Mal Warwick | Donordigital Announces Leadership Transition: Mwosi Swenson named CEO

Mwosi Swenson, President and CEO

Mwosi Swenson, President and CEO

Washington, DC and Berkeley, CA — September 21, 2015

Mal Warwick | Donordigital, a leader in integrated fundraising, advocacy, and marketing for the nonprofit sector, announced today the appointment of Mwosi Swenson as President and CEO.

After over a decade of leadership, current President and CEO Dan Doyle leaves the agency in the strongest position it has ever been. He will provide ongoing transition counsel through the end of the year.

Mwosi, most recently Senior Vice President of Mal Warwick | Donordigital, began at the agency 21 years ago. In her long career with the company, she has rapidly moved up the ladder, meeting every new challenge with great skill. Mwosi has provided expert fundraising strategy and oversight for some of the nation’s most respected environmental, advocacy, and political organizations. A decade ago she launched the agency’s digital fundraising division and in 2008 took the helm of Donordigital, the online fundraising firm acquired to support the agency’s move into integrated fundraising. Under her leadership, the agency now provides premier integrated fundraising services for the majority of our clients. Mwosi is widely recognized for her leadership in integrated fundraising and her strategic thinking, and is often called upon to speak at industry conferences.

Dan Doyle noted, “I have every confidence Mwosi will build on all that we have accomplished together. My years with the agency have been incredibly exciting, and now that our Board of Directors is willing to make the transition to new leadership, I am in a great position to leave. I’m proud of our many achievements, and Mwosi and the agency are perfectly poised to rise to even greater heights.”

Founder and Board Chair Mal Warwick added, “This is an exciting time for our agency. Dan has done a brilliant job introducing professional management procedures, building the best fundraising team in the industry, leading our merger with Donordigital, expanding the business to Washington, DC, and attracting more and bigger clients, including some of the most notable organizations in the nonprofit world. For some time now Dan has been assigning key responsibility to other members of the team so that this transition can take place smoothly. He leaves the company in the most capable hands with Mwosi.”

For more information contact:

Mwosi Swenson, President and CEO, 510-225-0403 or mwosi@malwarwick.com

Flash fundraising with flair: Using bold strategies to reach fundraising goals

Mercy For Animals (MFA) is perhaps best known for its work exposing the cruel abuse of the secretive factory farm and slaughterhouse industries. MFA’s undercover investigators have brought numerous companies’ abusive policies and practices to light. In the last year alone, thanks to exposing abuses and hard-hitting advocacy work, major companies like Walmart, Safeway, Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s were convinced to introduce sweeping animal welfare policies.

Addressing the complex and disturbing issue of animal cruelty requires Mercy For Animals to take on significant challenges to run campaigns that keep supporters engaged.

When we recently launched the Flash Fundraiser campaign for MFA right on the heels of the busy year-end fundraising season, we knew we needed to present fresh new messaging, eye-catching graphics, and tried-and-true strategies to foster a sense of urgency for their audience. We also knew that the most thrilling part of MFA’s work was the dangerous and emotional nature of their undercover investigations. Our campaign plan centered around the importance of contributing to those investigations and supporting the investigators who take part in them.

Here’s what we knew:

  • Images of animals in appalling environments facing unspeakable cruelty foster an emotional response from MFA’s fans and supporters.
  • Presenting a deadline creates urgency and encourages list members to donate quickly.
  • Offering a match allows for rapid momentum for a campaign’s revenue possibilities.

Here’s what we set out to prove:

  • Could running a short campaign or a “Flash Fundraiser” help ramp up urgency?
  • Could image-based emails engage audiences in ways that text-based emails cannot?
  • Will a smart combination of strategies help raise money during a stagnant time of year for fundraising?

MFA_Renewal_MatchFlashFundraiser_Email1_r5

Click to enlarge.

Here’s what we did:

  • We sent three “Flash Fundraiser” appeals during a short two week period directly after a series of renewal appeals.
  • We used innovative design to grab the attention of readers.
  • We presented a dollar-for-dollar match up to $50,000.
  • We used animal cruelty imagery to tug at the audience’s heart strings.
  • We used minimal copy to make the fundraising ask quickly and succinctly.

Here’s what we found out:

  • The three emails we sent performed at the same relative conversion rate as the renewal appeals that went out to MFA’s list right before the “Flash Fundraiser” campaign launched.
  • We found that there were a number of donors who did not respond to the Renew/Join language they had recently been presented with. Those donors were responsive to the Flash Fundraiser look and feel, match, and short deadline.
  • The Flash Fundraiser brought in enough money to exceed the match.
  • We were able to organically bring in multiple sustaining gifts that will continue to increase the overall revenue of this campaign over time.

The biggest take-home elements from this campaign are: be creative, take risks, play to your strengths, and know your audience. These results are due to a successful deployment of typical but hard-to-achieve tactics. With the help of Mercy For Animals, we were able to launch timely, well-crafted, and compelling appeals that aren’t afraid to live outside of the box; and we were able to raise a lot of money while doing it.

Jack Hilson is an Account Executive at Donordigital and has over five years of experience in non-profit and political campaign-based digital consulting, specializing in email marketing, Google search ads, Facebook ads, and social media management. 

Email Design and Technical Development in the Age of Mobile

By Jesse Kelsey and Anthony Blair-Borders

It is an often used trope among the digerati that “mobile is now king,” but only because it’s the new reality. Recent data from Blackbaud shows that in 2015 more email messages were opened on small mobile devices than on larger desktop and laptop computers or even larger tablets. This means that web designers and technical developers need to focus their efforts to ensure that the assets we craft for their clients are “mobile-first” and fully responsive — meaning they display correctly on screens and devices of all sizes.

This evolving trend should be fully embraced, as it gives us clear and unequivocal directives for design and technical development. Mobile-first means using single column layouts with no sidebars and fewer multi-column layouts. Designs should be “flat,” with no fake textures (skeuomorphism), gradients, drop shadows, or jewel tones. Mobile-first web designs mean assets that are simple, clean, and sophisticated.

Flat designs are not only more mobile-friendly and more likely to look the same in browsers and mobile Apps across the board, but also reduce clutter in an increasingly busy medium where dozens of elements are constantly trying to vie for our attention. By cutting back on unnecessary design elements, the eye-catching appeal and “stickiness” of a layout is actually increased; headlines and calls-to-action are easier to read; buttons are easier to spot; content has to spend less time competing with banner ads and alerts for attention.

Here are our top design recommendations for flat, mobile-responsive email designs:

  1. Create visual hierarchy (especially in the top third of the email): A viewer should be visually guided from the most important element in a layout to the call-to-action as quickly and yet gently as possible. This hierarchy usually begins with a hero image (photos draw more attention than text), then a headline, followed by a call-to-action, and finally a button, with everything else being of least visual importance.
  2. Make spacing consistent: All the disparate elements in a layout need to have their own room to breathe and the space between them should be consistent. This not only makes a design look more sophisticated and professional looking, it makes it much easier for a viewer to digest the information provided.
  3. Utilize relief space: The more content that is crammed into a design, the more difficult it gets to decipher information from it. Additionally, all that cluttered content creates emotional tension for users. By opening up a design with larger spaces between elements, a comfortable, wide-open environment is created that welcomes exploration and encourages action.
  4. Avoid multiple action items and complex menus in email communications: Too many calls-to-action confuse a reader, and the menus don’t translate well to mobile. Messaging should be kept simple and direct.
  5. Use larger fonts in the body copy: Don’t be afraid to go big. We recommend about 16 pixels high with at least 24 pixels of leading (the space between lines). Users are more likely to take time to read something that’s easy on the eyes. Larger fonts are especially important when considering going mobile-first, since they are easier to read on smaller screens. Besides, some mobile devices will just increase the font size anyway.
  6. Go flat: Drop shadows, skeuomorphism, glow effects, gradients, rounded corners, and jewel effects look dated and break on a lot of mobile devices.
  7. Be consistent with font usage and color styling: A major part of building a brand and creating a dialogue with an audience is consistency. For example, button and text links (and all action items, really) should all be the same color. Using styling that remains largely consistent across all communications builds supporter trust and creates a feeling that the organization is also consistent in the work they do elsewhere.
  8. Avoid putting headlines and calls-to-action over images: When you put copy on top of an image, that copy needs to be flattened as part of the image. This means that it may not always be seen, depending upon the email client and its settings. You copy may also be shrunk down on a mobile device to the point where it’s illegible. Copy should stand alone, or be placed in a solid color background.

In addition to design, here are our responsive recommendations for the technical development of email messages. Designing with the following recommendations in mind make it possible to code messages so that they display well across devices and operating systems:

  1. Use a mobile-first design strategy: This means designing for mobile devices and thinking about how the email looks for mobile devices first, then building the “desktop” version around those constraints. This involves considering how a masthead graphic, for example, will look with desktop dimensions, generally about 600px wide, and resized for mobile devices to 320px wide. Different-sized graphics can be shown/hidden for each screen size, but this technique requires more maintenance and testing, creating duplicate content in some cases, and generally slows down email implementation time. Additionally this technique will not work with Gmail and Android clients. Therefore, it’s best to make single graphical elements that look good at any size.
  2. Use a one-column layout: This will more naturally happen if a mobile-first design strategy is adopted. It makes for cross-compatible templates, with fewer workarounds needed for mobile devices and vice versa.
  3. No gradients or background images: There are exceptions, of course, but these two items can be very difficult to code in a cross-browser compatible way. Some email browsers/clients recognize CSS gradients and background images, but many old ones do not.
  4. Use standard dimensions: Most desktop email clients generally render emails in panes that are around 600 pixels wide or less, and most mobile devices render widths at somewhere between 320 pixels and 480 pixels. It’s generally best to aim for 320 pixels wide on mobile devices, as it is the smallest width for mobile devices, and still very common for iPhones that are vertically oriented.
  5. Web-safe fonts: It’s enticing to use uncommon fonts in email designs, but there is a short list of fonts considered to be “web safe” that render similarly across all systems. Part of how a mobile-responsive template is built allows for quick text customizations and keeps the overall file size down, so by using a CSS font-family such as “arial, helvetica, sans-serif;” ensures your email easy to read and will render the same everywhere. Ideally, all of the text in your email layouts should be “live”, ensuring that it renders, even if image blocking is enabled. If you need to use a more decorative font, it should be converted to a flat graphic (keeping in mind that it needs to be legible when resized for a mobile screen). Therefore, the majority of text should use a web-safe font family. Here’s a quick reference guide of web-safe fonts: http://templates.mailchimp.com/design/typography/

Jesse Kelsey is the Senior Web Developer at Donordigital. His web development experience spans the for- and nonprofit sectors, including work in e-commerce, lead generation, digital signage, and community economic development.

Anthony Blair-Borders is a freelance art director, digital designer and illustrator, and the former Senior Web Designer at Donordigital. He has over 20 years experience working for the for- and non-profit sectors and believes web design should be fluid, stylish, clean, and functional.

The Skinny on Direct Marketing 101 – The Basics: A Participant’s View

This following article was originally published in March 2016 by the Direct Marketing Association of Washington and is reprinted with permission.

On March 2, I had the pleasure of attending DMAW’s DM 101 Course – The Basics. It was a wonderful event and like most ideal association communities, DMAW provides an excellent full day introductory seminar that has become the standard for bringing industry newbies, mostly 1-4 years in their careers, up to speed. Held at The City Club of Washington, it covered the fundamentals of direct marketing, examined big picture trends and gave attendees an opportunity to network. The array of seasoned presenters left many of us with practical tools for immediate application in our respective work:

The morning began with an excellent presentation on creative from Kerri Kerr (Avalon Consulting). The experienced Kerr demonstrated how to build an effective campaign to grow your base and increase revenue, starting with strategy: Know your audience. What’s the case for giving? “The letter should be about you the donor, not you the organization.” She shared plenty of examples, like why four page letters often perform better than two, and why the carrier is the most important element between the donor and the trash.

Next, Jeanette Cassano (Belardi/Ostroy) laid the framework for understanding lists: find an expert broker who knows what will work for your particular campaign. She offered useful analysis of direct versus digital marketing, and emphasized using benchmarking, forecasting and historical trends from quality metrics to maximize high value long term donors. “Charitable giving is effected by GDP and consumer confidence. Surviving economic recovery means 3 things: acquisition, building donor retention and amping up creative.” Lori Barao (MMI Direct) followed with data hygiene. She presented many tools available to standardize data clean-up to meet industry norms; defined key terms for proper communication with your service provider; and underscored the need to keep quality control a top priority.

Meg Ferguson (PMG) did a thorough walk through of production services. “Professional project management starts with being a master multi-tasker.” With all of the considerations and decision making involved the production process, Ferguson’s words of advice is to leave no room for assumptions. Be as specific as possible when communicating so no one is left guessing. She reviewed each aspect of production – from managing workflow, to ways to reduce postage and expedite delivery. She warned us to be weary of hidden costs and to bid to your supplier’s strengths.

Julie Wilson (Integral) followed with database analytics and the need for data-driven decisions. Performance indicators underlie one rule: GiGo (Garbage in/Garbage out)! The main takeaway was that building loyal constituencies starts with having consistent business rules and tracking metrics. “When reviewing reports for the first time, assume it’s wrong and then try to poke holes in it.” Amy Padre (Avalon) presented a great case for including online in all integrated communication channels. Testing, appropriate messaging and making it easy to stay involved will bring in those multi-channel donors that have more value. She showed phenomenal examples of email engagement tools like list chaperones, and insider updates.

Mark Mitchell (SD&A) debunked many of the myths surrounding telemarketing. “Telemarketing is selling what you don’t want. Telefundraising is talking to donors who care about your organization.” The truth is donors do want to be called. Benefits include real-time results, driving higher direct mail and online response, and it being a low risk investment. The day ended with Robb Wanner (DMP) bringing the direct marketing process full circle with a lively and detailed overview of caging and data capture.

DMAW’s initiation on the ‘tools of the trade’ provides a base for understanding proven techniques and processes. It’s worthwhile for anyone who truly appreciates the science of marketing.

photo-thumbnail-AmirahTylerAmirah Tyler is an Account Coordinator for Mal Warwick | Donordigital. She can be reached at amirah@malwarwick.com.

How to Fundraise When the Media Spotlight Shines on Your Organization’s Mission

Mal Warwick | Donordigital Account Director Wendy Husman and Whitney Broadwell, Senior Resource Development Officer at International Medical Corps presented a session together at the 2016 Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Jose in March 2016.  They discussed how to harness the opportunity to grow your email list, increase your social followers and raise money when your organization’s issue is in the news. Review the presentation deck to learn more about how to prepare a fundraising and communications plan, how to implement that plan on short notice, and how to leverage unexpected events into more supporters for your organization.

Join us at #16NTC for two great sessions & a party!

The Nonprofit Technology Conference is heading to San Jose, California, this year, and our team will be there to share, learn, mingle and party.

Our team will be presenting at two sessions:

Is That Your Donor? Or Mine? Measuring Performance in a Multichannel Environment
Friday, March 25
10:30 am — 12:00 pm
Room 210F

Join Mal Warwick | Donordigital President & CEO Mwosi Swenson, Director of Analytics Peter Schoewe, and Steve Kehrli, Development Director at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, as they discuss the challenges of monitoring channel and cross-channel performance.  In this hands-on session, we’ll will review guidelines, benchmarks, and actual reports for monitoring overall program success, and share some real-life examples from PETA’s multifaceted direct response program.  More Info >>

Use the News: How to Fundraise When the Media Spotlight Shines on Your Organization’s Mission
Friday, March 25
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Room 210E

Join Mal Warwick | Donordigital Senior Account Executive Wendy Husman and Whitney Broadwell, Senior Resource Development Officer at International Medical Corps, as they discuss how harness the opportunity to grow your email list, increase your social followers and raise money when your organization’s issue is in the news. In this hands-on session, you’ll learn more about how to prepare a fundraising and communications plan, how to implement that plan on short notice, and how to leverage unexpected events into more supporters for your organization.  More Info >>

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
COME PARTY WITH US AT #16NTC
Thursday, March 24
8:00 pm — 11:00 pm
Mezcal Mexican Restaurant and Bar
25 W. San Fernando, San Jose

We may not have the likes of Dionne Warwick to show us the way to San Jose, but your online roadmap can be found with the talents of the Mal Warwick | Donordigital team from 8pm to 11 at Mezcal. Your NTC Badge gets you a taste of Mezcal’s authentic Oaxacan cuisine and a sip of our signature Mal-garitas. You’ve got lots of friends in San Jose, make sure to stop by and see us!

What we learned about multichannel fundraising from raising money at year-end

Although it seems like eons ago, our team at Mal Warwick | Donordigital is still taking stock of what the year-end giving trends mean for our client programs, and for nonprofit fundraising as a whole.

Many programs we manage experienced strong revenue growth in their online channel, driven by Giving Tuesday, as well as other tried-and-true techniques such as matching gift challenges, website lightboxes and homepage takeovers, improved donation pages, an increasing volume of email appeals, better mobile optimization, advertising and retargeting, and coordinated social media engagement.

It will take a bit longer to see the full results of the direct mail efforts, but we know that this channel will continue to provide a lion’s share of overall direct response revenue – and will for many years to come.

While integration still may feel challenging in actual implementation, this year-end season reinforced for me the power and necessity of integrated fundraising for overall program success. Here’s why:

  • We saw a big surge in direct mail donors going online to make their gifts, including the use of custom URLs. The upcoming match-back analysis we’re performing for many clients, will clarify how big this mail-to-online effect really is.
  • Targeted email messages to individuals receiving direct mail appeals reaped high response rates and average gifts. Even when these groups were small, response rates were often triple the average email response rate and revenue per email sent was very high.
  • New targeting tactics allowed for a fuller experience and supported all efforts. Facebook ad targeting of email lists members and direct mail donors served impressions to individuals primed to give – a tactic we know helps overall fundraising. In addition, many of these campaigns generated enough gifts to cover the modest costs of the efforts.
  • It’s about the donor experience! The multitude of email messages from my favorite charities I received in December was immense. But I remembered those that reinforced that message in the mail, in email and social media. I knew what I wanted to give to and why!

How can you measure the effects of your integration efforts?

  • At Mal Warwick | Donordigital we carefully track multichannel giving shifts between the online, mail and telemarketing channels through a careful analysis of donor data, and do this bi-annually for many of our client programs. The shifts in giving channels often reflect not just changing donor trends, but also changing investments that the organization is making to grow each channel. Most importantly, it allows us to create strategies that prioritize multichannel conversion.
  • Multichannel giving analysis allows us to identify donors’ origin source which informs our recommendations for acquisition investment. Based on first gift, who is most likely to convert to another channel? How does the ROI compare for different origin cohorts? What we see consistently is that a higher percentage of online generated donors cross over to also give in the mail, than the reverse. This trend points to the importance of having a mail program that can work seamlessly with online.
  • We’ve seen a dramatic increase in donor value when our clients convert single channel donors to multichannel giving (especially direct mail donors to online). We also see much higher upgrade rates to $250 or more from donors who are multichannel, more conversion to monthly giving and significantly higher retention rates. It’s clear that multichannel behavior has a big impact on donor value and increased attention to an integrated strategy will result in overall revenue growth.

Integrated, multichannel fundraising efforts are yielding valuable results and stronger long-term value for many organizations at year end and throughout the year. The focus of integrated strategy should continue to inspire more single channel donors to convert to cross-channel giving. This in turn will deliver stronger renewal and upgrade revenue to help direct response programs thrive, while engaging supporters more deeply into the organization—and most importantly deliver the best donor experience!

Mwosi Swenson, President and CEOMwosi Swenson is the President and CEO of Mal Warwick Donordigital. She has over 20 years experience in direct response fundraising and is one of the nation’s leading experts in direct mail, online and integrated fundraising.

Client Highlight: Mercy for Animals

A team of Mercy for Animals undercover investigators is exposing the cruel and secretive factory farm and slaughterhouse industries. Last year, through the use of undercover investigations and hard-hitting advocacy work, abusers were brought to justice and major corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s were convinced to introduce sweeping animal welfare policies.

Mal Warwick | Donordigital is working with Mercy For Animals to create its direct mail program and expand online fundraising. MFA just experienced the most successful year-end fundraising season in its 16-year history, with an increase in number of gifts, response rate, and total revenue.

We worked with Mercy For Animals to brand its sustainer program “Investigation Allies” and create a series of appeals inviting supporters and advocates to become monthly donors. We also helped introduce a tracked welcome series promoting monthly giving to new advocates and supporters.

The organization now has over 1,000 sustainers, helping to fund its core programs month after month. Many sustainers made additional gifts this December thanks to targeted appeals.

Read more about MFA’s undercover investigations >>

It’s Not Too Late to Supercharge Your Year-end Online Fundraising

There’s a lot riding on your year-end online fundraising efforts. Some nonprofits raise a quarter (if not more) of all their online revenue in December. No doubt your team has been carefully planning its year-end online campaigns and is hard at work implementing the messages. Here are a few last-minute ideas to supercharge your fundraising.

Resend to Non-openers

So much of year-end fundraising is about persistence. For email appeals, that means resending your email message to people who haven’t opened your message. Wait a day or two, pull a report of who opened the message the first time, and suppress them from your resend. Yes, there is always a risk of over-messaging, so be sure to change the subject line.

You might also pick a different time to message such as very early in the morning, in the late evening, or on the weekend, all in the name of standing out to get noticed — and opened.

Add a Special Appeal for Monthly Giving

Year-end is traditionally the time for one-time gifts, but we know that donors are always in search of flexibility and options. Make sure you make the case for monthly giving, either in the body text or P.S. of your email message, and also on all your donation pages. This is one of the fastest growing segments of online fundraising, so jump on the bandwagon at year-end too.

Keep Sending Appeals to People Who Already Donated

We go to great lengths to avoid sending appeals to people who have already donated to our campaigns. But year-end is a great time to keep including recent donors, especially if you have a dollar-for-dollar match. Include a sentence recognizing and appreciating their gift, and many donors will be motivated to give again, or to spread the word via social media with friends.

Ask Your Donors to Tell Their Friends and Family

Your donors feel great after they make a donation to your cause. That’s what charitable giving is all about. Make it easy for your donors to share that feeling with friends and family by adding sharing options on your website “Thank You” page and also in the thank-you email/receipt that gets sent to each donor. Discuss with your online vendors to find out how to add these features.

Add a Pop-up Lightbox to the Highest Trafficked Pages on Your Website

It’s vital to grab the attention of your website visitors during the last two weeks of the year. The pop-up lightbox is a perfect tool to get in front of people and convey your year-end fundraising message, especially if you have a match. Set a cookie for your returning visitors so the lightbox only appears once every few days.

Increase Your Messaging out on Social Media

You’re probably planning some social media messaging at year-end to promote your fundraising efforts, but you’re probably not planning enough. Get creative with ways to promote your year-end campaigns, using tie-in graphics, thermometers, and thanking donors publicly. Your creativity and humor will pay off, especially for your followers who are also on your email list. And don’t forget to track your social media click-through traffic to your donation pages.

Michael Stein is a Senior Account Executive at Mal Warwick | Donordigital in Berkeley, California. With Nick Allen and Mal Warwick, Michael wrote the groundbreaking 1997 book: Fundraising on the Internet: Recruiting and Renewing Donors Online.

Paths to year-end fundraising success in a multichannel world

AMC_YE2013-Lbox3-Calendar_FINAL-copyDirect response fundraising should be multichannel. I say this all the time and while direct causation is sometimes difficult to track, I stand by the principle that truly donor-centric communications allow donors to access information in the channel they choose. We also have the data analysis to prove that multichannel donors are the most valuable donors for an organization to have over the long term.

It’s our responsibility to ensure that the messaging is cohesive and coordinated.

In the real world of people opening their mail, answering their phones, and checking their inboxes, a multichannel donor is a person who knows what matters to them, consumes information in a number of ways, and dedicates some time and their dollars to the cause that moves them.

Maybe it was the person that asked them to make a donation, or the photo on that envelope or at the top of that email, or a headline in large font, or simply the timing of an email that was formatted nicely on their iPhone6 while they were waiting on a train platform – whatever the trigger, later that night they remembered to go on your organization’s website and make a donation.

The most important thing about a multichannel donor is that they decide to give and give in a channel different than their first gift. That change and movement to being “channel agnostic” means that they are more likely to give again to your organization and to give a larger amount.

So, how do you embrace multichannel messaging when planning for year-end? The reality is that every detail matters when it comes to achieving year-round fundraising success in a multichannel world. Year-end fundraising is a unique challenge because of the competition for dollars among organizations and a limited number of donors. The sheer volume of fundraising appeals by nonprofit organizations is enough to overwhelm any person who opens their mailbox or their in-box.

As a direct response agency, we’ve learned to adapt and innovate in the unique environment of year-end fundraising. Below is a quick overview to how we approach year-end fundraising success in a multichannel world.

  1. Create a communications matrix that honors the donors’ perspective. Align your channels by reviewing your year-end calendar for mail, email, website promotion and telephone solicitations. Consider how your donor and non-donors audiences will react to getting multiple appeals for funds in different channels. Adopt a donor-centric approach and make sure your appeal calendar is driven by their needs. Honor and accept those things that won’t cross channels (not everything can be integrated!).
  2. Scour your organization for other opportunities to coordinate messaging. These might include newsletters or magazines, direct mail acknowledgment buckslips, welcome kits and welcome series, videos or other online resources.
  3. Segment your audiences carefully and integrate those segments into the communications matrix. Think about the best way to approach each with the correct ask or cultivation. For example, what about those folks that are getting direct mail during the year-end email series? What about those who aren’t? Also plan for coordination in gift asks – although donors will often give higher gifts online, it’s important to keep gift strings similar across the channels.
  4. Fundraising techniques aside, it’s the content and messaging that you create that will drive your supporter’s attention span and engagement. Donors want to be asked and inspired to make a year-end gift. Take the lead-time you need to produce engaging content that can span across direct mail appeals, emails, videos, year-in-review annual reports, holiday cards, infographics and more. Remember, donors have short attention spans (especially online donors), so highlighting key points are important whatever the channel – direct mail letter P.S. content, reply devices, and email masthead and sidebars, to be exact.
  5. Carefully consider your email calendar in December so you can create the right cadence for your supporters. One message per week and then an increasing number the last few days is the new normal, so jump on board and craft an authentic email series that inspires your supports to give. Consider the dates that your mail will reach donors in-home and if the content is complementary.
  6. Acknowledge the multichannel touches – we often reference or show a visual of a direct mail package that the donor is receiving in an email message. And we’re careful to strategically include dedicated URLs in direct mail packages if donors want to make their gift “immediately online.”
  7. On your website, be sure to use your homepage carousel or above-the-fold content areas to highlight the theme of your year-end campaign online and offline. It’s common for supporters getting your mail to visit your website to make their year-end gift. Deploy a lightbox on your website to catch the attention span of your visitors.
  8. Use paid advertising channels at year-end to reach your supporters wherever they might be. Search engine marketing, Facebook ads to custom audiences, and remarketing to visitors of your website or your donation pages can play a vital role in creating visibility for your year-end campaigns, and increase year-end giving across all of your channels.
  9. Make it social! Using online social networks at year-end is vitally important to connect with the attention span of your supporters. Dedicate staff time to posting year-end content on social media channels, and schedule coordinated tweets and posts on all channels. In your emails and on your Web pages make it easy for your supporters to spread the word about your year-end campaigns.
  10. Keep testing and trying new things. Every audience is different which means it’s vitally important to test to see how your audience responds to multichannel tactics.
  11. Don’t neglect January as an important time to thank donors—across all channels—for their year-end support.

Multichannel fundraising does require more effort and resources. But the end results is cohesive messaging and a larger group of dedicated donors.

photo-thumbnail-mwosi-2Mwosi Swenson is the President and CEO of Mal Warwick | Donordigital. She has worked in direct response fundraising for the past 20 years and has managed the direct mail, telemarketing and online programs for some of the nation’s most respected environmental, advocacy, and political organizations.

Growing your sustainer program

Mal Warwick | Donordigital Senior Account Executive Wendy Marinaccio Husman joined forces with Jeanne Horne of Share Our Strength, to present a dynamic session on “Growing Your Sustainer Program” at Blackbaud’s BBCON 2015 in Austin in October.

The session covered numerous facets of growing a sustainer program with a discussion of strategies for retention, stewardship, and upgrades. Wendy and Jeanne outlined No Kid Hungry’s multichannel promotion of monthly giving, with efforts spanning email, online advertising, social, direct mail, and telemarketing. They provided exclusive examples for how to improve retention, create a communications calendar for monthly donors, and more.

Here are the presentation slides: