12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #12 Digital Fundraising Staff Shortages

Over the last few weeks I’ve been posting about some of the key trends I think are going to be important for digital fundraising over the next year. I’ve covered some interesting but as yet pretty nascent technology trends related to augmented reality and contactless payments; some brass tacks, back to basics trends relating to website design and email; and a couple of planning trends related to how Social Media is being viewed by fundraisers and the shift towards more integrated digital planning.

For the last in my 12 digital fundraising trends posts I’m going to leave the technology and theory behind and put the focus on the one crucial resource that will make the difference between your digital fundraising flying or not in 2012 – and that’s the people you have on your team who can actually make it all happen.

One of the most common questions I get asked when discussing digital fundraising is whether I know of any good digital fundraisers looking for a job. No surprise, given that (as shown in the chart above) the recent Third Sector State of the Sector survey identified ‘Web/Digital Media’ skills as those second most in short supply after ‘Fundraising’. Put together ‘Digital’ and ‘Fundraising’ and you’ve got an even worse supply/demand imbalance

In years to come, applying digital communications in support of fundraising will be built-into many fundraisers roles, but right now we haven’t reached that point and organisations are still typically reliant on specialists supporting the rest of the team when they need to employ digital activity. However, the number of experienced digital fundraising specialists around simply isn’t nearly enough to match the scale of the opportunity presented and the ambitions of most organisations in this area.

Agencies and Consultancies can help-out at key times such as strategic planning and website or campaign development, but you can’t just outsource every aspect of your digital fundraising and supporter engagement if you’re going to maximise on the benefits available for your whole organisation. Specialist suppliers are best managed by someone who really understands the areas they’re working on and who can truly own and guide their projects to successful completion – there’s just no escaping that. Hence the growing challenge for any organisation looking to capitalise on digital fundraising – of finding the right people to employ as their in-house specialists. Plus, of course, the growing opportunity for good fundraisers – to really get to grips with digital fundraising and supporter engagement as a key focus as they develop their career.

Whether you’re on the recruiting-side or the candidate-side, here are some thoughts to help you come-out on top of this trend…

Tips for Fundraising Managers looking to recruit digital fundraisers

  • Be very clear and realistic about just what type of person you need. Do you need a clever technical person who can do it all, from website delivery to reporting? Or do you need someone who can work with the digital team in the Communications Department to help ensure that your fundraisers can make best use of the digital opportunities available?
  • Talk to your peers to learn about how they’re structuring and resourcing their teams to make best use of digital. You’re probably all in the same boat, so having the opportunity to share ideas and experiences should help you all clarify your approaches
  • Don’t always assume that a commercial digital marketer will be a better choice than a nonprofit person. They may well be, especially if they have relevant hands-on campaign management experience. But they will need to be willing to augment this with learning about how fundraising works, how nonprofit organisations work, and how to be creative with less budget than they may have been used to spending
  • Don’t rule-out in-house candidates with the interest and aptitude but lacking experience. But if you do go down this route then take it very seriously and set expectations accordingly. With a clear Job Description and Objectives; a career development roadmap showing how and when they will gain the specialist experience they need; and budget to invest in training that gives them a good general understanding of all areas of fundraising they will need to support as well as any technical skills required
  • Consider getting help when interviewing. A little digital knowledge can go a long way when well presented at interview, and if you’re not all that up to speed on digital (after all, that’s why you’re recruiting) you might not be able to separate actual experience from ambition. See if you can ‘borrow’ an experienced digital marketer or fundraiser from another organisation for key interviews to give you a expert eye on candidates

Tips for Fundraisers looking to develop digitally

  • Balance your interest in all things digital with a rounded awareness of the full fundraising mix. Ideally get yourself the Institute of Fundraising Diploma (or whatever equivalent exists in your country) as a formal foundation on which you can build your digital skills and experience
  • Don’t just fake it. If you are really interested in a career as a digital fundraiser then you’ll need to put real effort into properly understanding the full digital marketing mix as well as how to address the wider organisational and technical issues that you’re likely to face. It’s not all Tweeting and Facebook! You’ll need to be a confident fundraiser, comfortable with data interpretation, and also good with all sorts of people if you’re going to make a great digital fundraiser
  • Make the effort to get connected with other digital fundraisers – in real life as well as online. There is lots to be learned through Twitter and Blogs, but you will also benefit massively from actually getting out to meet others working in this fascinating field. Conferences can be a good place to learn and network, but can be a bit intimidating until you get to know some people. A good alternative might be something like the regular NFP Tweetups or the @digitalFRforum which are far more informal gatherings where you can learn from case study presentations as well as meeting others from across the sector

This is the last of twelve posts on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Properly Joined-up Digital Planning, here.

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 #10 Social Media Fundraising Growing-Up

After several years of amazing growth, data from Hitwise last August suggested that Facebook use was starting to slow here in the UK. Not at all surprising given that there are now around 30.25m UK users – equating to almost half of the whole country’s population signed-up to the site. So it must be approaching saturation point. Hitwise reinforced this observation with data released earlier this month showing Facebook’s share of all UK visits to social network sites falling by 7% December 2010 to December 2011, while YouTube’s share grew by roughly the same amount.

Falling market share or not, in the week that we’re due to see Facebook go public with a $10bn share offering I don’t for a moment foresee that we will see a slowdown in interest in the site any time soon. However, what I do think we will see over the next year is a growth in the maturity with which Facebook, and Social Media in general, is viewed within the fundraising world.

After five years of seemingly ever increasing fundraising expectations, I sense a change in attitude towards the role that Social Media has to play in online fundraising. A change beautifully summed-up in the slide above, from the presentation given by Beate Sørum at the International Fundraising Congress in Holland last October.

Fundraisers are increasingly coming to acknowledge that while Social Media undoubtedly does offer unique benefits that secure it a key role in online fundraising programmes it is not a “magic faucet of free cash”.

With this understanding, they are then freed from a myopic drive to “make Facebook* fundraising work” (*or Twitter, or Google+, or Pinterest, or whatever) and can instead consider where in their donor recruitment, engagement, and retention programme the various flavours of Social Media can best be applied. While at the same time considering where they should focus on improving their use of good old email and effective website design.

If I’m right, then we should see a growing number of integrated campaigns drawing together strong fundraising propositions and storytelling through blogs (and promotion through bloggers), with Facebook and Twitter enabling sharing and conversation, well designed transactional pages capturing donations and donor data, and email being used to keep donors informed when there’s a new chapter to the story they’re interested in – rather than ‘single strand’ Twitter or Facebook campaigns. Time will tell…

This is the tenth of twelve 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 Back to Website Donation Basics, here.

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #9 Back To Website Donation Basics

As I’ve been highlighting throughout this series, the wealth of developments in digital commerce and communications emerging at the moment offer a host of potential new opportunities for fundraisers. However, as mentioned in Monday’s post about Email fundraising, in a year when many supporters are likely to be under increasing financial pressure and all fundraisers should be looking for opportunities to increase their effectiveness, I think some of the biggest opportunities will actually come from focusing on getting the fundraising basics right.

When it comes to online fundraising, there’s nothing more basic than your website donation pages. Which makes the introduction to the Creating the perfect donation experience’ report released this week by User Experience Agency Nomensa rather shocking reading – highlighting as it does the stark fact that 47% of donors give-up before they have made the donation because the online journey is not intuitive and engaging.

That’s almost half of the people who make the effort to visit a charity website to donate giving-up because the site just makes it too difficult, or too boring, for them. In the light of this, no wonder research suggests that online giving made-up less than 4% of UK charitable donations in 2010. We’re leaving at least half of what donors want to give us on the table, thanks to a lack of focus on basic website journeys, fundraising messaging, and simple transaction pages.

The Nomensa report is based on research into the websites and social media presences of the three leading cancer charities in the UK, but their findings and very clear recommendations will be of use to online fundraisers in organisations of any size and any country. So, well worth clicking here to download the report and reading it as a spur to review your own website – and to see what can be done to ensure you’re helping far more than half of the potential donors visiting your site make it all the way through to actually giving you their money.

This is the ninth of twelve 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 Contactless Payments, here.

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #8 Contactless Payments

According to the people at Visa Europe, 2012 is going to be the year that ‘contactless payments’ take off here in the UK – heralding a new era when we will all be purchasing low cost items (£15 or less) with a wave of our payment card or NFC equipped mobile phone. No need to type-in a pin number – just ‘wave and pay’.

The technology to enable this has been available here for a while now, with Barclaycard launching their ‘OnePulse’ card using Visa’s contactless system back in 2007 and partnering with Orange to launch the UK’s first NFC mobile phone payment system in May last year. But it seems that a combination of lack of consumer trust and lack of bank and retailer interest has kept the take-up at a pretty small scale to-date. Two thirds of the UK population are currently unaware of which banks offer the service and only 20% of people with suitable payment cards have ever actually used them, according to recent YouGov research.

However, this is apparently all set to change – with Samsung and Visa capitalising on their sponsorship of this year’s Olympics here in London to make it “the world’s first contactless games”. Plus a growing number of retailers joining early adopters like McDonalds with the introduction of suitably equipped tills; and Transport for London planning to equip all buses and Tube stations with contactless payment units by the end of 2012. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but certainly on that basis it looks like you won’t be able to escape the Contactless Payment trend if you’re anywhere inside the M25 this year.

If all this takes off, then we will be running to catch-up with the US where the introduction of Google Wallet and the launch of a number of NFC-equipped Smartphones (no sign of an NFC iPhone as yet though) have led to contactless payments growing apace. Although, in turn, they are some way behind the world leaders in contactless mobile payment – who are the Japanese, where over 10% of the population were already making NFC-based mobile payments by the end of 2010.

What’s in all this emerging ‘wave and pay’ technology trend for fundraisers? Well, it offers a very simple additional form of mobile donation opportunity beyond the current SMS or web-based transaction. While I guess it won’t offer the equivalent contact data collection, thanks to the simplicity of contactless payment perhaps at last we could see the cash collection tin come into the digital age – with street and event fundraisers able to take ‘wave and pay’ card or mobile donations at a rather higher value than the traditional coin in the bucket? This Christmas the Salvation Army in the US started accepting card payments using Square card-swipe readers attached to Smartphones as part of their seasonal red kettle collections, to overcome reductions in the number of people carrying cash. So an NFC red kettle can’t be that far away!

Depending on just how the NFC reader technology is implemented, we might also be able to have donations made through charity show windows (good for emergency appeal donations) or by waving a phone across a suitably equipped poster or in-store fundraising point.

This is the eighth of twelve 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 Getting Smarter With Email, here.

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #7 Getting Smarter With Email

As pressure to deliver on income targets in these increasingly challenging financial times results in a return to getting the fundraising basics right, I hope we’re going to see a shift towards making far better use of email this year – thereby capitalising on what is all too often a sadly under-performing opportunity area.

Despite continued excitement over the potential of Social Media, the fact is that email remains the most effective way for most fundraisers to engage directly with the majority of their online supporters – and seems likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, most charity email programmes I experience seem to comprise a monthly newsletter containing whatever information happened to be to-hand, rather than anything approaching being relevant to me and my donation history, or random cross-sell emails for fundraising and campaigning opportunities that are equally irrelevant. This might explain why most email fundraising, while looking great in terms of ROI thanks to minimal direct costs (best not mention all the days spent creating the eNewsletter, fiddling with data, and getting the things out), doesn’t actually contribute large amounts towards annual income targets.

I know that for many, if not most, organisations email marketing is not nearly as easy as the uninitiated might think it should be. The sort of hurdles that need to be jumped to get a smart email programme in place include the common lack of data integration between website subscription page, main supporter database, and email system; the inability to report on email responses so that their effectiveness can be properly evaulated; and the reliance on overworked Comms Team members to develop the email for you.

However, these are the same problems that we’ve been faced with for many years now. So this year, when we should all be looking for opportunities to refine fundraising programme effectiveness, it seems like a pretty good time to focus on how you can do email better – whatever it takes. Even if achieving this will require a plan spanning the next couple of years – as, sadly, data issues don’t get sorted overnight.

To help get you started along a smarter path, here are a few areas that you might want to think about…

Getting smarter with data and segmentation It never fails to amaze me that organisations will go to great levels of detail on their direct mail segmentation, and see significant benefits in terms of net income generated across the whole mailing base – yet when it comes to email all of this is forgotten as they hit the button on a ‘one size fits all’ broadcast campaign. If your email programme is still based on this approach then take a while to think about just what a mix of supporters you have email addresses for and what related response data exists that could form the basis for a smarter segmentation. This is well worth spending some time on – running data audits, investigating the untapped segmentation potential of your email system, examining how well online and offline transaction data is integrated – because it will form the foundation for everything else you do, from selection and creative testing to campaign evaluation.

Getting smarter with evaluation Thinking about evaluation – just how well do you really evaluate your email activity? I come across many cases where basic response data is measured and reported upon, but little really smart evaluation of the type that can provide solid insights to help improve effectiveness is undertaken. Start by considering the real purpose of each of the elements in your email programme and what the related measures of success should be, and then determine what data you need to evaluate this success. Direct mail fundraisers can only dream of the sort of engagement insights that a smartly measured and evaluated email programme can deliver – yet digital fundraisers rarely seem to make the most of this.

Getting smarter with programme, content and creative Once you’ve made the decision to move away from using a ‘one size fits all’ approach to such a wonderfully personalisable channel, and have your smarter segmentation in place, then you can think about what online/offline contact programme, content and creative presentation might deliver you the best results from different segments. Once again, there is masses of learning that can be transferred from ye olde direct mail with regard to building robust testing programmes, yet the speed with which you can test, learn, and roll-out make the refining of campaigns a far more immediate activity. And don’t just test around the edges. From the outset get testing in place to determine whether the core elements of your programme – like those monthly eNewsletters – are actually working for all segments. In many cases I suspect this advice from Thomas Gensemer back in 2009 will still hold true, about a well written simple email with a clear call to action driving better results than an eNewsletter – and costing a fraction of the staff time.

Getting smarter with mobile With ever more of your supporters reading and responding to your emails through mobile devices – Smartphones or Tablets – it is becoming all the more important to ensure that they are designed to be read on these devices and that any sites you link to for response are also optimised for mobile browsing. Take a look at this handy infographic for a summary of ideas of how to make emails more mobile friendly.

Getting smarter with deliverability With everyone looking for opportunities to engage more supporters in their fundraising in a low-cost manner it is likely that many will dig around to see what un-used email addresses they have stored around the place to swell the numbers receiving eNewsletters and eAppeals. What they may not realise is that continuing to email people who don’t open or click through could have a serious impact on their reputation as a sender and thus the overall deliverability of all their emails. As recipients are increasingly responding to unwanted email by Spam flagging rather than unsubscribing and ISPs increasingly use inactivity as the basis for blocking careless bulk email senders – as highlighted in a recent study by digital marketing service provider Responsys.

This is the seventh 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 eBooks, here.

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #6 Ebooks

Back in November 2007 when Amazon kick-started the eBook market with the launch of its first generation Kindle, suggestions that they could ever come close to replacing printed books were typically treated with disbelief and distain. However, the chart above, presented by Amazon’s CEO last September, tells a pretty clear story about the growth of eBooks since then. In short, it took just four and a half years for Amazon to reach the point where it was selling more eBooks than print editions.

Of course, Amazon isn’t the only print or e-bookseller around. But their competitors have also released reports on the incredible speed at which eBook sales are growing and by the middle of last year eBooks were reported as making-up 13.6% of the US adult fiction market, with growth still accelerating. Barnes and Noble, the largest book retailer in the US, say that this digital transformation is happening even faster than they are seeing with music and movies.

So, whether or not we like the idea of the comforting, multi-sensory experience of reading a printed book (got to love the smell of a newly opened book) being replaced by a StarTrek-like world of digital tablet readers, there is no escaping what the sales data is telling us. In the same way that my great 1980s double cassette tape and record deck got consigned to the attic when CDs came along; and my CD collection now gathers dust as the whole lot fills a puny percentage of my MP3 player’s memory; so we are witnessing here an inescapable shift towards eBook reading.

I admit it is difficult to imagine the sale of printed books drying-up completely (although, of course, we have seen that happen with vinyl records over the last 20 or so years). However, I can fairly easily imagine a significant proportion of the printed versions of ‘throw away’ publications like newspapers and magazines being replaced by interactive digital versions – and that’s where I think this trend starts to look interesting for fundraisers and other charity marketers.

My doormat stands as a testament to the fact that even when a donor engages with a charity online the way that most will respond is primarily through printed and posted materials. These include a range of supporter newsletters and magazines which I’m afraid, despite the obvious time and money invested in them, all too often seem to me the ultimate ‘throw away’ publications. Those organisations who are more serious about online communications send me ‘e-newsletters’, which is better. But, even when they are well designed, these are still really more ’email’ than anything else – so tend to be read when I’m reading other email and as a result receive at best a quick browse.

Meanwhile, a growing proportion of my ‘real’ reading is now done using a mobile digital device – especially when I’m travelling, as I will often take along my Kindle or read an Ebook downloaded onto my smartphone. That’s proper immersive reading – so immersive that I missed a Tube stop the other day because I was so deeply into a book on my phone (I couldn’t have said that a few years ago).

Importantly, this sort of activity can no longer be brushed-off as only seen amongst a small number of early adopters. Pew Research reported last year that the percentage of US adults with an eBook reader doubled in the six months between November 2010 and May 2011 to 12%, and based on the incredible Christmas sales volumes being reported I wouldn’t be surprised if this doubled again in 2012. [Update 23/01/12Latest Pew Research says US eBook reader ownership reached 19% by early January 2012]. Other countries are lagging behind the US, but seem likely to catch-up pretty fast. Here in the UK, YouGov Research reported that 2.5% of UK adults received a eBook reader this Christmas – with those aged over 55 twice as likely to receive one as those aged 18-24. Add-in the massive growth in Smartphones, iPads and other Tablet PCs, which can also function as eBook readers, and the potential market of eBook reading charity supporters starts looking really interesting.

All of which leads me to think that there must be an opportunity emerging here for non-profits looking to offer these digitally-equipped donors a more engaging read than is possible through a traditional e-newsletter. Depending on the platform you choose, think copy, photos, videos, audio, web links, interactivity, even augmented reality – all consumed in a ‘reading’ rather than traditional ‘computer browsing’ mode.

Clearly not all donors will be interested in the option to download a digital publication, and it may be more relevant for subscription publications (if your content is good enough, perhaps that offers you a new income stream?). But as eBook adoption continues apace, it seems likely that a significant number of those who choose to give to you online might find this type of donor communication of real interest.

To-date the only UK charity I know of who is testing this is Epilepsy Action, who have made their Epilepsy Today magazine available for the Kindle. While the Museum of London recently launched an App-based monthly subscription serialised graphic novel to tie-in with their Charles Dickens exhibition, entitled ‘Dickens: Dark London’.

If you know of any other non-profits testing the addition of Ebook content in their donor or member communications then do let me know.

This is the sixth 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 Mobile App vs Mobile Web, here.