John Thompson, Chief Creative Officer: Increasingly, fundraising is placing greater and greater digital emphasis on end-of-year giving, starting with the phenomenon that is Giving Tuesday and running right through the end of the calendar year. Jason, can you speak a little bit about Giving Tuesday?
Jason Wood, Vice President of Digital Business Development: Giving Tuesday allows nonprofits to make money right at the start of the holiday season. Over the past couple of years we've noticed that the real winners of Giving Tuesday are your small or medium-sized nonprofits. Now, that doesn’t mean that the large nonprofits aren’t successful, because a lot of them are experiencing year over year growth in revenue. But it’s not the double-digit numbers that they may have seen in the past. If you work at a really small nonprofit that might not even have an annual fund campaign, Giving Tuesday is your day to get a piece of the pie.
John: Natasha, why do you think donors tend to support smaller charities on Giving Tuesday?
Natasha Cygnarowicz, Vice President of Digital Marketing: Donors give money to the smaller ones because they don’t hear from them as often, while larger nonprofits tend to solicit funds more frequently. If you are a larger nonprofit, your Giving Tuesday marketing tactic should be to show your community impact at a local level. If you have a chapter-based program that serves in different areas, be sure to let your donors know this money is staying right here, making an impact in your local community.
John: What are the communication tactics, specifically how the channels work together?
Jason: First, send some warm-ups through social media posts or an email. Maybe send these out a day before or a couple of days before to say, “Hey, Giving Tuesday’s coming.” Next, change the banners on your website to start promoting Giving Tuesday. On the day of Giving Tuesday, deploy one or two emails. One of the components that makes Giving Tuesday so successful is the built-in urgency. In your emails, you can add a countdown timer to highlight that urgency: “Giving Tuesday is ending in x hours. Your gift makes a difference in your community. We have $x left to raise.”
Samantha Jasnos, Digital Strategist: Another thing to remember is that your donors and volunteers have raised their hand that they are interested in participating with your charity. These transformational, high-value donors should be included on certain appeals throughout the year, like Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is an appeal where a lot of people are giving globally. Many have a set amount they plan to give that day, and as your high-value donors’ favorite charity, you want to make sure to throw your hat into the ring.
John: Steve, are there any commercial findings that can be applied to Giving Tuesday?
Steve Farrar, Digital Creative Director: We’ve been experimenting with interactive emails, where donors can take a test or quiz in the email, as well as swipe photos in the email. Tests are showing that people really enjoy the immersive nature of these emails.
Jennifer Miller, Creative Director: You can actually use a quiz to tell a story. People are engaged because they’re interacting with the quiz and they’re choosing answers. You can weave a story throughout the quiz.
John: Even though Giving Tuesday is a digital campaign, how can we integrate direct mail?
Natasha: Direct mail is risky because in-home dates may not hit on Giving Tuesday. You could possibly send a direct mail piece out well in advance, making sure the in-home date is a week. Many organizations will count Giving Tuesday gifts even if they come in early.
Jennifer: What would you think about a postcard? Going back to our storytelling tactics, would that be a good way to say, “Hi, donor. Giving Tuesday is next week, which is a very important time for us. We’re hoping to raise this much money. This is the type of person that you’re going help when you give on Giving Tuesday.” You could tease a little bit of the story and force them to go online to read the conclusion. Would that be something that you think would be a good strategy?
Jason: Even though Giving Tuesday started as a digital event, it doesn't have to stay digital. A postcard would be a way to have a minimal cost from a direct mail piece, like a save-the-date. Some donors may even write it on their home calendars.
Jennifer: You could send stickers in the direct mail package with a sticker to put on their calendar.
John: Samantha, many nonprofits stage very real events and invite donors, participants, constituents, volunteers, and staffers to take part. We group this into a large category called “peer-to-peer.” What are the peer-to-peer tactics as part of a very viable fundraising channel?
Samantha: When people think peer-to-peer, they think of those larger events that you’re talking about. The walks, the rides, the 5Ks. But peer-to-peer goes beyond that and includes do-it-yourself fundraising, like raising money for your birthday or in honor of your mother. What that really means is that people want to raise funds on their own terms. They want raise money for you without being told exactly how to do it. They are fundraisers, people who should be cultivated in your annual fund. Not only do they want to give, but they’re going to give beyond their personal capacity by getting their friends and their families involved. Remember, even though you might get a donation from Sara’s sister-in-law, Sara is really the one that you want to cultivate because she’s the one out there representing you.
John: Natasha, how are the campaign tactics for year-end fundraising different or the same as the Giving Tuesday strategies we just discussed?
Natasha: The biggest difference is that a calendar year-end campaign can easily be spread across many channels over a longer period of time. This makes integration much easier opposed to Giving Tuesday, which is only one day and at this time an online only event. However, both events are the same in that the message and offer has a strong sense of urgency.
John: Jen, you talked a lot about storytelling and the power of stories, but how does that work across different channels?
Jennifer: No matter what the channel is, the storytelling tactic that works is being empathetic towards the characters in the story, regardless of whether those characters are animals or people. Go for the heart, go for the emotion.
In direct mail, you have a lot more real estate to tell a story because you have more pages. People are presumably reading. Although, we know donors actually skim. Social media, Facebook posts, and even emails are image-driven. You have a lot less time to get someone’s attention. So just think about all those different ways you can tell a story in digital that you can’t in direct mail. In direct mail, you can have quotes. You can paint a picture for the donor through your words. In digital, you could have a slideshow of photos with just some simple captions to tell a story and thread those photos together.
Be careful of taking a story that’s in direct mail, then just putting it online and thinking that that’s integrated. I always like to think of integration as a living room set. When you walk into a living room, you might think, “This is a well-appointed living room, this is a very handsome living room. I like it a lot. Everything looks like it goes together.” But, then, if you look a little more closely, you might find out that the couch is from Ethan Allen, the end tables are from The Salvation Army Thrift Store, and the rug is from Ikea. Despite this, it all looks great together, like a cohesive set.
Integrating your stories is similar. You want it to feel cohesive across channels that you’re telling the same story, but there are a lot of different ways to approach it. It could be a nugget here that’s pulled out and put into a social media stream. It could be a little piece from the print newsletter version of the story, but it’s told in a different way through email. And so, finding the best parts of the story, and using the right channels to tell that story, is the way to go.
This is the second of a three-part installment of our conversation around integrating creative fundraising strategy across digital and direct mail.