand on that?
- Jeremy: I would say begin with certain campaigns that you know you’re going to be doing every year. As you’re planning out your annual fundraising calendar, whether it’s a monthly campaign or quarterly campaign, consider all channels—direct mail, digital, even other channels—to support bigger, more robust campaigns and offers. I would look to standalone digital for opportunities or offers that require more immediacy, whether real or perceived.
One of the advantages of the digital channel, of course, is speed. So, if a hurricane happens today, or an earthquake, fire, or other disaster, we can have something ready to go today.
And digital channels do not always have to mirror offline offers. There are plenty of sensible campaigns, to qualified donor segments, that stand well on their own. Even then, however, consistency of voice, imagery, and brand standards needs to integrate across all channels that the donor will likely use.
- John: On that subject, Jen, how does that play out on how these individual communications actually look or sound?
- Jennifer: Going back to what I said about donor motivations being similar regardless of channel, it’s a fundamental truth in fundraising: Donors give primarily through their hearts and not just through their wallets. What does that look like tactically? Well, let’s take the example of a matching offer, which a lot of people are familiar with, where there’s a pool of money that is matched when donors give. It’s used throughout a variety of channels. In direct mail, there are some obvious tactics that we typically will see—vouchers or check-like devices—that list the different amounts and show the doubling effect of the match.
Obviously, we can’t use that device in the same way in email or social media, but there are other ways where there’s that active ingredient that still offers that emotional payoff that illustrates doubling the donor’s impact. We might use a button that says “match my gift,”or we might just show multiple buttons with unique amounts that hyperlink to the donation page.
This is the first of a three-part installment of our conversation around integrating creative fundraising strategy across digital and direct mail.
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