Yesterday, I argued:
a quality direct marketing program can help increase both event and non-event giving. Moreover, you get people who are more connected to the organization. And when these people are already giving to 6-9 other organizations, usually through direct marketing, unilateral disarmament doesn’t seem the wisest approach.
Let’s test the three major assumptions here:
- Event participants and donors are connected to your organization
- Event participants and donors are likely direct marketing donors
- Direct marketing can raise all boats
First, are event participants and donors really connected to your organization? Yes and no. Certainly they are willing to give money that benefits your organization. However, let’s take a donor to a person’s walk team for your organization. Your organization clearly isn’t repugnant to them. However, they are likely giving more to their friend than to your organization. So let’s say they are more likely to support you than a person off the street would be (because some of them won’t like your organization), but not much more likely than the average outside acquisition list (because you’ve chosen those lists to include people who support like-minded organizations).
Second, are event participants and donors likely direct marketing donors? Yes and no. Yes, because they are willing to give to charity. Gallup asked Americans if they gave to charity in the last year. As you can see, not everyone did.
If you set aside that people are likely to inflate their charitable giving to pollsters, you have one out of every six people who don’t give to charity. Clearly, you’ve weeded out this group by talking to event folks. However, it’s likely that your event participants are different demographically from your “normal” direct marketing donors. If you take an extreme example like walk participants versus telemarketing or mail donors, you may find that the former are demographically the sons and daughters of the latter.
Thus, as before, they are more likely than a person of the street to donate through direct marketing. But they haven’t proven channel responsive and that could be troubling.
You might question, then, whether event participants and donors are good direct marketing prospects. The answer is definitely yes. Both Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and MS Society (this link goes to an excellent webinar on the topic) reported significant gains in both event and direct marketing revenues from adding direct marketing to their marketing mix for events.
It’s because these communications centered on the person’s previous experience. I can support this anecdotally. I’ve both customized communications to walkers and walk donors and dropped them unprimed into an ongoing direct marketing stream. Customized is better.
What would a program like this look like?
Recruiting people to the event: This would include inexpensive communications to your existing constituents about the event (inexpensive because the transitive property says that if your event donors are unlike your direct marketing donors, your direct marketing donors are unlike your event donors). These could include buckslips, stories in existing donor newsletters, email communications, outbound voice mail announcements, and online co-targeting. Using lookalike audiences and remarketing could also help bring new people to the event.
Reattracting lapsed participants: This would look very much like any other lapsed campaign you would run.
Engaging current walkers: Try new walker online welcome kits that engage walkers in the general mission. Also, don’t forget direct marketing nudges to fundraise for the event.
Converting the event donors: Here’s where you customize your regular communications to event participants. You might even try “The walk is over, but the fight continues” walker specific emails and mail pieces, but mission-forward pieces and engagement opportunities like surveys, membership appeals, and the like tend to do better with this audience. And, as any good donor steward knows, making sure these event donors get outstanding gratitude is highly predictive of future donations.
And, as I’ve stated previously, 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.
Hopefully, this will help you acquire your own donors and cross people over into organizational/cause donors. More importantly, I hope it helps break through the “my donor” mentality that can be so destructive to programs.