Effectiveness of your holiday fundraising appeals

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Good morning, all!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted, and for that delay, I give you my apologies.

I’m working on developing a few different things here, but I wanted to take a moment to provide a blog for you all as we enter into December, where you will undoubtedly be putting together end of year appeals to your house files to close out 2010 in  a strong fashion.

A recent study written by Convio called the “2010 HOLIDAY GIVING Report” — included one chart that particularly piqued my interest. It was a survey sent to a wide array of existing and potential donors to nonprofit organizations across all sub verticals, and here is how they surveyed audience responded:

Effectiveness of Holiday Appeals

This tells us that the top two most effective appeal types are: (1) Appeals that focus on people, animals, or places in need of the donor’s financial help, or (2) Appeals that explain the need for funds now.

This goes back to the old argument of “emotion vs. logic” (which I just so happened to write about in a blog post earlier in the year — check it by clicking here).

This tells us that both with high-dollar and holiday giver audiences, that focusing on the emotional side of the coin (i.e. here’s what your funds will do to help these people/animals in need) AND creating a sense of urgency (by describing WHY the funds are needed at this time) help to drive the effectiveness of your end of year fund raising campaigns.

I also found it interesting that 40% of high-dollar donors said that they would be willing to provide a gift in the event that your appeal reminded them that they will receive a tax deduction for their end of year gift.

Perhaps segmenting your donor file into “high-dollar donors” and “average-donors” and writing two separate messages to include this sort of message in the appeal to your high-dollar donor segment might be effective. Feel free to test it & roll out the better performing message to the remainder of the email files.

Good luck this holiday season in closing out 2010 strongly!

All the best,

— GC

Further evidence that the preselected level on your conversion form increases your average sale

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Preselected Value Chart

Further evidence that the preselected value increases your average sale.

In an article that I wrote on this  blog back in July titled, “Preselected values — your donation form’s best friend,” I covered a test conducted by our friends at the Salem Web Network regarding how their average gift values were increased by sending visitors in a split test to a form with (A) no preselected values, and (B) a preselected value of $50.

In an effort to further implement this line of thinking into our processes for fund raising, we conducted a test with one of our clients in an attempt to increase our average gift (or average sale) amount.

As seen in the chart above, we had seven different donation levels, each level being given a specific dollar amount tied to each level. Our goal was to set the preselected value at “Supporting Member,” which was a $50 giving level.

We started our testing on 7/28 and ran it through 9/30.

Over the test period, we have seen an increase of “Supporting Member” or the $50 giving level amount increase by 24.2%.

One of the things that we wanted to do was ensure that there were no negative impact on other key measurement categories such as conversion rate, or a decline in upper tiered giving levels. It’s important to pay attention to these figures, as if we increase the number of $50 gifts in exchange for a large decrease in $75, or $100 gifts — we negatively impact the revenue we are generating.

Also, if we decrease the conversion rate, we’re losing donors as a result of our changes — which will have a negative impact on our lifetime donor values and subsequent year revenue figures.

I am proud to report that (at least through this test period) that we did not see a significant decrease in either of the two figures mentioned above.

In fact, you can see an increase in the next level up (“Level 3”) throughout this testing period and a decline in the amount of “Level 1” (the donor level below) throughout.

This tells us that those arriving at the site with the intent to give a gift/donate, are willing to give a gift at our preselected value level, or the next level up, as opposed to the “least expensive” option available on the form.

We’ll continue to run tests, and will be providing sporadic updates on the subject matter as time goes on.

Enjoy.

— GC

Why marketers need to believe that clarity trumps persuasion

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Clarity Trumps Persuasion

When it comes to any marketing, but most specifically fund raising for non profit organizations, we need to force ourselves to remember that clarity always trumps persuasion in our marketing efforts. Transparency and honesty will always prevail.

Some of you may know that I’m a big fan of MarketingExperiments, and more specifically their Director — Dr. Flint McGlaughlin. One of the things that he touts frequently when teaching and educating young marketing professionals is that clarity trumps persuasion.

He argues that marketing professionals do not need to be a genius at persuasion, so long as you can simply take the time to study your processes and achieve genuine clarity.

How many times have you been to a website that cites they’re the “… world leader in __________“, or the “… recognized global leader in __________“?

The odds are that these organizations are not the leader, or recognized at all, but rather they are being led by marketing professionals that are practicing persuasion tactics.

This same approach should be applied to nonprofit organizations, specifically with regards to their fund raising efforts. Think about how you approach your audiences (existing and/or prospective donors). Are you leveraging persuasion or clarity in your marketing themes and messages?

Our friends Jill and Chay were being married a week or so ago and while attending the rehearsal dinner (my wife was one of her bridesmaids), I found myself in a long conversation with the soon-to-be bride’s mother. We had not had a chance to talk much in the past, but in the flow of the conversation I found out that she was a donor to one of the organizations that we here at KMA Direct Communications manage and execute fund raising campaigns for (whose name I will not include in this article).

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and her recommendations, as it was essentially a one-off donor survey. She was very candid with me and honest/forthcoming.

In our conversation, she told me that she would highly consider giving more often to the organization if they would simply show her how her (and other) donations were being allocated and what impact they have had. Because this client is so young (not even a year old yet), we have not had a chance to implement a “here is what your dollars are working for” type of message… but, her recommendation follows the theme for this message.

By providing her clarity and insight into how we are using her gift towards furthering our cause and making an impact on the world we live in, she is more likely to give more donations and more frequently.

In this case, there was no example of persuasion (we are, after all, good marketers and follow the principles that we preach … :-)), so I cannot identify how she was dissuaded from providing another gift due to it.

Strategically, we are planning on adding additional clarity into our messaging to share with donors the exact impact their gifts had regarding this nonprofit organization’s cause.

To close, and to echo the thoughts and direction of  Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, I will ask each of you to remember that clarity in your marketing process should always answer three things to your prospective donors:

  1. Where am I?
  2. What is your offer?
  3. Why should I give a gift to you?

If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

– Jesus Christ, John 8:31-32

All the best,

— GC

Preselected values — your donation form’s best friend

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Preselected Form Fields

Preselected form fields are like driving your potential donors into a tunnel. Yes, they can turn around and leave the same way they came in, but if they convert, they're likely to convert at the level that you've selected for them.

I learned one of the most interesting factoids on a recent trip with my KMA colleagues to visit a valued partner in Salem Web Network a few weeks ago. It was a simple test that they had run, but the results were pretty staggering.

They wanted to run an A/B split test for a campaign on behalf of one of their faith-based non-profit organizations regarding whether or not Salem Web Network could generate better results by driving email traffic to a donation form with a preselected donation value.

In an attempt to not disclose any sensitive information about their test, their client and/or the exact figures that were generated, I’ve decided to share the figures based solely upon comparison against one another.

The first form (the control for the experiment) drove visitors to a campaign-specific landing page, with strong copy calling for donations for this particular cause. On the form, the Salem Web Network team used a standard array of donation form values that were relevant to the audience type. They did not leverage any preselected donation levels on this version.

The second form (the treated version of the form for this experiment) drove visitors to the same exact form as the control in every way, with the exception of the fact that the Salem Web Network team preselected the 2nd tier donation level.

The email marketing list was segmented at random to allow for the results to be to properly measured against one another. The email messages were exactly the same in every way, with the exception (of course) being the call to action link for the “control” email sending visitors to the form without preselected values, while the “treatment” email drove visitors to the form with the preselected value.

So, here’s the big question: Which form do you think performed better?

Based upon the title of this article, I’m assuming you already know. If you guessed the “treatment” version of the campaign, then you are indeed correct.

The “treatment” form outperformed the “control” in every major measurement statistic used to measure success by the Salem Web Network team.

Below are the staggering results:

  • 109.86% increase in overall number of donations
  • 111.21% increase in form completion percentage
  • 143.22% increase in average gift size
  • 157.12% increase in donations collected

The Salem Web Network team, being the good marketers that they are, eliminated the “control” version from the campaign plans and rolled the “treatment” version of the campaign out to the rest of the email file list generating a great ROI for their customer.

So, why is it that the “treatment” version of this campaign performed so much more favorably than that of the “control” version? It has everything to do with the psychological mindset of a donor.

Those that visited the landing page from the email list read and consumed compelling content contained in the email message and clicked through to the landing page for more information as to how they could support this particular client’s very noble cause.

Once on the “treatment” landing page, they were given an array of options to select in terms of a gift size. By controlling the form selection by giving them a level that we’d like for them to donate at (while, of course, allowing the donors to select whatever donation level they could afford, or felt compelled to give towards the cause), the Salem Web Network team effectively was able to lead donors to the water … and the donors drank.

This is an extremely important point to remember as a marketer — campaign targets (in this case, prospective donors) want to be lead in a particular direction. By sticking a landing page inside of your website (and showing your global navigation elements), or designing a form that has too many fields, or any other sort of items that can cause a psychological resistance to performing our call to action, we end up losing the sale.

Our landing pages need to be as streamlined and as simple as possible for our visitors to convert. If we do too much to “muddy the waters” so to speak, we provide our visitors with enough of a reason to leave us, rather than perform our call to action.

I will be implementing these tactics into future strategies for our clients moving forward and look forward to writing future blogs about amazing stories of increased fund raising results in the near future.

I hope you enjoyed these geeky numbers as much as I did.

— GC

More about Salem Web Network:
Salem Web Network is the online division of Salem Communications, which began in 1999 with a single website – OnePlace.com. Today, SWN consists of 12 national sites, including the most well-known brands in the faith marketplace, such as Crosswalk.com and Christianity.com. Additionally, more than 50 radio station websites are part of SWN’s platform, which now reaches more than 7 million users every month.

The reason why you should continue using banner ads, even if the ROI isn’t there.

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The reason why you should continue using banner ads, even if the ROI isn’t there.

Advertising is not a direct response channel, but it can provide a significant lift to direct response marketing efforts when it is added to your overall mix of activities. Trust me, you're not throwing your money away when you advertise online.

If you’re like me, you’ve just wrapped up a great Independence Day break and you’re rolling up your sleeves in an attempt to put your nose to the grindstone. Don’t you just love 4-day work weeks? It makes everything seem to fly by, which is not necessarily a good thing.

After all, there are organizations out there that need help in their fund raising efforts — and the Strategist has been hammering away all week. I apologize for missing my Tuesday publishing date, although I highly doubt there is anyone out there that was disappointed. 🙂

Now, let’s get on with the show, eh? As promised in last week’s blog about the difference between marketing and advertising, I mentioned that I would write this week about banner advertising on the web and why you should do it, even if you ROI is not there.

We had a meeting with a customer before the holidays and this exact question was asked in our call. “Why should we continue to use banner ads if the ROI is not there?” It’s a valid question at the surface level. In today’s economy, it’s difficult to justify expenditures that do not bring a positive return on investment, right?

Well, I challenge that line of thinking. Why?

It’s a simple answer: Advertising is not a direct response channel.

Let me say that again — Advertising is NOT a direct response channel.

A direct response channel is where you’re engaging an audience directly, on a one-to-one level to ask them to perform a specific action. Believe it or not, by slapping a “CLICK HERE NOW!!!” button on your banner, you’re not actually marketing to an audience in a direct manner.

So, what is advertising? Advertising is an indirect response channel. It’s specifically used for brand building, brand awareness and brand loyalty initiatives.

Then, why would anyone want to spend money on that? Well, you can ask one of the million+ public companies that advertise daily on television, outdoor signage, over the radio, etc. — or I can just tell you.

When it comes to advertising, it’s about a consistent, repetitive interaction with a prospective and/or existing consumer base with your brand. The more times they hear the brand, the more “trust” is built in the brand. You may disagree with this, but I would imagine that you’re far more likely to buy a product from a large national brand than you are from the local mom & pop shop that sells the same widget, at a similar price point. It’s not just because of location (which is a major factor), but it’s also about the fact that you interact with the brand nearly daily.

With online marketing tactics like email marketing bringing such clarity and bottom line results to move the needle, it’s hard to justify to others within your organization the expenditures that you’re making in other online channels that are not “generating the same types of results”.

What if I told you that you need to look at your overall marketing/advertising mix as a mathematical equation? Remember all of the way back in high school when you took algebra? Well, take a look at this algebraic formula that I use to communicate the effectiveness of a true marketing and advertising mixture:

Marketing Effectiveness = (A + B) * C

Here are the variables that I plug into this equation:

  • A = Traditional direct marketing/sales activities
    This can include things like direct mail, telesales, trade shows, etc.
  • B = Online direct marketing/sales activities
    This can include email marketing, search engine marketing, etc.
  • C = Online/Offline Advertising activities
    This is whatever you are doing to advertise on the web, on television, outdoor signage, etc.

With this mathematical equation, the “A” value is increased when combined with “B”. But both values are MULTIPLIED when “C” is introduced to the equation. Yes, online/offline advertising is an expense in most cases (and really good marketing/advertising firms can find a way to give you at least 75% of your money back with their strategies — we do it all of the time), but by in large your other marketing activities will receive a lift when advertising is in the mix.

We’re in the process of compiling some figures to back these statistics up, so bear with me while we collect that data. I’ll be sure to post an update here whenever those numbers come back.

The idea is that even if your ad is shown to a particular website visitor and that visitor does not click on the ad — that they have received a “brand impression” (this isn’t ground breaking stuff, is it?). When we marketers target and deliver a direct response message to this visitor (direct mail, email, telephone call, etc.) — then the visitor will have already had an exposure to our brand, making our jobs much easier to ask them to perform whatever our call to action is.

My boss gave me a great video to watch the other day about subliminal advertising. This one is done by Derren Brown and it’s a short 6:40 watch.

I know, I know … you’re FAR too busy to watch the video, right? Trust me, it is totally worth it, so if you don’t watch it now, bookmark it and watch it later over a lunch break or something, OK?

They won’t let me embed the video directly, so when you attempt to watch the video, you will be driven to YouTube to watch it (in a new window).

Derren Brown — Subliminal Advertising:

If you don’t believe me, does this help?

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

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I recently watched a video about communication, sales and marketing that struck me as the most influential piece of footage that I have seen in some time. The following video is simply amazing and should be digested by all marketers, regardless of the product/service they market or sell.

The Golden Circle, by Simon Sinek:

In the video, Simon talks about motivations of the human psychology – and more specifically, gives examples of tremendous successes and failures throughout history of true visionaries that have leveraged The Golden Circle to become some of the most influential people or companies in modern history. He chronicles the stories of Apple, The Wright Brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Summary of The Golden Circle methodology:

The Golden Circle methodology teaches us marketers to communicate the reason “why” we do things. If you think about your marketing efforts — do they commonly focus on the “what” you do (this widget can do this, here’s what we’re doing to help people, etc.)? If so, try shifting your messaging, value propositions and brand to focus on the “why” you do it is what you do.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle of motivation, or in this case marketing, should be leveraged by all marketing groups across the globe. Communicating from the center to the outside is the proper way to be successful. Remember, people don't buy "what" you do, they buy "why" you do it.

Why:
The purpose of your organization, the cause you serve or your belief in how you can change the world (or business, etc). This is driving your organization’s motives and actions.

How:
These are the guiding principles of your organization. These are specific steps or actions you take to realize your “why” (or purpose).

What:
The what is a byproduct of the steps you take to fulfill your purpose. This is the tangible result of “how” you bring your “why” to life. These items could be your product or service.

Marketers deal with these three areas every day. This is not new thinking at all, is it? But what Simon teaches is to focus on the direction in which we message.

Most marketers will build their campaigns starting with the “what” and work their way into the center of The Golden Circle — which is the “why”. Worse yet, some marketers forget the “why” all together. The “why” should be communicated in every thing you do when interacting with your prospective and existing customers.

In Simon’s example of Apple, he says that if Apple were run by most marketers, that a marketing message from them would sound something like this:

What: We make great computers.
How: They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.

… Want to buy one?

Of course, there is no “why” here — because as he says, most marketing organizations do not clearly communicate their “why”. He then outlines exactly how Apple markets and sells their wares, by outlining the following way in which they inspire, which is:

Why: Everything we do, we believe in challenging the ‘status quo’. We believe in thinking differently.
How: The way we challenge the ‘status quo’ is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly
What: We just happen to make computers.

… Want to buy one?

Clearly, the second of the two is far more motivating. It explains why people will camp outside of an Apple Store for weeks before the new iPhone is released in 100+ degree temperatures. People are inspired. People are motivated. People buy from Apple not because they make a cell phone, or a smart phone or even that they have a touch-screen phone per se.

They buy from Apple because they are inspired by what they believe. They, too, want to challenge the status quo. By buying Apple products, they feel that are different from the rest of the world. They feel that they, too, are innovative and creative.

They buy from Apple because they believe in thinking differently.

In conclusion, I would like to first thank Simon for opening my eyes with this discussion. I have now completely changed my line of thinking with regards to strategy and marketing approach. Every single marketing objective I build, develop or deploy will now be filtered through The Golden Circle moving forward.

Did it inspire you, as well?

— GC

How do you turn petition signers into donors?

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Names. Donors. Dollars. Impact.

How do you turn petition signers into donors?

Petitions are a great name acquisition marketing strategy, but the petitioner will usually underperform in donation campaigns. So, how do you leverage these names to generate dollars and impact?

These are the four things that most non-profit organizations are looking for with regards to their marketing and advertising efforts. They want to acquire more names to market to, cultivate a relationship with them to turn them into donors, collect dollars, which will assist them in extending their reach (thereby making an impact for their cause).

One of the best ways of collecting names is by putting together a petition and asking for folks to sign it. We did this recently with one of our customers and the results were staggering. When you find a polarizing issue and support the tactic as an “acquisition strategy” — you can really gather a significant growth in your overall email file size.

Where most organizations fail in their efforts of collecting funds from these petitioners is that their next email appeal to these newly acquired names is to ask for money.

I learned that you really need to have at least one intermediary step in this equation to “ease the friction” involved with the giving process.

If you evaluate the psychology of the names gathered from a petition signing campaign, you come to the realization that these folks want to be involved. They want to have their voices heard and by signing a petition, they’ve felt that they’ve done at least a small portion of the heavy-lifting.

Psychologically, if you approach them with an “ask” for donations with your very next message — odds are your results will be lackluster at best.

You need to find a bridge between the two places and a quiz is a great second step in the process of cultivating these new names on your email file into an active and involved donor file.

Ask them to become once again involved with your cause or issue. Test their knowledge on the subject matter by asking several questions & then providing them answers based upon factual information regarding the cause. Once you’ve run them through a series of quiz questions to build a desired emotion (anger, compassion, etc.), then ask them: “If you could do something to  ________ (insert: promote, support, stop, fight, change, etc.) this issue, would you?”

If they answer yes — then provide the visitor with the ability to easily make a donation to your cause.

Of course, this will not turn all of your petitioners into donors, but the process has begun to cultivate a relationship with these individuals.

Odds are, however, that you will have a much higher open, clickthrough and email response rate as a result of this tactic.

— GC

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