What’s working and not in digital – Part 3

This is the third of a three-part series covering current trends in digital marketing and fundraising for non-profits, gathered from a group of national non-profit leaders in the digital space.

This week we wrap up our series on themes in non-profit digital marketing, that emerged from a summit of national non-profit ministry marketing leaders earlier this year.

We’ll end with the final four themes in a moment, but first let’s recap the themes we’ve shared so far in the series (you can read part one and part two here):

Theme #1: Online revenue growth is accelerating

Theme #2: The rise of sustainer programs

Theme #3: Email is not dead

Theme #4: The cross-channel audience myth

Theme #5: Usability testing drives improvements and optimization efforts

Theme #6: Attribution is still a challenge with online channels

Theme #7: Name acquisition to donor conversion is a high priority for online acquisition

Theme #8: Online advertising is more sophisticated and effective than ever before

Now on to the final four themes in digital marketing/fundraising for non-profits.

Theme #9: Search advertising using Google Grants works, but it’s hard work

We’ve blogged about this extensively. Google offers a grant valued at up to $10,000/month of media spend to use on its platform for qualified non-profits. The idea of $120,000 per year of free money to spend sounds like a great deal.

But the reality is many non-profits have struggled to make effective use of the program. It’s surprisingly difficult to actually spend the money since it’s dependent on what people are searching for.

Good news, we’ve been able to help many non-profits achieve success with Google Grants. Several have achieved a more exclusive status as Google Grants Pro, which is $40,000 /month or up to $480,000 a year. It takes hard work, and you have to be smart about what you target, but Google Grants can be a huge asset to both your fundraising and marketing efforts — raising money, mobilizing volunteers, getting people engaged with your ministry, and so on.

Theme #10: Presenting content based on user behavior or geography shows promise

For more than a decade, the promise of tailoring content to users based on their interests has proven to be very difficult. The costs of tailoring content and providing the technology have been high, and the actual improvements in key metrics have been hard to pin down. Last, getting users to actually log in and tell us their interests has been a significant barrier.

However, technology today is easier than ever to use to customize content. And users don’t need to be logged in — content can be customized based on past visit history or conversions, opening up a whole world of possibility in customizing content based on user behavior. However, other than some promising social media retargeting results, organizations haven’t really tapped into this capability. We’re looking to pioneer in 2016-2017 to see what kinds of results we can drive.

Theme #11: The promise of non-cash giving hasn’t scaled like we thought

Most of the organizations at the summit are accepting noncash giving. Outside of stocks, the other noncash items have not proven to be a significant revenue stream. That being said, it’s easy to have in place, and addresses questions and requests from donors and staff alike, so it doesn’t hurt to have it in place. We also have to wonder whether some of the lack of scale is due to non-profits being new to the world of marketing/messaging noncash giving. Time will tell how this plays out — we’re hopeful we can play a role in unlocking much of the wealth stored up in noncash assets.

Theme #12: Micro campaigns work to drive significant income in off seasons

Inspired originally by the work of Samaritan’s Purse, the idea is to run a digital fundraising campaign with a short time frame, very specific need and goal, and incentive (like a match) to rally the community.

We’ve worked with several non-profits to run campaigns based on this model, and have seen good success, regularly driving more than $100,000 in giving. For your organization, the potential may be much greater, or smaller — it just depends on the size of your audience and the offer. I’ll look to blog more about the strategy in the next couple months.

That’s it! Hopefully you learned something in this series, if only to affirm your suspicions of what is working and not in digital fundraising and marketing for non-profits today. There are always exceptions to the rule, and I would love to know what you’re seeing in your context — feel free to comment on this post.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or would like to chat about any of these themes.