By Rick Christ
Email, Facebook, Twitter, mobile… it’s confusing for Catholic organizations to choose where they should should communicate with donors. It’s confusing for donors too, and so Catholic organizations should communicate using all the channels that the donors use. This will keep donors connected and increase each donor’s value to the organization.
Donors, even the typically older Catholic donor, are embracing a wide variety of communication channels and they will continue to do so in the coming years. Make the following channels work better individually by making them work together:
- Direct mail
- Voice telephone (incoming phone calls)
- Online social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.)
The growth of social media and mobile has been rapid, even among seniors who make up a majority of the donor base for most Catholic charities. Consider just a few statistics:
- Smartphone growth is growing to the point that more Americans have smartphones than the previous generation of “feature phones.” Yes, it’s growing faster among young people, but it is growing all the way up the age demographic:
- 13% of all seniors (65+ years of age) have a smart phone, but that represents an average between 5% of low-income seniors and 27% of seniors with incomes of $30,000 or more. Yes, five% of “poor” seniors actually have a smartphone!
- 32% of adults 55-64 and 44% of adults 45-54 have smartphones, and they’re not likely to give them up as they mature into their prime giving years.i
- Remember, five years ago 0% of adults had smartphones.
- Smartphone users do lots more than talk and text:
- 84% of smartphone users access the internet on their phone.
- 76% send and receive email.
- 59% access social media.
- More than 50% shoot, send, receive and watch photos and videos and post them to online social media on their phones.
- 37% do some online banking on their phones (this indicates a willingness to use the device to conduct financial transactions like donations).ii
- “Twitter users are more interested in connecting with public figures than are social media users who do not use Twitter.” 11% of Twitter users say that “reading comments by politicians, celebrities or athletes is a major reason they use online social networks”, compared with just 4% of users of other online social networks. Isn’t it conceivable that they’d equate the leader of your Catholic organization at least as high as Justin Bieber?iii
- Amergent’s Vital Signs Analysis™ of Catholic clients’ donor files indicate that donors who have provided an email address to the organization give more often, and at a higher amount, than their cohorts without an email address. The result is usually two or two-and-one-half times the total donor value. This proves that it pays to converse with your donors across multiple channels.
With these facts in mind, and drawing on Amergent’s own experiences with its clients, we offer these ideas to help you interact with your donors across these new and old channels.
- Improve your email performance by combining your email messaging with your social media presence. Use snippets of your email content to create Facebook posts and Twitter tweets. Social media expands your reach because it meets your supporters where they “live.” With consistent messaging across channels, it can help increase open rates and boost overall conversion.
- Text-to-give is NOT a significant part of fundraising. After some $40 million was raised in $10 gifts through cell phones for the Haiti earthquake response in January, 2010, every nonprofit had dreams of cell phones as mobile donation machines. Even for the Red Cross, those dreams seem to have evaporated. Until the next world-wide disaster that spurs televised fundraising specials, it will have limited impact. And when that happens, only a handful of big-name disaster response nonprofits will benefit. Pollyanna would look on the bright side and say, “Millions of people got comfortable using their mobile phones to make a donation to a charity. Maybe now they’ll be more likely to use their phone to make a gift via a web page in response to my email.” And, she’d be right.
- Use your direct mail packages to support others channel and vice versa. Test every change you make in your mail, since this is probably your bread-and-butter fundraising channel.
- Online, if you ask for prayer requests or other non-financial action, capture the name and email address. Ask for (but don’t require) a postal address especially if you can offer something “free” in the mail. This is a great use for a premium prospect package. Ask for mobile numbers (but don’t require it) on your donation form and newsletter signup form. If you can associate phone numbers with donors, you can track the impact of mobile communications, and you can reach out to donors via phone when their mail and email start bouncing.
- Always try to tie all your donor data together into one donor record: postal address, email, home phone, mobile phone, twitter handle, whether they are a Facebook fan. This will help you segment your file but will also help you to validate the added value of contact through each of these channels.
- Online social media needs to be social!
||Don’t just broadcast a bible phrase or homily snippet daily; invite your friends to say what that means to them, or to discuss a relevant current event in the context of Catholic teachings.
||Promote prayer requests on Facebook, but give them a web page so they can post it privately. If internal resources permit, ask them to message you directly in Facebook. Once they send a message, you can reply and start a dialog. If you use a web form, include a source code that identifies Facebook as the origin. That way, you can mark each record in your database as a Facebook friend.
- Smartphones provide many opportunities to engage donors through almost all channels.
||Most smartphone users view much of their email on their phones, so make sure your email messages will render nicely on Apple and Android devices.
||Every page on your website should be optimized for mobile browsers; otherwise, if donors click once and get garbage, they’re not likely to click again from their cell phones. A good rule of thumb is, check your website analytics, if you see that more than 10% of your web traffic is coming from mobile devices then it’s time to create mobile content.
||Mobile is ideal for getting special event attendees to connect with you in a way that will let you continue the conversation after the event.
||QR codes let mobile users connect with you after seeing something in print, either at an event, in a publication, or on outdoor or transit media, even your direct mail letter.
||Mobile users can give via their credit cards on a mobile-optimized donation form. Those gifts tend to be as much as 30% smaller than web page gifts sent from a laptop or desktop computer (but that means they’re 70% larger than the gift you wouldn’t get without such a page).
||If you believe in the future of mobile communications, get your own short code; don’t settle for a shared short code. (Short codes are the 5-digit numbers to which you can send a text message instead of having to enter a full 10-digit phone number. All vendors of text-to-give services offer shared short-code use for lower costs, but they aren’t yours, aren’t necessarily easy to remember, and don’t offer any exclusivity.)
||Apps are expensive and generally not productive unless you have killer content (think National Geographic).
- Don’t forget one of the most powerful ways you can connect with this device: actually speaking one-on-one with donors! Encourage phone calls, since those who do generally become better donors. A brief phone call with a donor is a sure way to lock in their loyalty.
Since the future of mobile and online social networking is growing, it pays to recognize its potential for your organization. Choose one area where you think mobile can be effective for your organization and get started! Your learning curve can match up with the growth of this channel.
Rick Christ is Vice President, Online Fundraising at Amergent. Prior to Amergent acquiring NPAdvisors.com in 2009, Rick founded and led that firm, which consulted with nonprofits on how best to use the internet. It was founded in 1999.