If you read all my previous posts (starting here) about how you can use marketing automation to raise more major and legacy gifts, you’re probably starting to see how powerful this technology can be for your nonprofit’s fundraising operations.
But how can you use it so your staff can be the fundraisers they want to be?
Two types of data you want and need.
While automation can do many things, let’s first focus on two specific types of information you should aim to collect before you run off and start building out email ‘drips’ and sequences:
Now that you understand those types of information, next you’ll learn how you can capture both quite easily.
Don’t just ask… offer!
In order to get the most out of any fundraising automation system you’ll need to forget about asking for money for a while.
As we mentioned previously, people (especially high-value donors) are tired of hearing from their favorite causes mostly through solicitations. Instead, they want invitations for engagement or offers of content so they feel involved and educated.
Sure, an opportunity to donate is an invitation for engagement. But it’s one that should be reserved for when a supporter has signaled their readiness to receive it. Most of the time, you should offer them cultivation or stewardship communications that include value-oriented, highly relevant, personalized content offers.
Include links to your offers in your automated emails so your supporters fill out forms (mini-questionnaires) on landing pages. By providing offers that resonate with your supporters, you’ll encourage them to lean in so you can capture verbatims and digital body language.
Offer something supporters value and you’ll raise more money
At first, providing valuable offers to major donor prospects might feel a bit counterintuitive. After all, the core function of your job is to ask, not give. However, at MarketSmart, we have found that generous fundraisers inspire generosity among their caseloads of supporters.
However, it is important to remember that value is in the eye of the beholder. So you must use the verbatims your supporters have supplied, along with the digital body language you collected, to ensure that you deliver offers that resonate.
Once that standard is met, you will also want to consider this MarketSmart checklist. It will help you decide whether your offer idea is really worth developing and offering to your supporters.
Bottom line: If an offer idea does not provide value to your supporters, don’t use it!
Here are some content offers we have found are most effective for helping supporters engage and move themselves through the major gift consideration continuum.
There’s pent-up demand among your base of supporters (including donors, volunteers, social media followers and advocates) for a chance to enter into an arms-length conversation with you—especially at the early stages of their consideration process for making a major gift.
That’s why a supporter survey is the single most effective offer you can provide. Remember, if you ask people for advice, you get money. If you ask them for money, you get advice. Especially when the relationship is new.
But surveys are only valuable when you use the data you capture to show your donors you have listened to their responses… and the best way to do that is with fundraising automation.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to employ surveys
More than a decade has passed since MarketSmart first pioneered combining surveys with marketing automation emails.
During that period a number of firms have sought to sell a similar concept. However, unfortunately, they usually only sell surveys without proper follow-up. They fail to tie each supporter’s survey responses to a marketing automation system that can spawn automated emails based on the verbatims each individual supplies.
That’s too bad, because cultivation is the key to effective fundraising. A survey is just a tool to gather information that should be used for cultivation. If the two are not tied to one another, donation revenues often actually decrease among those who took the survey.
When you stop to think about it, that makes perfect sense. Once a wealthy, older, philanthropic-minded person gives you their most precious asset—their time—shouldn’t they expect your communications going forward to show that you listened?
Marketing automation helps prove you listened.
Sudden solicitations will make supporters feel unappreciated and possibly even misled. After all, by taking your survey, they showed you they wanted to be heard. And by offering it to them, you implied you would listen.
So be careful with surveys. They are, in fact, just tools. Like hammers, they can be used to either build or break things. If you only use them to ‘take’ information from your supporters, you’ll fracture (or possibly shatter) their trust.
If you use surveys to ‘show them that you know them,’ you’ll engender engagement and goodwill. You’ll collect valuable information. And you’ll grow their trust as you cultivate the relationship—automatically!
Through a survey, you can ask about interests and passions, why they care about your mission, where they reside in the consideration process for making a gift, whether they’d like to make that gift with cash, assets, or after their lifetime, and so much more.
Then, with a well-designed fundraising automation system, you can continually provide value. Your communications will resonate as you check each supporter’s pulse (so to speak) by monitoring their verbatims and digital body language.
It’s a polite-yet-persistent tech-enabled donor discovery and cultivation methodology, delivered at scale—thanks to fundraising automation technology.
Learn how to conduct donor surveys with this complimentary eReport available here.
Other content offers
Most prospective major donors spend the majority of their time in the WHY stage, wondering, “Why should I care, get involved or give?”
If your cultivation is done well, they will move themselves into the HOW stage and wonder, “How should I give?” But that will take time. A lot of time. Going through the stages of considering a major gift is a marathon, not a sprint.
However, there is a way to help your supporters move themselves forward through the consideration continuum. Novelty!
Novelty makes people feel good. It provides variety that is attractive because people are naturally drawn to opportunities to acquire new information or become involved in fresh, new experiences.
Researchers at University College in London studied this in 2006. They found that novel information and experiences trigger the release of dopamine—the feel-good hormone our bodies produce —making us feel there’s a reward waiting around the corner. Their research suggests that we associate positivity with novel offers.
Researchers also found that novelty improves memory. By combining new information with familiar information during learning sessions, their subjects’ memories of the familiar increased by 19%.
So providing your supporters with new information, or new ways of engaging with familiar concepts, helps them understand and retain your organization’s mission, need, and how they can make an impact.
Also, that new information should be designed to appeal to supporters based on where they reside in their consideration continuum.
7 novel offers
Here are seven novel offers our experts at MarketSmart recommend our customers employ:
Each one supports your supporters as they make their way through the consideration continuum.
Wrapping up (for now)
If you made it this far, you now have a much better understanding of how you can put fundraising automation (marketing automation) to work to support your fundraising operations.
However, as always, if you’d like to learn more about our done-for-you duo of technology plus services, we’d be thrilled to talk to you. We call it Engagement Fundraising and hundreds of nonprofits like yours are already quietly powering their operations with our System — making them more efficient and effective.
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