2017 Checkup – The Nonprofit Edition

It’s mid-January of a New Year, and many of us are still recovering from the chaos that we, in this industry, all know and love as end-of-year giving. Here’s the good news you’ve been waiting for: we survived! At this moment, we’d typically be providing an in-depth recap of #GivingTuesday through 12/31 campaign performance, and identifying the overlying trends of end-of year; however, things played out bit differently this season. As we reflect back, the tail end of the year was relatively tempered by one of the more unprecedented times that we’ve seen in philanthropy – from a global, national and local standpoint. With the political landscape being in such flux, we predicted there may be some impact to giving, but we can’t say with absolute certainty what that impact was.

So, rather than sharing any fuzzy trend lines, we wanted to take this time as an opportunity for a New Year’s Nonprofit checkup. What we have learned from this election season is that large national events, coupled with distracting last minute news cycles, can create an unpredictable fundraising ecosystem. And that’s why it’s so critical to have the technology, marketing infrastructure, and organizational agility in place to quickly react, and activate the right, impactful messages. As we enter this New Year, it’s certainly important food for thought, considering today’s Inauguration Day is just Day 1 of this new administration.

To assess the health of your fundraising programs for 2017, we’d recommend checking up on these essential questions:

  1. Is my integration plan strong?

This question may have been on your agenda for 2016 planning, but it’s always valuable to revisit, particularly if new fundraising channels have been shifted or added. 2017 will be another year where the donor experience of your nonprofit brand will require seamlessness, simplicity and impact across every touch point. Take this time to ensure your communication, fundraising, advocacy and marketing teams are in sync, so not that just your topline goals for the year are clear, but that you can see a plan for achieving success through the integrated efforts of all channels. For instance, you may consider a realignment of your organic and paid social/content collaboration. Use organic social efforts to create both broader brand awareness and community engagement, while leveraging the extra boost of paid efforts to guide and encourage users through the donation processes. Additionally, focus on the collective impact of offline and online efforts, like the influence of your direct mail campaigns on digital fundraising. The beginning of the year is always an optimal time to sync up KPI’s and strategies across the marketing organization, giving you more time to think about your creative and messaging tactics.

  1. Did my evergreen and moments in time campaigns perform generally well throughout the year?

Now is the perfect time to ask yourself questions like, “Did that triggered email series resonate with donors?” and “Do my email templates or social media creative need a refresh?” If email has produced high return in the past, but didn’t make as strong an impact during a few select campaigns, look at the messaging, the creative and the audience. Did one message resonate with one audience, but not the other? Reassess the cadence of different campaigns, as well as what audiences were most engaged, and when. The worst thing you can do is to run a beautifully and creatively developed campaign, only to have it fall on the wrong ears – remember to leverage your data and donor personas effectively to product the best content for the right people.

  1. Do I have the research or resources available to gain better insight into my donor?

The results of the 2016 election, regardless of party affiliation, were rather unexpected. This being the case, it was difficult for many organizations to determine how it would impact donor behavior. Now may be a good time to invest in additional research resources to not only keep your donor files fresh, but to better react with the right messaging in the best moments. Identifying, or even predicting certain behavioral queues before you run a campaign can help you to reach donors more effectively. With the right data infrastructure in place, you can gain a deeper look at overall consumer behavior across channels and verticals to determine what approaches will resonate.

  1. Is my Direct Mail plan where I want it to be?

For nonprofit marketers that leverage Direct Mail as a big part of their programs, planning is likely in full throttle right now. With this being the last window to make changes to investment or strategy, doing a check up on your donor files, messaging and donor personas is crucial. And as we mentioned before, make sure your offline efforts are aligned with your digital fundraising strategy. Consider looking at the cross-impact of channels you may not have paired up in the past, like paid search and Direct Mail, for example. As Direct Mail becomes a more and more desired marketing channel for consumers, adding it into the mix to look at incremental ROI in other online channels could be a worthy investment. Look at how, and where your customers are engaging when campaigns are released in tandem – you may able to identify trends you never knew were there before!

As we move into the New Year, don’t let any end-of-year performance woes get you down too much. Take this time to reimagine new strategies, enhance what already worked, and breathe enthusiasm into your entire organization. Your donors are waiting!

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