Along with the rapid shift to digital communication channels after the COVID-19 pandemic, there come a number of challenges for organizations. For instance, how do you make the most of these new channels? How do you keep track of all the back-and-forths with supporters?
Here are 5 best practices that can give your supporter outreach the impact it might need:
- Determine your communication frequency
- Understand and adopt multichannel marketing
- Prepare for two way communication
- Benefit from list segmentation
- Adopt new communication tools
Determine your communication frequency
How often does your audience see your posts or your messages?
The frequency by which you reach your audience with your messaging should be determined by:
- The message you are sending (you will want to send more impact reports than donation requests, for example).
- The channel you are using. Ex. Social media posts should be more frequent than emails.
- The preferences of your audience (some supporters might want to receive your newsletter, other’s just want to know how their last contribution helped).
Note that the communication preferences of your audience are the one thing you can’t control. Which means you need to actively reach out to supporters to find out exactly how and how often they want to hear from you (through surveys, donation forms, etc).
Sure, you aren’t going to get answers from everyone. But you can get enough to give you an idea of how others in similar demographics will respond to your outreach.
Understand and adopt multichannel marketing
We talked about communication frequency in the previous section. One of the most common reasons that supporters feel like they are either getting too many, or too few messages is because all of them are coming in through a single channel (most commonly email).
With a multi-channel nonprofit communication strategy you:
- Reinforce your message, by making it visible across the various channels that a single donor might frequent.
- You reach supporters that may only frequent a few channels.
Of course, the first thing you must do before you can send supporters through multiple channels is to make sure that they are okay with it. Do that by getting an opt-in, be it in person, through a survey, or a web form, when they are signing up to your communications or making a donation.
Best practice to note, you should always get written/digitally recorded consent. This is especially important for channels like text messages that are highly personal.
Prepare for two way communication
As you send out messages to your supporters you may notice that they respond with their own. Of course, this is expected when you are sending an email or a text where you are asking them to reply (a survey, for example). But, it’s the things that supporters say that you don’t ask about that are most important to them.
Make it easier for supporters to send you their questions, feedback, and complaints, and make sure you have a process to acknowledge those responses.
Some communication tools allow you to set up automated replies to go out whenever you receive a response. On mass communication channels like social media, this might require you to have a person in charge of responding to supporters who reach out to you, or simply redirecting them to someone who can.
Benefit from list segmentation
It might be tempting to draft a fundraising message and hit send to everyone you have on your list. Here is why you shouldn’t.
If the message is something that is applicable to everyone, chances are it’s too generic. Not only does that make potential donors less likely to respond, you may not get the most out of people who really connect with your cause.
Take a segment of your major donors; folks who have made significant contributions to you in the past. Personalizing your communication with them by acknowledging those contributions in your messaging is how you can increase the likelihood that they continue to do so. At the same time, setting the bar too low for major donors means you are not making the most of their support.
Luckily, segmenting your lists for digital communication, and sending targeted messages to these segments is easy if you're using tools like a donor database and texting, calling or email software. That brings us to the next best practice.
Adopt new communication tools
Software is not just a good thing to have for organizations that wish to reach supporters digitally, it is necessary.
For one, it helps you more easily keep track of the success of your outreach campaigns. That means your future outreach is informed based on past data. Secondly, the manual effort required for filtering out the people you want to send a message to, and reaching out to each of them is greatly reduced.
While these are clear benefits, the rate of tech adoption in the nonprofit sector is still low. What keeps nonprofits from spending on digital tools?
- The fear of overhead. The common misconception is that the more money you spend on fundraising and technology, the less you have for your cause.
- Knowledge gaps when it comes to using tech. For nonprofits, tech expertise is often seen as a secondary priority.
It may also be valid to assign some blame to the tools themselves, that make it hard for nonprofits to overcome these hurdles and adopt.
Luckily, there are digital communication tools out there that cater to nonprofits specifically and address their major challenges, be it for personal messaging, supporter tracking, or fundraising. They do this with easy to set up campaigns and interfaces, and flexible costs.
Of course, no two nonprofits will find the exact same solutions for their digital outreach. Feel free to mix and match these best practices when you create or add to your digital communication campaigns.