Optimize Timing of Year-End Fundraising E-mails

At the end of each year, many AccuList USA’s nonprofit clients send out their big fundraising e-mail campaigns, and each year questions of optimal timing are debated. Research results from Next After, a nonprofit consultancy and research lab, may offer helpful guidance.

December Offers Fundraising Opportunity

A big problem for year-end donor appeals is the fight for attention amid the seasonal commercial e-mail blitz that jams inboxes. So how can a donor appeal stand out? Timing is everything to avoid getting lost in the clutter. Many nonprofits focus on the Giving Tuesday opportunity, and 23% more e-mails are sent on Giving Tuesday than on Dec. 31, per Next After–yet 48.7% of nonprofit revenue comes in the last week of the year, Dec. 25-31. And 20% comes just on New Year’s Eve. In fact, 581% more average additional revenue is generated on Dec. 31 than on Giving Tuesday. No wonder Next After suggests focusing on that final December week. Another sign of a missed opportunity: Despite December’s donor haul, 22% of nonprofits studied send no e-mails in December, and most send about four e-mails. So experts advise dialing up the volume in the lucrative December time period!

Day-of-the-Week and Time-of-Day Matter

E-mailers who choose to send messages in the Tuesday through Friday period and blast between 7 a.m. and noon will wade through the heaviest e-mail volumes, per the research. So off-peak e-mail delivery–such as afternoon or evening–can help avoid the seasonal e-mail rush. And weekends clearly represent a neglected opportunity: Not only is overall e-mail volume lighter, but Next After notes a 50% higher gift amount on weekends.

For more data and examples of real-life, successful nonprofit creative tests, see the Next After slide deck.

 

Nonprofits’ Crucial Year-End Fundraising Drives Have Begun

AccuList USA works with big and small nonprofits on their key year-end fundraising campaigns. With a third of annual giving occurring in December, over half of nonprofits starting year-end plans in October, and direct mail the leading fundraising channel, October often sees final tweaks to direct marketing plans (and mailing lists).

Planning for Year-End Fundraising Success

For example, nonprofit marketers may want to check their current plans against the four-step master plan recently offered by fundraising consultant Gail Perry on her blog. Step 1: Set goals for each donor segment, and don’t forget lucrative leading-donor annual gifts, lapsed donors and board members. Step 2: Select channels for a multi-pronged appeal, integrating direct mail, e-mail, telemarketing, social media, website, and video creative–and design a consistent message for all. Step 3: Gather resources and set a budget. Step 4: Set a timeline and calendar. Read the complete article by Perry for details and tips.

How Small Nonprofits Can Punch Above Their Weight

Of course, smaller fundraisers often bemoan budget limitations at this point. A guest post by Damian O’Broin for the Institute of Fundraising offers a bracing response. Greatness is not a function of size, it’s a function of attitude, he argues, citing donor surveys. The things that matter most to donors don’t depend on big budgets and lots of staff but on good, donor-centric fundraising practices: thanking promptly and properly; showing progress and impact; getting to know supporters and responding to their needs; empowering supporters; and asking consistently. “Because what we found from these surveys is that the best way to improve donor commitment is with great donor service. Responding to e-mails. Dealing effectively with queries when your donors call you. Thanking donors promptly–and just as importantly–making donors feel thanked,” he says. Even modest direct marketing campaigns, assuming they are well targeted, can use these practices to boost response.

 

Fundraising Mail Benefits From Data-Rich List Segmentation

Because effective data use is so key to nonprofit direct mail success, AccuList USA goes beyond data brokerage and supports fundraising clients with merge-purge and segmentation, predictive analytics, and data hygiene and appending, as well as rental list vetting and parameter selection.

Limited Data Limits Response

Some fundraisers question the need for a more sophisticated data approach, of course. So we’ll pass along a recent NonProfitPRO blog post by Chris Pritcher, of Merkle’s Quantitative Marketing Group, which challenges overly narrow views of donor data. Too often, using data to understand the donor base is limited to one of two categories, Pritcher notes: 1) RFM (recency, frequency, monetary) data and giving history, or 2) donor demographics and behavioral measures, ranging from factors such as wealth or related interests/purchases to applying behavior-lifestyle systems such as Prizm. Whether the data is first-party or third-party sourced, each approach has its limitations. RFM often silos data from a single channel, for example, even though donors live in a multi-channel world. RFM also focuses mainly on short-term financial action, ignoring donors, especially Millennials, whose giving is maximized through an interactive, long-term relationship. Meanwhile, though donor demographics can help avoid low-opportunity lists and segments, demographics in isolation may be too general for effective response targeting. Wealth data indicates who has money but not who is willing to give that money to a specific cause, as Pritcher points out.

Multi-dimensional View Enriches Segmentation

Pritcher urges fundraisers to step up their donor targeting and embrace “multi-dimensional segmentation” over the either/or data approach described above. Instead, nonprofits can analyze donor actions (both financial and non-financial) along with data such as demographics, wealth, donations to other organizations, etc., to create more actionable segments. Here are some of his basic tips for success: 1) avoid a myopic view by using financial and non-financial information across channels; 2) control scale by limiting segments and focusing on actionable over descriptive data; 3) include a plan for migrating donors into the most engaged segments; 4) focus strategy and budget on top donor segments, and use segmentation to acquire prospects likely to grow into similarly engaged donors; 5) target messaging by segment to further boost response, affinity and loyalty.

For the complete article, go to http://www.nonprofitpro.com/post/who-exactly-are-your-donors/

Use Digital Donation to Turbocharge Fundraising Direct Mail

AccuList USA would like to pass along some key facts to marketers planning fundraising direct mail: 1) 35% of all donors say they like to respond to direct mail by giving online (with 50% of Millennials and Gen Xers saying they prefer online response); 2) 51% of website visits are made via mobile device, and 3) mobile devices are now used by the majority to read e-mail (54% of opens) and access social networks (80% of social time spent). Bottom line, if you want to get the most from your nonprofit direct mail (still the best channel for capturing donor dollars), a multi-channel, mobile-optimized approach is essential.

How Nonprofits Miss Mail-to-Online Giving Opportunities

MobileCause has developed a powerful infographic laying out the case for a nonprofit direct mail-digital marriage. Unfortunately, many fundraisers fail to make an easy connection between direct mail and online response, and are discouraging donations as a result. As the infographic points out, 84% of donation pages are not mobile-friendly, 73% of nonprofits do not offer social sharing, and 65% of nonprofits require three or more digital clicks to donate.

Smart Practices Give Mail Multi-Channel Power

At the same time, the infographic data highlight ways to correct that digital lacuna in fundraising direct mail. First, commit to making direct mail part of a multi-channel campaign–because donors are 50% more likely to give when they receive multiple reinforcing messages via multiple channels. Fundraisers can even optimize response by catering to generational preferences: Millennials like text reminders, Gen Xers like e-mail reminders and Boomers like call reminders, per MobileCause. But for goodness sake, mobile-optimize e-mails, landing pages and donation pages! Then maximize donations by promoting QR codes, shortlinks and texting keywords across channels (and let the U.S. Postal Service reward that mailer QR code with a discount). Plus, data shows that by branding landing/donation pages to promote a specific mailer campaign or gift rather than a generic message, there’s a 38% increase in donation amount and a 66% likelihood that the donor will return and give again. Of course, don’t forget the basics: Make the call-to-action clear and giving easy to execute, whether by check or online.

Download the infographic for more tips.

Harnessing Social Media to Drive Nonprofit Success

At the upcoming Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) 2017 Conference, we expect to hear a lot about nonprofit social media strategy and will be offering AccuList USA support with our Social Media Users List of Lists and Digital2Direct program combining highly-targeted direct mail with social media advertising on Facebook. Of course, social media success is a moving target, so we wondered what social media trends will impact fundraising this year. Here are some insights:

Be More Visual, Personal, Responsive

A 2017 Redstart Creative blog post identified several noteworthy nonprofit social media trends. As in the rest of the digital universe, video is the new response-getting must, and now nonprofits can use live video to boost reach and engagement via tools such as new Facebook features allowing live video to be pushed to followers in notifications or timelines. As social media algorithms reduce organic reach and ad competition intensifies, Redstart advises uncluttered “less is more,” quality-over-quantity content that focuses on resonating with the target audience. “Reply and engage” should be a new mantra, too, especially since major platform Facebook began keeping score publicly on all brand pages last year by adding a notification that tells viewers how quickly the page replies to messages. For nonprofits, trying to woo and keep donors today means storytelling content and engaging personality, Redstart stresses; so don’t be afraid to embrace video, memes, emojis and gifs.

Polish the Art of Engaging

Need some tips for donor engagement on social media? A recent NonProfitPRO post by Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, founder of Goodworld, cited three basic steps–and she included images of real-life digital successes. Step No. 1: Respond quickly. As Pfeifer notes, 83% of Twitter users and 71% of Facebook users expect a brand to respond to their posts within 24 hours, and more than half of Twitter users expect a brand to respond within 2 hours! Social-media monitoring tools like Google Alerts and Mention can help keep track of responses to supporters. Step No. 2: Get personal. Responses can include a personal touch, but less time-consuming tactics include tagging supporters in thanks, or a simple “like” or “share” of comments. Step 3: Honor your donors. Even if thank-yous can’t be personalized, you can make donors feel special on social media by posting a “thank you” message after a successful fundraising post. Plus, part of honoring donors is transparency, Pfeiffer adds. Post organization news, fundraising goals and impacts; making donors part of the success story will build engagement, loyalty and a desire to give more.

Tap the Power of Social Influencers

“Influencer marketing” is a buzzword at the top of marketers’ agendas in 2017. A recent post on npENGAGE by Jeanette Russell, marketing director of the social engagement platform Attentive.ly, underscores the power of influencers to greatly extend the reach of fundraising campaigns.  Attentive.ly evaluated 90 of its nonprofit customers and found that the top 5% of influencers on a nonprofit’s e-mail list of 140,000 can reach an average of 34 million people, or 85% the total reach of e-mail and Twitter combined. Wow! So how do you identify influencers? You use a social scoring methodology, such as Klout’s algorithm, to assign a score based on measurable factors: reach/number of followers, engagement of followers, relevancy, post frequency, and relationship with the organization. Then you segment the influencers and their messaging into three main categories, Russell advises: VIPs (such as entertainment stars or politicians) who need high-touch, major-donor-style treatment; Media (Blogger) Influencers who can be recruited to post or Tweet to pools of followers, either on their own or as part of investment in a blogging program/network; and Everyday Influencers, who form the largest group and are already on nonprofit e-mail lists so they can be quickly energized by e-mails asking them to share or post easily accessible content.

For examples of successful nonprofit influencer efforts, as well as tips on crafting effective influencer e-mail campaigns, see the the full article at https://npengage.com/nonprofit-marketing/socialmediainfluencers/

E-mail Regaining Its Lead Role in Fundraising Digital Strategy

In 2017, e-mail is expected to regain its lead role in the digital efforts of nonprofit fundraisers, per numerous nonprofit marketing pros. Certainly, AccuList USA is ready to support that trend with a proprietary compilation of the top fundraising direct mail and opt-in e-mail lists  (check out our free download). In addition to smart list selection, fundraisers and fundraising consultants can make the most of a renewed e-mail focus with tactics like those provided in a recent post for thedatabank.com by Michael Stein, a nonprofit consultant and digital strategist.

Plan for a Successful E-mail Reboot

To maximize response, e-mail outreach in 2017 may require nonprofits to reboot, refresh and rethink, says Stein.  He urges marketers to address four basic issues before blasting out e-mails: Check to see if your e-mail template or e-newsletter needs a creative refresh; make sure the e-mail works well for mobile viewers; consider a rewrite of your welcome e-mail to new subscribers for better engagement; and develop new creative and messaging ideas to test for boosted e-mail fundraising appeal.

‘Mobilize,’ Personalize, Automate

Mobile readiness is essential for wooing donors, especially given, as Stein cites, the recent Movable Ink report that, across industries, 69% of e-mail opens were on a mobile device. A good mobile experience should extend from the e-mail subject line to the website landing page and, most importantly, to the donation page, advises Stein. Personalizing is another proven way to maximize e-mail response, and that means more than dropping in a first-name greeting. It means digital messaging with relevant, timely content based on smart e-mail list segmentation, using data such as event attendance, website downloads, and donation amount or frequency. Finally, marketers need e-mail automation, especially for timely engagement of new e-mail subscribers and donors. Automated responses should include key transactions such as e-mail subscription, event signups, and online giving, since these are often the most opened and read e-mails, says Stein.

Make It Graphic & Multi-channel

Testing by nonprofits has shown that use of graphics and video significantly boosts fundraising response rates. So write fewer words and show more images, urges Stein. Use a graphic to present a call to action or embed a video to replace a paragraph, for example. Finally, e-mail’s fundraising effectiveness is higher when it is part of an integrated multi-channel effort. That should include social media platforms since including social media advertising in digital campaigns often delivers a lift in revenues taken in by e-mails and websites.

For more advice from Stein, go to https://www.thedatabank.com/2017/03/harness-the-latest-giving-trends-for-digital-fundraising-success/ And if you like infographics and want benchmark data on what other nonprofits are doing with e-mail, check out http://blog.winspireme.com/nonprofit-email-marketing-infographic-ebook.

 

Fundraising Pros Forecast 2017 Trends for Direct Mail

For nonprofits, 2017 offers an avalanche of political and technological changes, yet we don’t see any trend sweeping direct mail or e-mail out from under fundraising marketers just yet. Certainly, AccuList USA’s top fundraising mailing lists, based on proprietary research, continue to deliver donors and dollars to clients.

In fact, NonProfit PRO magazine recently found relevant mailing insights when it asked nonprofit pros nationwide for 2017 fundraising trend predictions. A few nuggets from its “40 NonProfit Trends for 2017” include:

Digital & Analog Can Grow Together

Marketers should see digital and non-digital communications as symbiotic rather than competitive. Indeed, Roger Craver and Tom Belford, editors of The Agitator, predicted that the continued rise of digital technology and data will paradoxically foster an increase in “old fashioned” pre-digital methods of communication and relationship building, such as direct mail, printed “thank you” notes, personal phone calls and print newsletters. Why? Because old-fashioned non-digital communications “provide a key—and currently missing—fundraising ingredient: a human, real-life interaction between an organization and its donors.”

Integrating Not Just Multiplying Channels

Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE, principal of Clairification, advised nonprofits to recognize that they are now dealing with an all-encompassing “Generation Connected” (GenC) and must be in multiple spaces simultaneously—but with consistent and integrated messaging. Merely fundraising through multiple channels does not equal integration from the consumer’s perspective, she warns;  integration requires coordinated images, messages and offers across channels to avoid muddling the brand.

Going for Mailing Depth Over Volume

Direct mail is still a top fundraising tool—but not if used as a blunt instrument. Nick Ellinger, vice president of marketing strategy at DonorVoice, noted recent Dutch research that found 63% of the revenues of an additional nonprofit mailing aren’t new revenues but rather cannibalized from the revenues of other communications. However, by investing in donor knowledge and targeting, customization and personalization rather than just mail volume, test programs report stable gross revenue and a significant increase in net revenue in year one (or year two at worst), Ellinger reported.

Direct Mail’s Not Dead & Neither Is E-mail

Eric Rardin, vice president of business development for Care2, predicted that e-mail will only increase in importance in 2017. While social tools and platforms proliferate and compete, e-mail emerges as a digital tool that best allows marketers to push traffic and engagement online, he noted, so the value of an e-mail address, with permission to mail, will continue to increase year over year.

Use Technology to Kick Up Results

Though “old-fashioned” mail still drives donations, it may do a better job if paired with new technology. Shari Mason, vice president, marketing communications of Smile Train, suggested embracing 3D-printing initiatives, virtual reality experiences and social-good fundraising platforms to improve giving-impact communications, message sharing, call to action, and cause awareness. Leigh Kessler, vice president of communications for CharityEngine, even urged testing mobile device voice intelligence technology (Siri, Cordera, Google Now)—for example with a direct mail piece that says, “If you have Amazon Echo, just say ‘Alexa, I’d like to Give $25 to customURLnonprofit.org.'”

For more trends, read NonProfit PRO‘s “40 NonProfit Trends for 2017.”

Positive 2017 Fundraising Trends Create Opportunities

While 2017 is starting as a year of uncertainty, especially in politics, a recent CauseVox post provides some good news for AccuList USA’s current and future nonprofit direct marketing clients. CauseVox staff writer Tina Jepson spotlights 10 fundraising trends that offer opportunities for greater success this year, and we’ll pass along a few here.

Increased Individual, Corporate & Recurring Giving

Donation forecasts are upbeat, Jepson shares: Philanthropy Outlook 2016 & 2017 predicts that an increase in individual and household income will help to boost fundraising efforts for nonprofits, charities, and NGOs by as much as 3.8% in 2017.  Plus, with Gross Domestic Product and business savings on the rise, total corporate giving is predicted to rise by 4.7% in 2017. And monthly giving, which accounts for 17% of online revenue, also will continue increasing per the 2016 M+R Benchmarks report. The trick with individual donors is to catch the wave with smart targeting, inspiring creative and campaigns to get existing donors to boost giving, says Jepson, while, for corporate giving, nonprofits would do well to maximize gift matching, to court business leaders and to keep tabs on company arrivals and growth locally. Plus, Jepson urges nonprofits to amp up their monthly giving strategy, making monthly giving the first option for donors on the website and a marketing priority in e-letters, direct mail and e-mail.

Donor Retention at a Record High

Donor retention rates are at the highest rate since 2008 at 45.9%, and nonprofits and charities clearly should make retention a marketing priority to capitalize on this powerful fundraising engine, Jepson notes. She suggests capitalizing on the trend with tactics such as personalization; prior gift recognition; leveraging donors’ preferred channels; donor education via videos, infographics or pamphlets; and donor activation with engagement opportunities such as volunteering or advocacy.

More Donor Data Than Ever Before

Digital interactions—websites, e-mail, social media and now the Internet of Things (IoT)—combine with traditional channels such as direct mail to generate a wealth of data about existing and potential donors. A key goal for 2017 is to gather, analyze and use actionable data effectively. Jepson lists a few ways to do so: Tracking analytics on your website and social media posts to learn the demographics and behavior of your paid, earned and owned media audience; using Facebook and Instagram Ads and Business Manager to target ads to donors likely to give; and turning around data learning to share with, and inspire, donors in real-time online via options such as a website ROI ticker that tracks return on investment (possibly in lives changed) per average donation.

Social Media & Mobile Marketing Challenges

In social and mobile marketing, nonprofits face challenges as well as opportunities. Social media platforms, including Facebook, now are promoting organic content that prioritizes the audience’s friends and family over nonprofit messages. Jepson points out that this means that effective social media marketing will need to rely more on purchased ads and targeting of key demographics, as well as creating viral content that inspires shares. Meanwhile, if your nonprofit hasn’t invested in mobile optimization of websites and e-mails, you’re missing a key donation source: Mobile giving makes up 17% of all online giving now and is projected to rise further in 2017.

For more trends and Jepson’s suggestions on maximizing their fundraising impact, see https://www.causevox.com/blog/fundraising-trends-2017/