Be heard over the “ugly noise” of an election year

As the marketplace fills with more and more noise, more and more “empowered consumers” are tuning out.  Today, over two-thirds of consumers go out of their way to avoid marketing messages.  That’s why TiVo is so popular.  And that’s why more and more mail – snail mail and electronic mail – goes unopened.

In 2012, alongside the presidential race, 33 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 11 gubernatorial, and a host of state and local seats will be contested in the national election on Tuesday, November 6.  This will likely mean that in the months, weeks and days before the general election, your constituents and donors will face more competition for their attention than at any other time in the last four years.

This year’s campaign – conducted against the grimmest economic backdrop for a presidential race in 75 years – is shaping up as unusually frenetic, costly, grueling and unpredictable.

The good news is . . . in general, donors who give to charities appear to be demographically and psychographically different from donors who give to political campaigns.  In other words, during periods of heavy political fundraising (as demonstrated in previous election cycles), revenue for charitable fundraising was typically not noticeably impacted.

However, this does not mean that, in the midst of a highly engaging, hotly contested political campaign season, a charity’s ability to fundraise in the fall of 2012 will not be impacted.  External factors such as the amount of mail in the mailbox, or digital inbox, could be highly distracting for donors as a host of candidates and issues compete for their attention.

That’s why we all need to consider modifying what we’re doing to promote our ministries in 2012.  Here are 10 strategic ways to cut through the distraction and get your message where it needs to go in spite of the “ugly noise”.

1. Do more and do it better. Enhance your communication stream to donors so they look forward to what you send.  Infuse a generous proportion of “Y-touches” throughout the year alongside your fundraising impacts to affirm donors and provide real, useful information that helps deepen their interest and passion for your mission.  This can result in up to a 10% improvement in retention and a 200% improvement in lifetime value.

2. Juggle your schedule. Consider doing more of your fundraising before October 1 and after November 6 so you don’t get lost in the sea of election noise.  And pump up the creative so your mail stands out.

3. Use more first-class postage. That will guarantee that your mail is delivered and within the time frame most advantageous to your fundraising strategies.  Consider first-class treatment for any current donor who has a $75-$100 cumulative giving status.

4. Stay on brand. Be sure your communications are easily recognizable as non-election materials that come from you.  No “stealth” impacts this year.  Pursue creative approaches that differentiate your communications from all the election noise and clutter.

5. Pay attention to what is in the public eye. Leverage where your donors’ minds and hearts are already focusing.  Emphasize that whatever the outcome of the election, your mission will be needed as much as ever, because the need is greater than ever and growing.

6. Feature your current appeal prominently on your website and Facebook page. Up to 60% of donors go online to validate their giving decisions.  Be there with a bold, concise and motivating presence.

7. Make donors feel like “insiders”. Offer an “insiders’ look” at how you put their contributions to work.  Upload video stories on your Facebook page.  Invite donors to a live Facebook event where they can ask questions and “hear” from program staff directly.  They’ll give more money and develop into stronger advocates.

8. Tell more “success” stories. And use a ministry recipient to do the telling.  Then let that same person appeal directly for support.  You could use a donor in that same role, building a community of trust.

9. Make more (appropriate) noise. Try bolder, hipper and brasher approaches and campaigns, especially if your donors are younger.  Consider something fun that engages donors yet allows you to talk about issues in a serious way.

10. Give your donors more control. Donors who feel empowered to direct their relationship with you are more engaged and loyal.  Encourage them to choose their preferred channel (online or print) for communication and giving.  Choices create a more affirming relationship with donors. 

2012 is unprecedented in many ways.  We will keep the conversation going with the latest information and strategies for success.