It’s hard doing business in the summer. There are vacations, holidays, and kids out of school. Come September people are ready to get down to business. That’s when they are paying attention to email and getting ready to get some major projects rolling.
There’re many ways that nonprofits can use the summer doldrums to boost their online activity. From signing up program sponsors, campaign supporters and program benefactors, to getting social media buzz, press coverage and major online exposure. But how do you maximize online fundraising opportunities? There’re so many options. Facebook this, Twitter that and don’t forget Youtube. But what if you put all this effort into a campaign and nothing happens?
One thing that is certain is that if you want to get the best results from September through the most lucrative fundraising time – End Of Calendar Year – you need to start now. It takes weeks to plan, develop, and optimize campaigns. It takes several months for search engine optimization to really take effect. You need to identify and begin engaging influencers from the media and bloggers weeks in advance of your campaign launch to get the best response.
This article will help you apply marketing strategy to your fundraising campaigns so you can maximize revenue this year.
You need an idea. A unique campaign that is clever enough that people want to share it. When NTEN wanted to raise $10k for a scholarship for members to attend their annual conference in 2009, the executive director Holly Ross told donors they could vote on 3 ridiculous things she would do — 1) Remake Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video, 2) eat a bacon explosion, or 3) play her college trombone in Union Square.
NTEN promoted this campaign via their blog and Twitter and quickly received lots of social media buzz which led to lots of mentions by news websites, blogs, and influencers. NTEN was able to quickly sign on enough donations to reach $10k and donors were able to vote and see Holly sing Beyonce’s song. Because of all the buzz, there was also added benefit for donors to support the cause and gain positive exposure.
Achievable Short Term Goals
Your campaign should be focused. It’s easier to mobilize people to solve a problem if it seems solvable. If we need to raise a certain amount of money by next week for a specific reason people can rally behind that. If you want to cure world hunger or cancer it may be more important but a high percentage of your audience may delay their action and potentially forget to support your cause.
If my goal is to send a brilliant student from MIT to the World Hunger Summit in Switzerland next month, there’s a sense of urgency and the opportunity for supporters to enjoy a victory in the near future. This helps increase – what marketers call – the Lifetime Customer Value (LCV). If their support delivers an immediate feeling of satisfaction and proof that their action caused real human benefit, they are much more likely to help again, and sooner. They are also much more likely to recommend the cause to friends and via social networks.
Planning Makes Perfect
Once you have a great idea with an achievable short term goal there’s lots of planning. We call this Program Design. When will it start? What social networks will we promote it on. How often will we send updates? How will we communicate to email lists, media channels, PR news service, blog? How can we leverage partners to promote the campaign? How much time and effort will all this take? How many campaigns can we operate over the next 3-6 months? Planning is more important than ever.
To maximize the return on investment for online fundraising campaigns, you need to start planning several weeks before online kickoff. You need to develop a detailed plan and editorial calendar. There’s typically lots of content such as blog articles, video, and social media content that needs to be prepared in advance. Based on the nature of the campaign, there is often website development, creative design, printing, and other components that require necessary lead time to get done properly. When there isn’t sufficient time you end up compromising quality, spending more money for less (it’s hard to shop around for the best price with a crushing deadline), or cutting corners can result in highly diminished returns.
Whatever your campaign may be, you will have some common goals of conversion. That could be anything from getting a new subscriber on your email list to a major benefactor. Online campaigns drive traffic to a page or series of pages (Conversion Funnel) to what marketers call a Call to Action (CTA). Once someone gets to that page, it’s called an impression. Based on the impressions and the Conversion Rate, you can measure how effective that page is. If 5 out of 10 unique visitors to the page sign up, you have a 50% conversion rate.
Making small changes (optimizing) to the messages that drive traffic to those pages and the configuration of the pages can increase the conversion rate. The most common tactic for this is A/B testing or Multivariate Testing. This can be used for lots of outbound messaging including emails, ads, and landing pages.
- Email Optimization – Many email marketing services like Mailchimp let you send multiple versions of an email message to part of your list and then based on the open rate after an amount of time will send the highest performing email variant to the rest of the list. You can try different subject lines and email content to see what’s most effective. It’s often very surprising and counterintuitive. It’s also good to test different send times for open rates. For some lists, weekends can be much better than weekdays, Tuesdays better than Wednesdays.
- Testing Web Pages – It makes sense that changing the headline can make a big difference in the conversion rate. What’s surprising is that often more subtle changes like the image choice, amount of text, placement of the submit button, color of the button, number of fields in a form can all impact the conversion rate. This can apply to how many people click on a call to action on the home page to how many people sign up on a landing page with a conversion form. Tools like Optimizely and Unbounce allow you to create multiple page variants and see which ones perform best.
- Online Advertising – There are easy options to use paid ads to drive traffic to your campaign. Google Adwords, Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Ads can help you connect with supporters based on specific audience demographics. You can pay for impressions or clicks. Built into these platforms, you can compare click performance of ad variations using different images, headlines, body text, and link text. Some provide conversion code that will allow you to see which ad clicks resulted in a conversion.
Maximize Your Investment
Every action you take – every blog, tweet, email, Facebook ad, Google Ad – it’s all valuable. Online campaigns provide us with amazing insight we can use to optimize the performance of our investment of time and resources. It’s hard to know which idea will pay off the most but every campaign you run will help enlist more and more supporters, each with their own word of mouth network. Many campaigns optimized over time, of which you further improve based on what insights each campaign provides, will have an exponential effect. If you want to maximize your efforts with any specific fundraising campaign, it’s critical to start early enough to optimize your message and conversion tactics so when you are at peak activity you are getting the best results possible.
Want to increase revenue this year? Maximize Online Fundraising with Aericon
Aericon is offering a free Digital Marketing and Social Media Assessment for qualified non profits. This includes a detailed interview, competitive analysis, assessment of your website, social media, and search engine performance. We will provide specific insights and recommendations including essential improvements, brand observations and campaign ideas.
To apply visit social.aericon.com/nonprofit