Care2’s latest monthly webinar on October 1st was called “While They’re Hot! Converting Fresh Leads Into Donors” and featured Heidi Hess of Children’s Defense Fund and Greg Zelder of the California State Parks Foundation, with Holly Ross of the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) moderating. Heidi and Greg presented case studies and discussed effective online engagement of potential donors at that very critical moment – right after they have signed up for a nonprofit’s email list.
Heidi and Greg each began by recounting how they conducted online campaigns to build up their organizations' email lists with fresh supporters, many of whom could be converted into new donors. In each case, their strategies included reaching out via their own websites, as well as contracting with Care2 to target its millions of do-gooder members using branded action campaigns to rapidly recruit many thousands of new, motivated subscribers to the two organizations' email lists. Then the hard work began, to try to convert these subscribers into donors.
The panelists’ top tips for converting new donors were:
• Use this opportunity to familiarize new prospects with your organization. By explaining the depth and breadth of what your organization seeks to accomplish, you could forge a deeper connection with potential donors who might not be aware of all you do.
• Personalize communication as much as possible. This goes beyond mail merge: reference past actions (i.e., thank you for signing our petition on Friday!), and consider signing emails with a picture alongside a name.
• Engage even if you’re not advocating. Non-profits that do not engage in political advocacy can still engage potential donors through social networking by engaging in conversation and asking for user generated content.
• Strike while the iron is hot! One of the most effective times to recruit new donors is when there is a crisis in your field. Be ready to capitalize on this opportunity by putting an engagement plan in place BEFORE the crisis occurs.
• Engage in two-way conversations via social media. Linking to Facebook and Twitter in emails allows potential donors to converse with your organization through those channels, in case they find them more comfortable than via email. Don’t leave Facebook and Twitter pages static (try to post something every day), but don’t Tweet every single thing your organization is doing, either. Find a happy medium, and make sure to include helpful content from other organizations!
Next: Heidi and Greg answer your follow-up questions.
(Note: In the interest of space, Heidi and Greg’s individual answers have been paraphrased and combined where appropriate).
Q: What percentage of people who are contacted using these methods do you expect to donate in the first campaign?
A: The industry average is 0.12%, but many factors can influence this. We would expect a lower rate from new acquisitions. It’s probably better to measure against your own internal metrics to get an idea of how the campaign is performing.
Q: Which consultant did Greg use?
A: Adams Hussey and Associates.
Q: An M+R study indicated that new list members should get an appeal right away vs. a welcome series. Obviously the first communication should be delivered quickly. Any comment/thought on welcome vs. appeal vs. advocacy for first message after acquisition?
A: Although we don’t doubt the M+R study, this might be a good thing for an individual organization to test. There will likely be some disagreement within your organization as to whether it’s better to send a fund appeal first or a welcome message and then a fund appeal and testing it will help solve any disagreements and assumptions on what works better. I’m not sure if M+R’s study was longitudinal, but it would be interesting to see how the newly acquired people that received an appeal first performed over time. They may have given right away, but after a few weeks/months, did they drop off because you didn’t build up a nice relationship at first before asking for a donation?
I think this goes without saying, but you should also consider how you are acquiring these new people. If you are acquiring them through an advocacy action, then I wouldn’t send them an advocacy email as the first email – they’ve already taken the first step on the “ladder of engagement.” Move them up!
Q: How much do Google and Facebook ads cost?
A: Google Ads are on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, and clicks cost more or less depending on how popular the ad is. You can set a per-day budget. If you are a 501(c)3, you can check out Google Grants (http://www.google.com/grants/) where Google gives free “Google AdWord money.” Not sure about Facebook Ads, but think they work in a similar way.
Q: How do you customize the Facebook page to have a donate button and a get involved button? I want to do that for ours!
A: That’s controlled via the “FBML application” in your Facebook Page admin. It’s essentially a free space to plop some HTML code on your Facebook Page.
Q: Are there ways that smaller orgs working on same issues within the same community collaborate to raise funds instead of competing?
A: A good way to do this would be doing some “shepherding” emails where you send your list an email talking about the partner organization, and then they do the same for you on their end. This way it is coming from you, you can use your own branding and you aren’t sharing the constituent’s information. Just be careful how you “share” that contact with other organizations.
Q: What tips do you have for successfully engaging people to provide demographic info, which could help further tailor communications? Thanks!
A: We have used surveys to great effect in the past. We also do email appends on our current file to make sure we have current information. An easy way to get something as simple as their city and state is to set up a petition/letter of support and require those fields when they sign on. Sometimes just being upfront with them and telling them that you’d like them to provide you with a little more information about themselves so that you can provide them with more relevant information can do the trick.
Q: How did you use GoogleAds? Did you drive people to your website? Your Facebook page? Premiums?
A: We have done all of those. Also, driving people to an advocacy campaign can be very useful not only for the signature but for the email as well.
Q: How did the California State Parks Foundation do their “Get a Friend” campaign on Facebook?
A: We did the “Friend a Friend” campaign on Facebook at first, using the Update Fans feature. We also put it at the end of the advocacy campaign process, encouraging people to become fans and also tell their friends to do the same. It is also the first thing under our logo on the top left of the Facebook page.