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6 New Fundraising Traps in a Personalized World

6 New Fundraising Traps in a Personalized World

The inbox is getting competitive. Your best may no longer be good enough. The rapid adoption of Customer Relation Management (CRM) technology is making slow adopters appear backward. With players like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook serving up interest-specific, personalized content on a minute-to-minute basis, the expectation for custom treatment is skyrocketing. Is it fair that your donors are comparing you to billion dollar marketers? No, but it is a reality. That said, here are a few traps to watch for as you wade into the CRM space with a personalized offering:

1. Marry You? How About We Get A Drink First.
 The first trap is a failure to provide opportunities for low-commitment interaction. Yes, we know everyone wants high commitment from their target groups. But for that to happen you must nurture a community of donors over time, rather than try to harpoon new donations by blitzing everyone repeatedly. However sophisticated your appeals may be, without a funnel of engagement that allows you to attract a wide audience of new prospects, your “dating pool” will soon thin out. Use your communication forums, especially social media, to start conversations and gradually grow prospects’ commitment as they funnel up through ever-more-meaningful interactions. For example, a higher education prospect for a college may start by signing up for information relevant to them, then “like” your Facebook page, later they show up at an event, accept an invitation to volunteer, and finally they donate.

2. Money, Money, Money, That’s All I Ever Hear From You
 The 2nd trap is that the same tools that make it easier to pinpoint donors make it easier to ask too often. Are you engaging in meaningful conversations that involve regular opportunities for alternative interactions? You can find creative ways to tap your prospects’ professional skills, networks, and resources rather than only cash contributions. Social networks are great forums for engaging a non-profit community around volunteer activities and asking them to spread the word on your behalf. Remember that you’re building long-term relationships. Share your successes, send birthday cards, and remember that ongoing pursuit of the optimal communications strategy is the new normal. You’re going to have to test. It’s going to take time—even simple things like message frequency. The right message frequency for one demographic may be far too frequent for another and not frequent enough for a third. What works today will undoubtedly change, and you will have to commit to staying one step ahead in the learning curve.

3. No, You’re Thinking Of My Roommate
 Are you engaging prospective donors with the programs that interest them most? When you make it an organizational priority to identify donors’ interests and track them in your CRM, you gain the ability to solicit them for giving in a much more nuanced way. But you also open yourself up to spectacular organization failures. Very specific pitches mistakenly aimed at the wrong target can be startling and even offensive. These failures find their way onto social media sites—the worst even make the news. And that can crush all of your careful planning. If you have followed through on personalization, you’ve now got dozens of variations of communications to write across different mediums and even devices. And you have to make sure they encompass a full communication progression without any odd repetition or embarrassing gaps.

4. Do You Even Know Me?
 Are you tracking capacity for giving? Don’t ask people to give at the wrong level. You will alienate even loyal supporters if you repeatedly make this mistake. Also, don’t ignore the power of a large number of micro-donations. Political campaigns are won and lost on the level of micro-donations. Data is the premium fuel you need to run this fancy new car. It’s expensive, you need a lot more than you used to, and it constantly needs replacing. That means systems and a commitment of internal resources to ongoing data retrieval and organization. You can’t address someone with messages specific to their life circumstances if you aren’t certain what those circumstances are. And remember, the best data in the world can’t help you if it doesn’t get in your CRM at all (or once there, isn’t accessible easily). It’s a particularly precarious place to be if you are an institution positioning itself as a thought leader. For instance, university alumni may question whether you are really up to the challenge of preparing students for the careers of tomorrow if you do not appear to be technologically savvy in communicating.

5. Will You Respect Me In The Morning?
 So you worked people through the funnel and converted them to donors. Well done, but the story doesn’t end there. If you don’t tweet about your use of the donations and show that you are delivering value on them, or you fail to be sensitive to the input from your community of supporters, you can quickly lose engagement. When incoming communications aren’t treated with the same tone, interest and passion that you show during outreach, trust breaks down and relationships are dented. The 5th trap of inadequate ongoing interaction can be addressed by engaging and responding to donor communications and continuing to keep your understanding of individual donor preferences updated. You must be sure that you form a cohesive strategy in which everyone on your team is prepared with the information they need to engage successfully. CRMs are robust systems with profound capabilities. That also means they are prone to inadequate adoption if they aren’t treated as an operational priority with a matching change in communication philosophy by every team member.

6. And All I Got Was A Lousy T-Shirt 
Are your thanks limited to postcards and trinkets? When you’ve asked for something specific by targeting someone’s unique interests, your thanks need to be equally personalized. Do this by creating a variety of appreciation options in your recognition programs. For example, a university might provide gym access to local alumni donors or allow networking opportunities. How about allowing a donor’s family member who is also a budding model into your next commercial or print campaign? Be creative. You will be surprised at the win-win options you can find.

To conclude: We covered quite a few pitfalls, but as we also saw, there are actionable ways you can mitigate your risk. The sophisticated use of data in marketing communications is exploding, so view this technology as long term and strategic. Then commit to integrating the CRM (and the philosophy it implies) into the fabric of your organization. It is easier said than done but it is not rocket science. It is all about getting to know your supporters better… and in fund raising where it is all about relationships, do you have a choice?

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