Are you skeered of Online Strategies?

Scared of Online Strategies
Developing online strategies for a nonprofit organization is a constantly evolving challenge, and too often treated as a completely independent entity from the rest of the organization. Sadly, this constant flux and silo’d approach is one of the things that contributes to a lack of truly effective digital marketing efforts. To horribly paraphrase Olive Ann Burns, creating an online strategy is like pouring water into a Coke bottle, if you skeered, you can’t do it. If you approach it with the same care and planning as your direct response fundraising efforts, you won’t slosh a drop. The ALS Association is a recent example of an organization that wasn’t skeered to try something different and the return has been tremendous.

Can we all do an ice bucket challenge and get the same results? Maybe, maybe not. But we can all learn something from what they did and apply it to the effective tools and techniques that we have used for direct response fundraising for years. There was a time when someone did the very first run/walk fundraiser. Now activity-centered events have an entire genre of fundraising all their own. What will be the online fundraising cornerstone in 30 years? Who knows, but I’ll bet when we break it down to it’s core components, it will look pretty familiar and fit perfectly in your already robust CRM. (You do have a CRM, right?)

It’s Different, but not that Different

It’s communication. With calling campaigns, fun runs, and gala fundraisers, our constituents have learned certain patterns of communication to get them through the process. They have learned the “script” of how it’s done, and they follow that script right on through to the end. You can get creative to break up the monotony if you want, but the basic template is already established.

Thankfully, all the new online channels are simply other forms of communication and have their own scripts and templates. They each have their own possibilities and pitfalls, but once you understand the basics of how they work, campaign and communication planning becomes a more manageable challenge.

One difference between traditional and online fundraising campaigns is the expanded number of channels. Websites, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Google +, and on and on. Not only are there more channels, they can all be used independently as well as feed each other. For those who are more familiar with creating a single channel direct mail campaign, planning for this vast array of touch points can be overwhelming. How do you know where people come from? Where do they go next? How do they know what to do? AAAAHHH!!!

Wait! Take a deep breath. Envision a calm blue ocean. It will be fine. The very thing that makes the online fundraising and strategy so overwhelming is what makes it completely manageable. Their endless connections also make them completely trackable, automagically. When you set things up right, you can know exactly where everyone came from, how they got there, and even what they did next. You can connect it with your CRM and direct response fundraising campaigns and build even richer relationships with your constituents. Does that sound appealing?

What Goes Into Online Strategy?

Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty details, and the most honest answer to “What goes into an online strategy?” is “As much as you are ready for.” You pick the channels and elements that make the most sense for you, test to see what works, and build out from there. Take what has worked for your direct response marketing and extend it even further into new channels.

While I can’t define and exact template that will work for everyone, I can give a list of some of the questions that help bring a digital marketing strategy together, and gives a great place to start.

    Research and Set-up

    • What are your competitors doing? Do you have to compete with them, or can you work around them?
    • Where is your audience? What channels do they use? How do they use them?
    • What tools do you have? What will you need? Consider this for both technology and human resources.

    Creating a Strategy

    • What do you want to accomplish? What is your goal?
    • What is the strategy and steps to reach that goal?
    • How would you know if you are successful? How do you measure it?

    Planning and Execution

    • How do you extend the success of your traditional campaigns into the online space? How does it benefit your direct response fundraising and other efforts?
    • What channels and components should you use? How do they augment, support, and strengthen each other?
    • What creative assets will translate your message into each channel?
    • How do you nurture new relationships and make existing relationships even stronger?
    • Who will monitor and engage with online channels? What tools will they use? How often? Who has administration of official organization accounts?
    • What is your engagement policy? Is it established across your organization?

    Reporting and Evaluation

    • How will you aggregate and summarize the data? Who will evaluate and interpret the data?
    • How will you report status and results?
    • Who will make the actionable recommendations based on the data?

Get Started and Learn Where It Fits

All that might seem like a lot to start with, but it’s not as bad as it looks. If you start with one or two channels, you can go through this process and have a great beginning. The point is to find the right starting point and move forward. Online fundraising isn’t going away anytime in the near future, so the sooner you start working with it, the sooner you’ll feel comfortable. I’ll see you online!

Are you building your relationships online? Why or why not?

About Bryan Giese

For the past 20 years Bryan has focused on one goal: Create experiences that establish a relationship. Whether working on application and web interface design, health education portal program experiences, or direct mail relationship marketing, he designs a full experience that brings people in, makes them feel welcome, and let’s them interact with a program for a long-term relationship. He has worked in every step of the process from creative design and development, to strategy mapping and content creation, optimizing each component to contribute to the full vision.

One comment

  1. The online marketing is becoming a very important part of the strategy for fundrasing campaigns. In our days the percentage of people donating money trow Internet is huge.

    Mobile websites for fundrasing and social media widgets are also becoming huge for a fundrasing campaign success.

    Good article with some valid points 🙂

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