FYI Blog

Anticipating and Meeting Online Industry Challenges

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the Avalon team’s discussion on significant challenges facing the direct marketing and fundraising industries now and over the next five to ten years, and how to address those challenges.

As with the direct marketing challenges, we had a spirited discussion at an Avalon staff meeting when I posed these same questions to my team regarding the online marketing and fundraising industries, and how we can tackle those challenges. We agree that now and in the future, no matter the direct marketing challenge, integrated marketing strategy supported by robust analytics will be part of the solution. But more specifically, here’s what we came up with:

Challenge: How can non-profits make sure their marketing emails stand out in increasingly cluttered inboxes?
Solution: Since all you have to stand out in email is your sender name and subject line—and possibly your preview pane message—the answer is multi-channel outreach. Layer on the messaging across communications channels. Emails may not be the best way to drive online giving, so put specific URLs in mailed appeals, follow up mail pieces with an email reminder, and use Google Ad Words to make sure your organization pops up first in a search.


Challenge: How can organizations realize the full potential of CRM and Big Data to develop stronger relationships with their donors and members?

Solution: We must fully leverage the myriad of data and technology available to us, to target stronger donors and forge more meaningful and lasting relationships, and ultimately create higher donor value and donor satisfaction. Modeling, targeting donors on past behavior, and developing segmentable personas or behavioral clusters, would enable deeper understanding of our donors and their motivations, while still allowing for the benefits and efficiencies of mass segmentation. Such rich, multi-dimensional targeting will leverage transactional donor data, behavior, demographics, psychographics, commercial data, member research, and more, providing a step up on traditional RFM. Online and offline targeting, plus more customized tone, messaging, creative, and offers will result in increased conversion rates and donor satisfaction.


Challenge: How can non-profits ensure email deliverability?

Solution: As competition in the inbox increases, it will become even more imperative that organizations employ smart segmentation, testing, and re-engagement strategies with their lists—and keep list hygiene a priority.

Challenge: How can non-profits compete for attention within the mobile channel and make the online experience mobile-friendly?

Solution: Don’t try to compete—instead, integrate mobile with your existing channels. Start now to identify where and how current supporters are accessing your Web and email content and design mobile-friendly experiences for them.


Challenge: How can non-profits avoid letting the next shiny new thing be the only thing?

Solution: As new channels, platforms, and tools emerge, before jumping in with both feet, non-profit organizations must always consider how to apply fundraising and marketing best practices—that rely on building relationships through multi-channel communications—to the new technology/medium. Today’s Twitter and Facebook may be tomorrow’s MySpace. Just as shifting all resources to online fundraising (in lieu of DM, TM, and other channels) is not the answer; integrate new channels only when it makes sense for YOUR supporters.

Challenge: How can non-profits grow their email lists and convert supporters to donors?

Solution: The key is to find and test the right messaging, coordinated communications strategies, and vehicles to bring in prospects, and then test for the right messaging and online strategies to convert them to donors. We recommend testing, testing, and retesting—with the understanding that you are also not just building a strategy for today, but also investing in the future, which requires resources and extensive marketing.


Challenge: How can non-profits get donors to give their email addresses?
Solution: Define tangible and substantial reasons for donors to share their email addresses (what’s in it for them?)—test those assumptions, and then work your messaging around that reasoning.