Multichannel Reigns at 2012 #DCNonprofit

The DMA Nonprofit Federation’s annual DC Nonprofit Conference wrapped up last week sending 600+ npdm’ers home with ideas and inspiration for their 2012 campaigns. The conference covered a variety of issues and strategic considerations in nonprofit direct marketing, but a few themes dominated this year’s conference both at the podium and in the hallways.

1. Breaking down silos. Nonprofits have been talking about this a LOT at conferences for the past few years. Though the lines between marketing, communications and fundraising have become blurred lately, the walls between those departments are still rigid in many organizations. And nonprofits are still struggling with how to break them down and to weave departments and disciplines together.

Amy Barriale presented a case study on how the African Wildlife Foundation overhauled its direct response program structure to better reflect the interdisciplinary realities of donor/membership development. One of the organization’s biggest changes, an excellent one, was joining its separate online and direct mail fundraising departments under a single umbrella: Membership.

2. Taking action ourselves, in our field. We routinely call our organizations’ donors to action, and we take action ourselves as donors, but few of us think of ourselves as direct marketing activists. Angel Aloma of Food for the Poor gave us a powerful reminder of why we should. Nonprofit postal rate hikes and regulation changes are about far more important things than direct marketing budgets – they affect our organizations’ ability to provide services to people in need. Or as Angel shared, they mean having to say “no, I can’t help you” to a family living in extreme poverty in El Salvador. To learn more and take action on legislative issues that affect nonprofits’ direct marketing efforts, go to the DMA’s action site.

3. Big thinking from small nonprofits. Good direct marketing isn’t just for large nonprofits. The conference showed us that innovation abounds in the programs of smaller nonprofits too. Jill Batcheller of the Lincoln Center shared a case study in which her organization was able to reinstate former members who had been lapsed for as many as twenty years at response rates comparable to or better than new donor acquisition, and at a lower cost. By looking beyond conventional recency targeting, Lincoln Center discovered a significant asset in its deep lapsed member file. Likewise, my colleague Eliza Temeles shared a case study in innovative prospect modeling from another organization overlaying online activity among house prospects as a predictor of response in direct mail acquisition. This organization’s in-house model for targeting prospects was even more predictive than a commercial model tested in the same direct mail acquisition effort.

4. Multichannel, multichannel, multichannel.Without a doubt, all roads at #DCNonprofit led to one place: “multichannel.” There was no shortage of case studies on multichannel campaigns presenting a variety of EM-DM-Web-SMS-SM combinations. Peter Genuardi of Giveo reported a significant lift in email results when sandwiched between two SMS messages, leaving more than a few npdmer’s hungry to try an SMS sandwich in their own programs. But for all of the multichannel configuration successes reported, presenters and attendees alike universally acknowledged that nonprofits’ multichannel programs are still very much in beta. The Polaris Project for instance reminded us that multichannel programs don’t spring up overnight as Johanna Olivas reported that it took the organization a couple of years putting out online content before its website became a significant source of list growth.

One of the newest perspectives on multichannel fundraising to emerge from the conference had to do with the challenges of measuring multichannel results. And the growing consensus was this: stop trying. Or at least, let it go a little.

Steve Froelich of the ASPCA raised this fresh perspective in his panel presentation pointing out “the only reason you ever really need to attribute a gift to a specific source is when you need to decide whose bucket it goes in.” And Steve MacLaughlin of Blackbaud echoed this idea offering this gem among the conversation on Twitter:

It’s understandable that “channel of origin is irrelevant” is an unsettling thought for direct marketers though. By definition, direct marketing is one-to-one and attributable.

On the other hand, we’re not just doing direct marketing anymore, are we?


Add a Comment