shutterstock_165751187 donate button resizedMost nonprofits believe digital fundraising is essential for their future. Yet only 6.7% of funds raised by nonprofits were solicited by digital methods. Complicating matters, digital marketing can be labor intensive and often doesn’t deliver revenue consistent with expectations, while direct mail remains core to donor acquisition. So what’s a nonprofit to do to meet its current fundraising objectives, while enabling its digital evolution?

At Innovairre, we support 500+ nonprofits that are wrestling with these fundraising questions every day. Finding the right balance of online to offline fundraising investment differs for every organization. Donor demographics, amount of money needed, donor file robustness, and many other factors tend to influence online/offline investment decisions. Yet as a general rule, here are four basic guidelines:

1. Update Insights – Conduct a master file audit and comprehensive marketing performance assessment every 12-24 months. This should confirm the relative health of your fundraising activities, benchmark your performance against similar NPOs, and help you optimize your marketing mix. During these assessments, we frequently find significant donor churn, a lack of second gifts, a dearth of email addresses, uncertainty about the ROI of social media, and frustration with current direct mail efforts. If any of these circumstances sound familiar, the good news is there are solutions.

2. Mail Obtains, Digital Retains – As a general rule, mid-to-larger NPOs need to maintain an active presence in the mail to ensure acquisition goals are met. Many nonprofits hope that digital acquisition can deliver the quantity of donors required on a more efficient basis, but that is rarely the case at scale. Having said that, finding efficiencies or enhanced effectiveness in direct mail can be key to enabling your digital evolution. (See number 3 below.) At the same time, ensuring that your NPO engages with donors via digital means in creative and emotionally compelling ways can help minimize donor attrition, which has reached crisis levels.

3. There’s Money in the Mail – Some organizations are now putting less of a focus on their direct mail activities, and more of a focus on trying to crack the code on digital, without leveraging all of the direct mail optimization techniques that can help fund the digital evolution. There are premium strategies that consistently work in direct mail, such as card packages for lots of different occasions and holidays; tote bags; and many different bundling ideas including cards, address labels, calendars, notepads, and pens. So far this year, all-occasion cards with intricate design and foil embellishments plus matching envelopes are doing very well. At the other end of the spectrum, there are often strategies to improve efficiencies, including leveraging the latest in machine-learning models, package optimization, sequencing techniques, etc. For example, a sequencing of emails one week before a direct mail package delivery has shown a lift in response and average gift.

4. Move from Mail to Multichannel – Naturally, it would be advantageous to migrate more donor communications online. Research shows that a new donor who becomes engaged on a multichannel basis is significantly more valuable on a lifetime basis. Yet obtaining an email address—or a “like” or a “follow” in social media—particularly among those donors acquired via direct mail, is not always easy. To overcome this issue, there are several new techniques that can drive your donors to engage with your NPO on a digital basis. These include:

  • e-Receipts – This is a brand new product that enables nonprofits to easily automate their tax receipt delivery process across every channel, while providing new rationale for donors to provide their email addresses. It is a real win-win in the short term and very helpful for long-term communication efficiency.
  • Social Synchronization – This is another brand new service that matches your donor’s postal address with their Facebook account, which gives you the chance to send coordinated online/offline messages to them via their Facebook feed and their mailbox. By doing so, the Facebook posts help lift the direct mail response, which more than covers the cost of the Facebook activity and can improve the number of “likes” your NPO receives, and deepen your organic (free) distribution.
  • Donor2 – This is the first turnkey donor retention solution, aimed at solving the donor retention crisis through nine steps in eight weeks. The Donor2 platform allows you to enhance your donor data by including demographics, social media IDs, missing address information, and even personalized URLs. Now you can thank your donors via email or mail—within 24 hours of their donation—and even send an electronic, personalized welcome kit. Reaching new donors at multiple touchpoints with fast and personalized communication helps to turn them into loyal supporters for years to come.

Digital fundraising is the future. But now is the time to formulate the strategies and deploy the initiatives that provide the revenues and engagement that can drive fundraising success, and enable mission success, this year and in the years to come.

Don McKenzie is President & Chief Growth Officer of Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. For more information on fundraising strategy, contact us at Subscribe to our newsletter here, and Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.