Is Your Nonprofit Built for Multichannel Fundraising?

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By Noah Barnett

Think about your personal interactions with brands on any given day. Most you may not even remember, but chances are the ones that do spring to memory do so because they created an experience that was remarkable or meaningful to you in some way.

Now think about your organization and how you’re engaging with donors and supporters. Are you creating a standout experience? Does it feel different in the sea of other messages and interactions they are confronted with on a daily basis?

Findings from a recent study we conducted with NextAfter indicate most nonprofits are leaving opportunity on the table to create engaging, multichannel experiences with donors — experiences that could lead to higher retention rates and triple the generosity of individual donors. So, why aren’t more nonprofits using multichannel?

There are a couple primary contributors. One is many nonprofit leaders are holding on to the outdated adage that donors who give through a particular channel should be cultivated only through that same channel. The other is most nonprofit teams are under-resourced and don’t have the systems to empower them to achieve multichannel at scale. But the reality is today’s donor has changed and your strategy must, too.

Why Multichannel? Why Now?

To understand where the opportunity lies, let’s first take a step back and align on the term multichannel. By definition, multichannel fundraising is a coordinated series of touchpoints to engage and build a relationship with a donor — emphasis on coordinated. In other words, multichannel is a meaningful, ongoing conversation with a donor happening on a mix of channels, resulting in a cohesive donor journey over time.

It can include direct mail, phone calls, emails, text messages, handwritten cards, live chats on your website, online donation receipts, social media posts, and the list goes on. The most important thing to remember is the channel is dictated by the donor based on their individual preferences. That is the key to creating a sense of connectedness. And donors will continue to give when they feel connected with and have confidence in an organization that serves a cause they care deeply about. In fact, data indicates multichannel donors — those who give and engage online and offline — are 300% more generous than their online-only or offline-only counterparts. However, only 3% of the nonprofits studied are tapping into this through their fundraising efforts.

How do we change the tides? What can nonprofit teams do to prepare their organizations to implement multichannel? The first step is to fully understand how individuals and teams across the organization currently interact with donors and prospective donors. You need visibility.

What Blocks Multichannel?

Silos are the death knell of productivity and collaboration in any organization. They also make effective and efficient multichannel near impossible. The only way to break down silos is to take an in-depth look under the hood at the processes and systems that govern your nonprofit, starting with donor outreach and communication.

Often teams discover it’s really not a people problem — everyone on the team is well-intentioned and driving toward a shared outcome. There are simply blind spots. Conducting an audit of what audiences are communicated to, when and with what message can illuminate these blind spots. From our experience at Virtuous, we’ve learned that by and large, there is common ground and a shared desire to collaborate. That’s not where the problem is. The problem is strictly a visibility one and one that is easy to solve.

Once brought into visibility, these blind spots tend to reveal where there may be duplication of efforts, opportunities to collaborate to enhance outcomes or where your team may be lacking a person in charge to execute on a specific strategy. And even more obvious, you may find that digital and non-digital teams are working at completely different wavelengths and timelines and need to come together.

How Many Sources of ‘Truth’ Influence Your Team?

Integration is key to a successful multichannel strategy. The organization has to operate as one team, and that requires visibility into current processes and eradicating silos where they exist. Even before implementing a new technology, the team has to get aligned on strategy as well as where the organization is and where it wants to be. Unless you are deliberate, you’ll bring all the old processes to the new platform.

From this foundation, you can then work toward building a single source of truth or integrating systems across all teams. To achieve multichannel, you have to have a direct line of sight into all donor touchpoints and that means either embedding or integrating your marketing and communications, donor management, donor stewardship management, gift processing and online giving platforms into one single view pane. The goal is to get to a point in which every function of the organization has visibility into:

  • Real-time data on which donors visited your website, what content they engaged with and when, and what action they took from there
  • Where donors are engaging with you outside of your website
  • What touchpoints donors are receiving from your team online and offline, and how they are engaging with each
  • Real-time and aggregated data and reporting metrics on campaign and touchpoint performance

This has traditionally been a challenge for nonprofits to achieve because there’s a lot of manual work needed to facilitate it without the right technology in place. But multichannel won’t work if it’s disconnected. It has to be one conversation across multiple channels — the channels that are most relevant to supporters.

The experience has to be consistent and responsive. Meaning, when they are engaged, you are providing suggested next steps that align with the signals they are giving your organization.

Once you’ve made the decision to incorporate multichannel, shifting internal perspectives away from single-channel to multichannel starts with employee participation and transparency. Make sure the strategy and donor fundraising objectives include contributions and perspectives across departments.

Multichannel isn’t just a strategy to try, it’s an entirely new way to position your organization and set a trajectory for growth. It’s a way to better connect your internal teams and build stronger connections with donors — and it’s an evolution, not a one-and-done process.

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