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.