A direct marketing bridge to… events

Direct marketing for nonprofits is usually a tool to get a donation.  This week, I’m going to look at the ways you can build bridges to other development areas to help that famous rising tide lift all boats.

I’ll start with peer-to-peer fundraising events, in part because of the degree of difficulty.  Event participants and event donors are notoriously difficult to convert to other forms of giving.  Event participants feel like they gave as part of the event (and they did); event donors are giving more to their friends than they are to the cause.  And the vice is versa’ed – demographically, your average direct mail donor is not likely to want to do your endurance three-day, less she break a hip.

True story: I once participated in a charity 5K that started and ended on Federal Hill in Baltimore.  Here is the view from the top of Federal Hill where we started the walk:

250px-federalhillpark

And here is the view from the bottom of Federal Hill up to the top:

mount_kilimanjaro

Hat tip to wikimedia.org for the images

We had a lot of people stop at the 4.9K mark that day.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  Walkers don’t convert well.  But in acquisition, we are certainly reaching out to less likely prospects.  With walkers, you know they know who you are and believe in the mission.  You may even know a bit about why they are walking.

So they are an audience worth reaching out to, both to garner additional donors, and to improve their retention for future year’s walks.  Some of these ideas will be applauded by your walk managers as helping them do their jobs; some will have you burned in effigy for trying to “steal” “their” donors.  The trick is to do enough of the former that they will forgive you for the latter.  Here goes:

  • New walker welcome kits (online or off). With most walks, your immediate communications are “thank you for signing up; here’s how you can make money for us.”  This would help mix in messages that welcome the person to the mission of your organization beyond welcoming them to the walk.
  • Similarly, during the walk process, mix in other topics like advocacy alerts to deepen engagement to the organization.
  • Try a telemarketing cycle to your walkers well after the walk is completed. This can both ask for a donation and announce the day and time of the next year’s walk.
  • Addressable media to past participants. Remarketing, cotargeting, and like audiences can be a good way of retaining old walkers and bringing in new ones.  If you don’t know what I mean, I highly recommend Friday’s post on just this topic.
  • Throughout the year, you should try mailing walkers to become offline donors. Ideally, this would feature walker specific messaging and incorporate what you know of why they chose to walk.  Strong techniques could include a walk survey to gather data on your walkers (and to act as a reply device) and a save the date lift note for the next year’s walk.

Because of the inherent national/field friction in some national organizations, I would strongly recommend running these techniques as a test in year one with sites that are willing to experiment.  Using the other sites as a control, you can then present how much better the direct marketed to walks did versus those that didn’t have the wind at their back from email, online, mail, and telemarketing.

A direct marketing bridge to… events

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