Fundraising and marketing are similar to each other in many ways. Fundraising is concerned about building donor relationships that result in charitable contributions. Marketing is about building customer relationships that result in sales. Both are concerned with the interactions that result in the exchange of money. Both are interested in attracting people not currently associated with them to them. Both need to rise above the environmental noise to be heard. Both struggle to get their message noticed in all they fray. Fundraisers develop an ideal donor profile. Marketers create an ideal customer profile. Both work to make the processes of finding donors and customers, interacting with them, and exchanging money as easy possible. There is a lot of overlap between fundraising and marketing. In many ways, borrowing concepts from the marketing world leads to better fundraising.
There are major differences though. The bottom line for nonprofits is mission impact whereas the bottom line for businesses is profit. A nonprofit exists for the public good and is funded by public monies. A for-profit exists to fulfill the demand for a product desired by its customers and is funded by sales. A nonprofit’s income is not taxed. A for-profit’s income is. The purposes of the nonprofit and corporate boards are also different. The ultimate authority for a nonprofit is the public, as represented by a board of community members, generally unpaid volunteers. The ultimate authority for a business is the owner, who receives the proceeds of the business. For a corporation, it is the stockholders who are represented by other stockholders. Surely fundraising is very distinctive from marketing.
All of which means that fundraising and marketing share some performance indicators while diverging on others. We have talked about the main metrics you need to know to be able to make budget decisions, allocate resources toward pursuing specific activities, and evaluate the performance of your fundraising program. We now turn your attention to key metrics we can borrow from marketing that can drastically improve your fundraising results.
Key Performance Indicators
Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPI’s, are tracked numerical marketing metrics used to measure progress toward your goal within specific marketing channels. The marketing channels we will discuss include your website, email campaigns, and social media efforts.
Go into Google Analytics or other tracking software and track the number of website visitors you get per month. And you want to know the number of unique, as opposed to return, visitors you have too. If you are using any paid means to drive traffic to your site, you will also want to know how many organic visitors (people who find you through unpaid means) you had and how many paid visitors you had. In addition, you want to monitor which pages had the most hits and how long people stayed on those pages. What you are looking for are clues to what is appealing about frequently visited and read pages. Your ideal is to have increased traffic to your site over time with more people visiting and reading key pages. For fundraising purposes, this means your donation pages. However, the look, feel, and friendliness of your overall site impacts single-page performance. So, make sure that when you design your donation pages, you design them in conjunction with a marketing professional. If you don’t have a marketing professional on staff, we suggest you invest in a good website design firm to help you. Design accounts for 90 percent of the trust people place in the companies they are researching through websites. It is worth the investment for your site to generate the most trust possible.
You will also want to know how many of your website visitors end up donating to your cause. Track your results over time. Your goal is to is to increase traffic to your site, your donation page, and conversion of visitors to donors.
Offering downloadable tools is often a good way to engage donors. For example, “10 ways you can help community recycling efforts.” Measure these tools to see how many people are downloading them, and track your conversions, that is, how many times they result in donations, volunteer engagement, or referrals.
For email campaigns, you want to keep track of number of emails sent, open rate, click-through-rate, bounce rate, and response rate. If you’re using something like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, or Active Campaign, your email provider will track and can provide these statistics. If you have a large email list, you can do some A/B testing of your emails to see which version of your email performs better. If you don’t have a large list, then experiment with subject headings, layout, pictures of graphics, content, and time of day sent. But only change one variable at a time for long enough to get reliable results. Then experiment with another variable. With this experimentation, when the time comes to send out your fundraising campaign, you will have an idea of what tends to work the best for your organization.
Make sure that you clean your email address list often. You want as few bad email addresses as possible to you get an accurate picture of just how effective your campaigns are. Plus, high bounce rates can lead to your communications being categorized as spam. You don’t want to risk your fundraising email campaign labeled as spam. So, make sure you scrub your list often.
After your campaign, make sure you track the number of donations as well as the number of donors who gave during the campaign. Also have your revenue and expenses actuals. You will want to calculate average gift per donor, average cost per donor, and cost to raise $1. Compare this year’s numbers to last year’s numbers. You will want to know trends as well as your email donor acquisition costs. Use this information to evaluate the effectiveness of using email in terms of popularity and costs versus other channels.
If you want to build on the efficacy of your email campaign, you can follow up your email communications with other email communications or more personal phone contact. We recommend that you send at least three email communications or send an email, follow up with a phone message, and then send another email, only contacting donors that haven’t yet responded to the previous communication. Of course, when donors do respond positively, make sure you thank them immediately. Thanking your donors within forty-eight hours of the donation while the memory of making the donation is still fresh in their minds is the number one way to help get a second donation.
Social Media Metrics
Social media is a good tool for getting your message out to a large amount of people. The key to reaching a lot of people is in gathering followers to your page. And likes and shares of your posts. When you post on social media, you will want to track your number of followers, likes, shares, and responses. For best results, like, share, and respond to those who have posted responses to you. Engage people in conversation.
Use lots of pictures when you post. Pictures generate interest. Personal posts generate more interest than fact-based ones. Short posts are better than long ones. Generate interest in the community impact your agency is making, that is, how your organization is improving the human condition one person at a time. Social media is a great way to make your nonprofit human and relatable.
If you do a fundraising campaign on social media, make sure to track your results. The jury is still out on how effective a fundraising tool social media is. What everyone agrees on, though, is that social media can highlight your impact in the community and engage people in your cause, augmenting your fundraising efforts.
Data Collection, Recordkeeping, and Reporting
Most of your tracking and reporting will come from Google Analytics or other tracking software, your email provider, and your social media platform. You want to associate your marketing activities with your fundraising performance to see if and how strong the relationship is between the two. Marketing generally enhances fundraising. Leverage your resources, reduce organizational costs, and magnify outcomes by intertwining your fundraising efforts with your agency’s marketing campaigns. Work in conjunction with marketing and coordinate your efforts.
Bringing It Together
Although fundraising and marketing share many concepts, you must also consider their many differences. Website, email, and social media key performance indicators are useful to analyze a fundraising campaign’s impact. The design of your website accounts for 90 percent of the trust developed by visitors to the website. Develop your donation page with the input of a website design professional. To learn the most successful email configurations, experiment with subject headings, layout, pictures, graphics, content, and time of day sent, changing only one variable at a time. Scrub your mailing lists often.
Do you employ marketing concepts to augment your fundraising efforts? Which ones are working for you? Leave a comment and let me know.