Sandra Luther delves into the psychology of multichannel fundraising
Picture the following scenario: a direct response message served to your tablet, synchronised with relevant content consumed through your television, while you simultaneously engage with friends and the brand through a social network. This might sound fanciful, but it’s not far off from the way the modern consumer behaves.
Today’s consumers are many people at the same time, and their behaviours and attitudes change more quickly and frequently than the organisations they interact with. The proliferation of technology tools and platforms means that consumers are increasingly supporting their lives and interests across different devices.
Against such a background, integrating various communication channels – whether direct mail, email, mobile, social networking, telephone or face-to-face – is now a vital part of any not-for-profit’s fundraising strategy.
People still recognise the importance of giving to and supporting causes, but the sharp rise in the cost of living means they may have to decrease their gift amount. While the amount raised by donations is consistent from last year – £11bn, according to figures from CAF/NCVO – the multichannel environment is prompting more people to be aware of and involved in charitable giving.
Furthermore, research from Blackbaud’s 2011 donorCentrics Internet Giving Benchmarking Group has shown that multichannel donors are more loyal than offline or online donors alone. It is the ability of online-acquired donors to become multichannel donors – for example, they may start giving through direct mail – that significantly boosts the retention and long-term value of this group of donors far beyond what it would be if online giving were the only channel available.
Many not-for-profit organisations already understand the importance of a multichannel approach in attracting potential donors. The challenge they face is how to respond effectively to the demands of the multichannel donor to enhance the relationship and improve future fundraising prospects.
Connecting with the consumer
Using the various communication channels together effectively is not simply about getting a donation; it’s about engaging them and inspiring loyalty. Consumers expect a consistent and personalised experience regardless of which channel they may have used to engage.
Exploring how consumers behave today and how they use technology in their everyday lives is essential in increasing campaign effectiveness. Charities need to understand the psychology of the multichannel consumer; why supporters use different channels at various times in the donation cycle and why they might want to swap one for another with very little or no warning.
There are many reasons why supporters give through multiple channels. It often comes down to their considerations of value for time and energy and the experience itself – quite simply, did they get what they wanted out of the interaction and did they enjoy it?
It can be convenience at the point of contact, the time of year, the amount of the gift in question, or they may have seen a friend’s post on Facebook. There are also underlying psychological factors that influence channel choice, including whether consumers believe that the channel is useful for their needs, how much personal control they have, how much time and effort they perceive it takes to use and the degree to which they enjoy using it.
Customers in control
Certain channels will have more value than others depending on where the consumer is at the time they are interacting with you. For example, the internet has been perceived as saving time and money and putting the consumer in control when it comes to gathering information, but many donors may be wary of actually giving online due to issues with security.
Giving consumers the ability to gather information via one channel and then offering another for donations provides benefits for both your organisation and the consumer. You can increase donor support as well as offering the supporter a level of reassurance and trust by offering them alternative ways to donate. This is an important factor when you consider the current economic climate. People tend to be fiercely loyal to a small number of brands rather than a consumer of many and are more likely to invest their support in brands that they trust and which demonstrate solid values.
Donations via SMS and smartphones may still be considered the domain of larger charities. However, with recent technological developments there is little reason why these channels can’t be adopted by any charity looking to offer more choice for engagement and open up new marketing and fundraising opportunities. Charities are now able to integrate mobile into their fundraising and wider CRM programmes with an effective level of strategy and analysis. It is a growing revenue stream, and using SMS to connect with supporters can also prompt them to donate through another channel they may feel more comfortable with, such as online, over the phone, or through the world of social media.
Donating via social media networks is relatively new and so far accounts for a small percentage of overall donations, but this is where many of your supporters are likely to be in the near future. Organisations can tap into a massive audience on both Facebook and YouTube (the number two search engine behind Google), and these are accessible through mobile apps. The value of social media is in its networking potential, where existing and new donors can share messages with friends and help grow your supporter base.
Building rapport, gaining trust
In the current economic climate, where people are working harder than ever and are time-poor, building trust and striking a rapport with the target audience is key. The BBMG Conscious Consumer Report, which looked at consumer attitudes in the US following the 2008/09 recession, showed that Americans are re-evaluating what truly matters in their lives and are seeking brands that deliver those values.
Specifically, the issues that consumers prioritise are those that they see as more immediately relevant to their daily lives. In this age of accountability, social purpose is about more than just delivering services, it’s about delivering impact – consumers want to see a direct benefit as a result of their money being invested. A multichannel strategy can help to highlight this, providing consumers with timely updates about their donations via email or SMS for example.
The trust element is also vital for achieving cut-through. Today’s consumers are bombarded by different advertisements and messages on a constant basis. In such an environment, they are more likely to respond to a consistent, personalised reminder from an organisation that they trust and which is delivered in a positive way via the channel that best suits them at the time.
A dynamic approach
Today’s world is one where consumers are in control and demand access to organisations via a variety of channels, from smartphones to laptops, tablets to televisions. Getting the channels right is vital – consumers will very quickly abandon those that are not perceived as being useful. They are also increasingly expecting to be contacted at a time and through a channel that is convenient to them. This puts increasing pressure on charities to be dynamic, strategic, and to use the necessary channels at the right time.
While the definition of the modern consumer is constantly changing, the key to the success of a multichannel fundraising strategy is to ensure that the cross-channel experience meet the needs and goals of the supporter. Creating more opportunities to interact with them in the way they want can potentially increase the value of donations and loyalty. As the number of communication choices continues to increase, the ability to effectively decipher the most appropriate message-medium-preference combination will be vital for fundraising strategies.
Sandra Luther is internet solutions manager at Blackbaud Europe
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 14, February 2012
Identifying and implementing an effective multichannel strategy
Integrate and analyse
An organisation must gain an understanding of their supporters and their preferences through a holistic view of their supporter base. Every organisation is different but fundamentally, successful multichannel fundraising requires integrated CRM controlled through a central point. Whether that be via a sophisticated proprietary software system or a basic Excel spreadsheet, if the supporter base can be viewed, analysed and measured in its entirety then supporter profiles and activities can be analysed. By combining their behaviours and responses you will start to see trends, and preferences will become apparent.
The more detail, the better the profile. An organisation can record traditional demographics such as age, gender, location and life stage, and match these to giving histories and response channels. Online technology lends itself to tracking and monitoring, such as email open and click-through rates, website traffic and browsing time, opt-ins and sign-ups. Digital media can be studied this way too, with mobile response rates and sharing on social networks. Every recorded action can inform supporter trends and preference mapping.
Experiment and evolve
In implementing a multichannel strategy the answer is to listen to supporters. Let their behaviour and actions tell you how best to engage with them on an ongoing basis. Channels and routes to market are constantly evolving, growing and changing at a faster rate than ever before, so it’s important to reflect this in fundraising strategies too. Work to a measurement benchmark that fits investment and ROI targets, and test, test, test until the mix that works best is found.