If you’re not convinced yet that integrated fundraising matters, then here’s a thought experiment. Pick one or two large companies that you shop at frequently. Pay attention for 4-6 weeks to see how they communicate with you. Whether it’s Gap or Amazon, Starbucks or Dunkin’—you can rest assured that those growing companies are reaching you across multiple channels.
Once you’re convinced, you might still be wondering, “what is an integrated fundraising campaign, and how do I get started?” Let’s break it down.
UNDERSTANDING THE JOURNEY
When we say “integrated fundraising campaign,” we mean a communication strategy that uses multiple marketing and communications channels. An integrated campaign will employ traditional and digital channels to create a strategic and coordinated donor journey. That’s the heart of the matter: multiple channels that are coordinated to reach your audience in a strategic way.
During the “journey,” your donor (or prospective donor) will receive at least two communication touchpoints from your organization. And at every stage in the journey—whether 2 touches or 20, whether traditional or digital—the touchpoint will support, promote, and reinforce the overarching campaign narrative.
An integrated campaign will have a unified message, offer, and call to action, which is shared across channels in a strategic way to reach your audience. The repetition matters, because “it can take up to 18-20 touchpoints to reach a donor for the first time.”
If you want to be successful in engaging and retaining your donors, it is imperative to plan and develop well-defined donor journeys that are tailored as much as possible to the persona of your target audience. And that part—“tailoring your campaign to their persona”—requires tracking audience engagement to know what kind of communication your donors respond to and and engage with.
THE GOALS OF AN INTEGRATED CAMPAIGN
Needless to say, the ultimate goal of your integrated fundraising campaign is to increase revenue. But there are more proximate goals, specific to the effort of integrating your communications.
First, as Eric Streiff noted recently, we “want to drive people to the platform they are most familiar or comfortable with.” We increase our chances of being seen by our donor when we employ multiple channels and touchpoints, and then we encourage them to engage with us in the manner they are most comfortable. That gives you an advantage, actually, by meeting your donor where they’re comfortable.
Second, your comprehensive, coordinated campaign should not only reinforce the message across channels—but the goal of this reinforcing is the prepare your donor for an ask. That’s the point of the donor journey. You are moving them from “awareness” to “affirmation.” When this is done well, the “ask” happens after the (prospective) donor has been warmed and is ready to make a gift.
Third, you are mitigating risk. Picture this: you drop a letter in the mail asking a donor for money. Chances are it gets to their mailbox—but when? On a day they are busy? In a bad mood? Is it buried under other mail? Does their kid accidentally throw it out? That mailpiece is a single shot that may or may not work—and that’s all there is to it. But with an integrated, multi-channel campaign, you mitigate that risk by increasing the chances they see the message and see the message at a favorable time in a favorable way.
These three pieces come together to generate much better responses from donors that enjoy a “multi-channel experience.”
GETTING STARTED WITH INTEGRATED FUNDRAISING
Of course, to build out a more robust direct response program with more channels, more donor touchpoints, and more communications will require support from leadership. You need to convince them about the importance of an integrated fundraising program—and then you need to convince them of the added costs.
You will need two things for a successful effort: technology and personnel. As you get started on integrated fundraising, you should identify and price out the technology and systems you need. To do that, you’ll need to assess your current staff and determine who you need to hire or what agencies you need to engage to ensure that your efforts are successful (and to help you identify the technology that you need).
After you price out the cost of technology and personnel, you want to add in the cost of advertising, list rentals, and other overhead (this can be flexible based on the scale of your effort). With all of these numbers, you can do some budget forecasting to determine how much should be invested into this effort over the next several years and what kind of return you can reasonably expect.
At the beginning of the effort, your pricing will be very rough and imprecise. Over time, if you are attentive, you can hone your budget projections to be much more accurate and informative.
PLANNING AN INTEGRATED CAMPAIGN
With budgets in place, tools acquired, and staff hired or consultants retained, you can now begin planning your first campaign. Your campaign plans must, first of all, align with your nonprofit’s strategic objectives. At a more granular level, the written campaign plan will provide everyone on staff with the structure for identifying, defining, and communicating the key marketing opportunities and goals, both internally and externally.
In a follow-up piece next week, I will go into more detail about how to plan and execute an integrated campaign.
Ready to keep learning more about integrated fundraising? Join us on Thursday, June 24th at 4:00pm EDT for a free webinar on integrated fundraising. Carmen Natschke and Mark Diggs — two veteran direct response experts — will answer your questions about integrated fundraising. Register for free here.