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Don’t Let Your Nonprofit Make This Marketing Mistake

donor retention fundraising marketing strategy Sep 24, 2018

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I emphasize digital marketing for nonprofit success. Whether it’s crafting the perfect donation page, writing a compelling email campaign or utilizing social media to create loyal supporters from your followers, digital marketing levels the playing field for nonprofits big and small. That is why I’m a huge supporter of helping small nonprofits learn and implement digital marketing strategies. It addresses the constant time and money challenge small nonprofits are faced with each and every day, and empowers them with resources and tools that allow them to make an even greater impact.

Digital marketing, despite being a positive game-changer in the world of nonprofits, can be a bit tricky too.

One area in particular that can make a digital outreach campaign backfire is when a nonprofit uses a “one-size-fits all” or overly broad message to reach a hugely diverse segment of supporters. 

Take for instance those volunteers who give of their time and talent; their connection to your cause is vastly different than the business or corporation that sponsors your events or initiatives.

And then there are donors who generously support organizations, but do so at many different levels. There are annual contributors who give a little or a lot, monthly givers, high level supporters, even “one and done” contributors.

What they do, and why they do it, is rooted in a personal belief or value that aligns with the work each nonprofit is doing to serve others in need.  

Digital marketing certainly has the power to reach and influence each of these individual audiences, but it can also do more harm than good if used as a broad brush approach to communicating with everyone at once without care of concern for individual interests.

As an example, sending one or even two e-newsletters in a month to your entire database with information about ALL things going on at your nonprofit - events, activities, programs, client updates, volunteer requests and of course donation requests -  would be considered a broad brush marketing tactic. It’s what most nonprofits do, and although an update email can be well received, if it’s the only outreach distributed, you’re entering the digital marketing danger zone.

It’s an unintentional marketing mistake that many nonprofits make that often amounts to a substantial loss in volunteers, sponsors and donors.

But there is a simple fix, and it begins with what is called segmented marketing.

In the simplest of terms, segmentation is the process of dividing your audiences into groups with specific identifiable characteristics and traits, such as volunteers, sponsors and donors. These details are then used to create communications that speak directly to their interests and behaviors.

Most nonprofits can identify their market segments, but not everyone acts on this information to improve the effectiveness of their marketing outreach.

And the truth is, when you don’t segment your audience, you run the risk of losing them altogether.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before: “If you market to everyone, you market to no-one.” Without using segmentation as part of your marketing strategy, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Taking the time to segment your nonprofits audiences and customize communications, whether it’s emails or direct mail, will provide a much greater return on the investment of time and resources you put into each outreach. It’s a process that sets your marketing up for success.

Many nonprofits skip this step because their is a bit of a learning curve, and it can initially be time consuming and overwhelming. Sifting through data, determining donor profiles, and creating not one but several communication pieces all seems like a lot of work with intangible benefits.

But I promise it’s worth the effort, and here’s why.

When marketing and communication messaging is tailored to each individual’s interests and level of participation and engagement, here’s what happens:

  • Deeper and more personalized connection is established and maintained
  • Respect is strengthened
  • Engagement increases

And that results in:

  • Increased donor retention
  • Attraction of many more donors
  • Increased levels of giving
  • More active and engaged volunteers
  • Renewed sponsorships

To help you get started, here’s the process I walk clients through.

#1. Identify 3-4 of your top priority groups that should be given a little extra love and attention based on what they do, or could potentially do, to help move your mission forward.

For most nonprofits, those priority groups include:

  • Donors
  • Volunteers
  • Potential Donors

You could break it down even further, with subgroups within each priority group such as, $500+ donors, monthly donors, annual givers. And I suggest you do so as you build your segmentation marketing strategy, but initially focusing on 3-4 priority groups is a good place to start.

#2. Create a communication calendar that defines how you’ll be reaching out, and how often.

Email is usually the first outreach tool to be used, but it could be direct mail or even social media. Facebook groups are becoming more and more popular for segmented communications, especially for volunteers.  

I’ll again use email and the three sample priority groups noted above as an example, and share an outline of a monthly frequency calendar that I’ve used to help clients get the segmentation process in motion.  

  • Week #1 - Donor email
  • Week #2 - Potential donor email
  • Week #3 - Volunteer email
  • Week #4 - Standard organization email (that goes to most everybody as a current update)  

Breaking out communications week by week provides a little more time and space to develop and manage the tasks for segmented communications, but you can also create each of the segmented communications all at once and batch the process so that it’s not a weekly task. Batching content development would be ideal, but again it’s a process you can ease into. The most important piece is to just get started.

Download my Nonprofit Editorial Calendar Template as use it as a roadmap to strategically developing your segmented communications calendar

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#3. Create a content template.

This is where you start to streamline the process while still being sure to incorporate the segmentation strategy. The trick is leveraging, so the effort doesn’t become too much of a time suck. (If you are like me, when you find that something is taking too much time, you’ll put it aside and then it just doesn’t happen at all!)

I suggest a 4-part process.

  1. Craft a personalized message to your segmented group - this is the most important piece of your segmented messaging. It doesn’t have to be long (in fact shorter is often better) but it does have to speak directly to their level of interest and engagement with your organization.

For example, a potential donor message might read:

Hi there [first name],

I [or we] was so glad you attended our first Friday Play in the Park event. As you know, we’re working hard to increase awareness about the importance of play for kiddos in our community,  because it helps them build valuable social and emotional skills that they will use in the classroom, in the workplace and in life.

Your interest and participation is greatly appreciated and I hope to see you again soon.

  1. Reinforce your message with information that helps them understand the reason for your mission. This can be part of the template that is leveraged and used in all of your segmented communications.

Sticking with our Play in the Park potential donor communication, it could include something like this:

Did you know?

Elementary students with strong social and emotional skills are…….

54% more likely to graduate from high school

2x more likely to attain a college degree

46% more likely to have a full-time job by age 25

  1. Show the impact of your work and create an emotional connection.

This is where you share stories of the individuals who have been served and helped by your work. Use of pictures and videos that include personal quotes are great to incorporate. This can be another part of your communication template that can be leveraged and used in your segmented communications, but you just want to be sure the story of impact you share with each segmented group aligns with their level of engagement and support. A story to your segmented volunteer group about someone whose life was changed by a service or program that doesn’t include include any volunteer support isn’t likely to resonate as one that does. I always suggest creating a library of impact stories that you can use time and time again, and categorize them as stories for each of your programs, services or initiatives so you’ve got an easy go to place to find the right story for the right audience.

  1. Include a Call To Action

Depending on who you’re talking to, shape your call to action accordingly. And here’s a word of caution - don’t always make it a request for donations.

Calls to action could include:

  • Help us share the news - forward this email to a friend
  • Sign up to volunteer
  • Like our Facebook Page
  • RSVP
  • Let us know how we’re doing (survey)
  • Join Us
  • And of course, DONATE

Including calls to action in your marketing and communication outreach is important for two reasons.

  1. It helps direct the action you want them to take.
  2. It gets them accustomed to taking an action when receiving communications from you.

As a recap, this 4-part segmented communication template includes.

  1. A personalized intro message (MOST IMPORTANT)
  2. Information that reinforces the reason why you’re doing what your doing.
  3. A story of impact
  4. Call to Action  

#1 and #4 are the main pieces that need to be personalized for each segmented communication, with #2 and #3 being more standardized and able to be leveraged and used in multiple communications.

So there you have it: an explanation about why segmentation is so important, how it can make your marketing and communications outreach so much more effective, and a simple process you can follow to get started.

Segmentation or segmented marketing is really just a fancy way of saying and doing what I’m sure you’re already doing in your day-to-day interactions with people.

Letting them know how much you value and appreciate their interest and support of the work you’re doing to serve others in need.

Don’t let the all the marketing stuff -digital or otherwise - make the process of communication any less powerful.

All you have to do is maintain the integrity of valuing each person’s unique reason for supporting your good cause. Email, social media, direct mail or any other marketing channel for that matter are all just connection tools for you to use to ensure people are aware and informed about what you do.

The secret to making marketing work and the power behind segmentation, as cliche as it sounds, is to just keep it real.