12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #11 Properly Joined-up Digital Planning

The chart above comes from the 2010 Blackbaud State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey (SONI), and shows less than one third of Nonprofit organisations from any country surveyed that year saying that they had a ‘Written Online Strategy’ in place. Unfortunately the response to this question hasn’t been included in Blackbaud’s 2011 SONI Report, so we don’t know whether those who said in 2010 that their online strategies were ‘in development’ now have one in place. However, from what I hear when I talk to nonprofits around the world about their online activities, I’m afraid that if the question was repeated we would find rather a lot of those strategies are still ‘in development’.

While this apparent strategy vacuum is clearly not preventing nonprofits from achieving things through their digital activity, it must be impacting on how efficiently this activity can be carried-out and how effectively it can deliver on organisational strategic goals – especially in larger, more complex organizations. For without a clear and coherent strategy, supporting all teams involved, the complex mix of possible digital activities available these days simply cannot be used to best effect.

Given that everyone acknowledges the great potential that digital offers nonprofits in terms of supporter engagement, why do so many nonprofits find their online strategies stuck in an endless phase of ‘development‘?

I think the underlying issue behind this isn’t actually digital-specific – it’s a general lack of joined-up strategic planning within nonprofits overall. Other aspects of fundraising and communications can, if necessary, be planned in relative isolation without suffering too much. But the negative impact of ‘silo planning’ becomes a far bigger barrier to progress when it comes to digital activity, because all consumer interactions meet and mix in the online world and you simply can’t keep them on discrete departmental tracks.

As such, unless you approach digital planning in a joined-up way, taking into account the requirements of all stakeholders wishing to engage with consumers through digital channels, you end-up in one hell of a mess. Countless hours spent negotiating over whether your key campaign should get priority on the homepage; yet more hours trying to help manage an ever changing schedule of emails that each team wants to send; and then you end-up having to build a microsite to get the functionality you need within the time constraints you face. I suspect a lot of you working in organisations who have yet to crack integrated digital planning will know just what I mean.

Getting it right isn’t easy by any means, but it is possible and the investment of effort required is worthwhile in terms of the increased efficiency and effectiveness that an integrated approach can bring.

Start by stepping back from the fine implementation details that tend to suck-up everyone’s attention and lead to so many digital plans actually being a list of random action points rather than objectives-led strategies (i.e. don’t start by worrying about how you can fundraise with Twitter). Begin by using a common structure to confirm the objectives of each of the teams who want to use digital to engage with supporters. Then assess, based on who these supporters are and what other engagement activity is in place for them, how digital might best be used to help achieve these objectives. In this way you can build-up a common picture of requirements and opportunities for all teams, which you can then prioritise before mapping them against your digital resources and capabilities.

You’ll almost certainly find a gap between requirements and current capabilities (unless you already have the ideal Website, email system, analytics reporting, etc. – lucky you!). This will typically lead to another round of prioritisation before a series of strategic scenarios can be developed illustrating which objectives can be achieved immediately and which will require different levels of investment in digital resources. By this stage you’re well on the way to an objectives-led integrated strategy – and then you can start working the finer details of what the integrated email programme should look like, what the priorities are for homepage promotion each month, etc. All underpinned with a common results reporting and evaluation programme, so you can assess progress against objectives and adapt things accordingly.

The World Wide Web has been around for over twenty years now, we’ve been fundraising through digital channels for well over a decade, and digital is held-up throughout the sector world-wide as being of key strategic importance for engaging with supporters of all types. So will 2012 be the year that we see a more wholehearted focus on moving from silos to joined-up thinking when looking to develop digital strategies? There does seem to be a growing recognition across the sector that disjointed planning is having a serious impact on the benefit being derived through digital activities, so I’m hopeful that we will. Let’s just hope that I’m right.

This is the eleventh of twelve posts that I’ll be publishing on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Social Media Fundraising Growing Up, here.

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #3 Augmented Reality

I came across this fun awareness campaign by youth breast cancer charity CoppaFeel! last month and it caught my eye, not just because it was described as “The world’s first augmented reality 3D boob billboards” but because it was one of the first examples I’ve seen of a charity making use of Augmented Reality in any shape or form.

Augmented Reality is a live view of something in the real world that is augmented by some form of computer generated overlay when it is viewed through a digital device, such as when viewed using the camera on your Smartphone or Tablet. The overlay might be an image, a video, data, or even an audio track.

In the case of the CoppaFeel! campaign when you view the poster through an iOS or Android device running the Blippar App, the image ‘leaps-out’ at you in a simple 3D form and you see, overlaid on the poster, buttons that you can use to interact with the ad. In this case it offered you the opportunity to give each of your boobs a name and then share them thus labelled with your friends on Facebook or Twitter – all in the interest of reminding women, in a fun and memorable way, to check their breasts on a regular basis.

To give you an idea of the resulting experience, you can see the original poster (left) and the ‘augmented’ poster (right) below (as viewed on my iPhone using the Blippar App). Or, for the full experience, just download the Blippar App to your smartphone and use it to view the original poster on the screen.

If you haven’t yet seen some form of augmented reality campaign it is highly likely you will do this year, as digital marketers capitalise on the mass adoption of camera-equipped smartphones to augment everything from billboards (pizza anyone?) and press advertisements (e.g. for Commonwealth Bank in Australia), to guide books (like this App from the Museum of London) and games (use AR to hunt invisible monsters!), and even coffee cups (like Starbucks  Christmas Cup Magic) and your humble pint of beer (Guinness in this case).

In a market research report released last month by US business research company Visiongain, it was estimated that use of Mobile Augmented Reality will increase exponentially over the next five years – to the point at which 25% of all App downloads will incorporate Augmented Reality functionality.

The potential for digitally augmented fundraising? Well what about a WWF poster where the snow leopard leaps out at you to get you to sponsor it? Or a Third World disaster press advertisement where you can see an overlay of a field clinic in action and interact with virtual buttons to donate? Or how about turning your supporter newsletter into an interactive 3D experience along the lines of the AR pop-up books developed by Helen Papagiannis?

Got any other great examples or ideas of how Augmented Reality can be used by fundraisers and non-profit marketers? Do share them by leaving a comment below.

This is the third of 12 posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Strategic Blogger Outreach, here.

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #2 Investment in Strategic Blogger Outreach

Over the last few years, charities have increasingly got to grips with establishing a branded social media presence and starting to collect and engage with ‘Followers’ of various types. However there is a significant gap in the majority of non-profit social media strategies, and that involves how fundraisers can effectively engage with some of the most powerful influencers in the online social media world – bloggers.

One reason for this gap may be that Blogger Outreach is managed by the Communications or Media Relations teams in your organisation. If this is the case, then offer to get the relevant person a coffee and book some time with them to talk through just what the Blogger Outreach Strategy is and how well fundraising is integrated into it. More likely, your organisation won’t have a properly developed Blogger Outreach Strategy. In which case work out who should have developed it, get them a coffee, and sit down to help them – ensuring that support for fundraising is baked-in from the outset.

Either way, even if you have to throw-in biscuits with the coffee, make sure you consider investment in strategic blogger outreach as part of your fundraising planning this year. If you don’t then you’re potentially missing some great opportunities to inject new momentum into your online fundraising and campaigning programmes.

One great example of what can be achieved through strategic blogger outreach was shared by A.J.Leon at the International Fundraising Congress in Holland last October. He told the story of his work with Global Hope Network International on a project to fund the provision of clean water for a Kenyan village called Ola Nagele, by getting 100 donors to join the ‘Extended Village’. Sounds like a typical project crowd funding appeal. But, in this case, rather than promote it through traditional online or offline channels, all promotion was by one professional mommy blogger who visited the project personally to share the experience of bringing water to the village with her 250k monthly readers.

You can see more about the project in AJ’s presentation here. But in short, the whole thing was funded before the blogger left the village to head back to the US. The key take-out from the story: As a donor the blogger could be worth $50/mth to the charity. But as a blogger with 250k monthly readers she could offer far more valuable support for its work by sharing the opportunity to donate with her readers in a uniquely compelling way.

Another example comes from Save the Children UK with their 2010 #Blogladesh initiative. This involved taking three of the UK’s leading mummy bloggers out to visit projects in Bangladesh to see for themselves the work the charity is doing and to report-back to their readers in support for the charity’s preparation for the UN MDG summit in New York. The Tweets, videos, photos, and blog posts sent live ‘from the field’ resulted in a 10m reach on Twitter, thousands of blog hits, 63k people signing Save The Children’s ‘Push for Change’ petition, and two meetings with Nick Clegg, the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister.

The charity followed this up in 2011 with #Passiton, where three bloggers followed the journey of a vaccine from a warehouse in the Mozambique capital right to the point it was given to a child in a field clinic. This time aiming to raise awareness and put pressure on the UK Government prior to the Global Vaccination Summit, and again with great results – 27m Twitter reach, over 200k YouTube views, and support from hundreds of bloggers globally. You can read more about it on Liz Scarff’s blog here.

I hope to hear of a lot more such examples over the coming months as fundraisers around the world see the potential of investing in strategic blogger outreach and come-up with ever more creative ways to work with bloggers as a way to engage online audiences with both campaigning and fundraising opportunities.

However, do note I use the term ‘strategic blogger outreach’. By which I mean properly planned outreach to specific bloggers with properly tailored content and engagement opportunities, and specific objectives that you can achieve together with them and their readers. If all you plan to do is email appeals to bloggers and ask them to say nice things about you then for both your and their sakes you’d probably be better off investing your time elsewhere.

Before you do anything blogger-related, for a fun take on how to avoid blogger outreach failure have a read of this post and related comments on Jay Dolan’s The Anti-Social Media blog.

This is the second of 12 posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post on Truly Personalised Video Thanking here.

GuideStar acquires both Social Actions and Philanthropedia

Long-time subscribers to Giving in a Digital World may remember my previous posts about the online microphilanthropy initiative Social Actions (which aggregates thousands of microphilanthropic opportunities through one open source data set, making it easy to find opportunities to act in support of any cause you’re interested in) and the expert non-profit review and recommendation system Philanthropedia.

Between them, they represent two of the best examples of online philanthropic thought leadership in action that I’ve seen in recent years. So, it’s no surprise that non-profit information specialist GuideStar just announced that it has acquired both of them to add to its “growing knowledge base of tools, data and information designed to advance transparency within the nonprofit sector”.

Social Actions founder Peter Deitz revealed the next step in the Social Actions story on the Social Actions blog yesterday, explaining that “Feature enhancements that we previously described as ‘possible with sufficient resources’ will be developed, tested, and deployed more rapidly and integrated seamlessly into GuideStar’s existing toolset, resulting in a robust platform capable of leading many more people to meaningful and high-impact action on the causes they care about.” Exciting stuff! And well worth keeping an eye out for the next level of Social Actions activities over the next few months.

Philanthropedia’s network of experts and innovative proprietary research methodology, developed to help guide funding to high-impact organisations operating in specific cause areas, is also to be integrated into the GuideStar solution set so as to enhance the services it provides to donors in the US.

For more information on the acquisition you can read the full GuideStar news release here.

Haiti one year on – the view from an online donor’s doormat

A year ago this month, along with millions of others world-wide, I donated online in response to the terrible earthquake that hit Haiti. However, rather than chose a single charity out of the wide range running appeals I decided to give £20 to each of the UK’s ten leading relief and development organisations to see just how the experience of being an online donor varied across the different brands.

And vary it certainly did. In some cases I was treated to truly engaging online updates on the way my donation was being used (particularly well done UNICEF and Oxfam), plus some fun and interesting new opportunities to engage (nice one ActionAid – for both your PoverTee day and Happy Bubble stuff!)

However, in other cases I’ve ended-up on the receiving-end of a seemingly endless series of direct mailings that might, at a push, appeal to my mum but frankly don’t do anything for me. I honestly don’t need a cardboard bookmark, or an Easter card, or a diary. I certainly didn’t need the twelve mailpacks that one charity has now sent me in less than twelve months – I’ll not say who you are, to spare your blushes, but you’re big and you should know better than just bunging a £20 online emergency donor into every cash appeal going!

To help illustrate the range of donor programmes I’ve ended-up on the receiving-end of, I’ve summarised the year’s online and offline communications in the following simple chart. It’s anonymised, but somewhere in there are each of the following: Oxfam, British Red Cross, Save the Children, Christian Aid, World Vision UK, Action Aid, Tearfund, CAFOD, UNICEF UK, and Plan International:

Now it’s not that I expect only to be communicated with online. Just because I subscribe to nice, fast broadband doesn’t mean that I’ve nailed-up my letterbox, and a few of the mailings I received were actually well targeted and effective. Like the three I’ve been sent by UNICEF: two about Haiti and one other emergency appeal. But I have to admit that I find few things more annoying than seeing a big A4 colour supporter magazine lying on my doormat, especially when it’s stuffed with irrelevant cross-sell materials like mail order catalogues. Having grown used to watching videos of the work I’ve helped fund and then clicking through to read the latest news in the project leader’s blog, an expensive looking magazine really doesn’t make me feel good about my donation – and don’t get me started on those raffle tickets!

Anyway, this is not intended to be a rant against charity mailings. I know first-hand just how wonderfully effective direct mail can be – when sent to the right people. I also know just how frustratingly ineffective email can be when you’re trying to generate donations – even from people who have started by donating to you online. However, what my experience over the last year has clearly highlighted is the vast difference in ways that ten charities, all essentially offering me much the same opportunity to change the world for the better, have chosen to develop a relationship following my first online donation.

So, from this unexpectedly diverse donor experience I’ve distilled a few key thoughts that anyone responsible for managing emergency online donor supporter journeys might just like to consider before the next disaster comes along:

  • Don’t immediately assume that emergency donors are particularly interested in your work beyond the emergency they’re responding to. They might be, or might grow to be over time. But in the first instance keep the focus of your communications on what you know to be their area of interest and only then see if you can get them to reveal what else they may be interested in hearing about. You might test emergency postal appeals, but don’t just mark them down for every mailing going in the vain hope that you might hit lucky. You just end-up looking wasteful and reducing the likelihood of them responding even when another emergency comes along
  • Do offer online donors the opportunity to receive their Supporter Updates or Newsletters electronically – and extend the same offer in every printed copy you send. It’ll save you print and postage and the engagement and response options are so much richer online anyway. However, I wouldn’t advise offering the opportunity to opt out of all postal communications – as well timed and targeted mail appeals can still work, even with hardened onliners like me
  • Do remember that many online donors are very willing to further their relationship with an organisation through some form of simple click-to-campaign advocacy action. But Don’t just hand over your emergency donors to your Campaigning team without ensuring that they have the opportunity to indicate whether they are interested in campaigning and/or opt-out of things they’re not interested in. One organisation in particular (again no name, but not the same as the bulk mailer chastised earlier) has an especially active Campaigns team who seem to delight in sending me emails about all sorts of things they are clearly very enthusiastic about – but who have never once stopped to ask me if I’m interested in what they do
  • Do consider how you might learn more about online donors at the point of their first gift and then use this information to guide their subsequent communications. Not necessarily through asking too many questions at the point of donation (although a strategically selected few might be useful) but simply through using your website tracking data more effectively. For example, one organisation I know has found that donors coming to them through Bing have a better repeat donation and upgrade profile than those from Google (I’m guessing because those who stick with Bing as the default on their IE browsers are perhaps older/less tech-savvy than the norm?)

Now, after an ‘interesting’ year on the receiving end of all of these donor communications I think it’s time for me to make a few calls – or preferably send a few emails – and see if I can get myself off some of these direct mail lists. It’ll certainly reduce the amount of recycling I have to do.

Great online advocacy and membership campaign by Amnesty in Norway

I’ve been meaning to mention this great campaign ever since I heard about it when I was over in Oslo for the Norwegian Direct Marketing Association’s @Norge Conference in November, but lots of fun client work and then the Christmas break has kind of got in the way of my blogging.

Anyway, better late than never…

Rather than me explain the campaign details, just sit back and watch the great video case study above and all will become clear… right from the thought process behind the campaign; through its clever use of offline promotion to drive website visits; to the wonderfully engaging online user experience and approach to capturing responses.

(Special Norwegian hat tip to @BeateSorum from the Norwegian Cancer Society for telling me all about it)

Great presentation on the emerging philanthropic web by Christine Egger of Social Actions

I had the very great pleasure last week of finally meeting face to face with someone who I can honestly say has changed the way I think about online fundraising over the last 18 months or so – that person being Christine Egger of Social Actions.

I first came across Christine and the work of Social Actions back in early 2009 when I blogged about their ‘Change the Web Challenge’. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to share ideas on open source thinking and the evolution of online fundraising and wider microphilanthropy through numerous email, Twitter and Skype exchanges with her – every one of which has left me with an excited “now I get it” feeling about what the future of online microphilanthropy might hold.

So, when the Institute of Fundraising asked Jason Potts and me to plan-out the Digital Fundraising channel for their National Convention here in London, Christine was naturally top of my list of ‘big thinkers’ to get onto the convention platform. Which is why we finally came to be having coffee in the Convention Hotel last Monday morning.

You can see Christine’s Convention presentation above – or even better view it on Slideshare here complete with full notes to help explain the finer intricacies of “Designing and aligning for the emerging philanthropic web”.

Grab yourself a cup of something, sit back, and take some time to think through the ideas Christine shared in her session – from understanding where open giving markets fit into online fundraising to ideas on how to design your own activities to take advantage of the way the philanthropic web is developing, it’ll be time very well spent.

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