Online Ambassadors Influence Major Gift Donor Decisions

We’ve written extensively on both online ambassadors and major gift work. We know, from our clients’ experiences, that the two go hand in hand. A growing mountain of data and studies tells us the same. Now we have more data that helps explain why peer-to-peer is even more important and effective in major gift work than we first assumed.

For those who work in the for-profit world – particularly in retail – you’re probably familiar with the terms “higher-consideration purchases” and “lower-consideration purchases.” Even if you’re not familiar, the definitions are quite simple.

“Higher-consideration” are those purchases where you give more consideration, because they are big purchases. Think of a new car, a home, a college or university choice …something that costs a lot and is fairly permanent and often live-affecting.

“Lower-consideration” …think of a pack of gum or where you’re eating tonight.

It’s not hard to draw the nonprofit parallels and align higher-consideration purchases with major gift work and lower-consideration purchase with the annual fund.

So what does this all have to do with online ambassadors? According to the 2014 Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s study, Word of Mouth has a MUCH higher influence over a person’s higher-consideration decisions than it does for lower-consideration decisions. Which makes sense – do you often call your friends to ask which toothbrush you should buy? Unless you are the most uber of uber social media users, you probably make that call by your lonesome. On the flip side, when you’re in the market for a new set of wheels, you’ll likely have many conversations with friends, family, and co-workers before selecting your new vehicle.

The 2014 Word of Mouth Marketing Association's study shows us that the bigger the purchase decision, the more word of mouth (and online ambassadors) sways the decision.

The 2014 Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s study shows us that the bigger the purchase decision, the more word of mouth (and online ambassadors) sways the decision.

 

Something similar likely applies to fundraising. A $25 gift might be the result of a clever end-of-year email or well-run matching challenge. But the biggest gift a person makes in their lifetime will be the result of many factors. Not the least of which, information a person has gleaned from many years of conversations with their most trusted peers.

And here’s the kicker, that same WOMMA 2014 study found that 1/3 of all word of mouth purchasing influence now takes place online.

Yet another substantial study that, along with the growing heap of real world examples, shows us that a major gift program without a strong online dimension is probably grossly underperforming.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication in Bentz Whaley Flessner’s BWF_social practice. To connect with Justin to learn about how he can help your organization build a robust digital strategy, click here.

The ROI of Investing in Digital for Fundraising

Why should you invest in digital media for fundraising? In short, because you like seeing lots of new donors, high retention, and engaged major gift donors for your organization. But we did say “invest in digital media.” So what is the cost of achieving those attributes of online and social media fundraising? Read on to see the cost and ROI breakdowns on investments in digital media for fundraising work…

New donor acquisition happens when you have inspiring, infectious online events.

For higher ed, the infectious event is a giving day. For most other nonprofits – especially smaller nonprofits – it might be a regional or national event like #GivingTuesday. And what do these events cost?

  • Great content, especially creative video, is almost always worth the investment for fundraising.

    Great content, especially creative video, is almost always worth the investment for fundraising.

    For small nonprofits who are just looking to make a splash (less than 100 gifts or $10,000 raised), the cost can be next to nothing (excluding staff time, of course). Schedule three to five emails, coordinate those emails with your social media efforts, consider a mail piece to your most engaged donors, connect with your online ambassadors (or start a small online ambassador program) to spread the asks and content online …all of this can be done in the $0 to $5,000 range for nonprofits.

  • For the mid range nonprofits – think regional NPOs, small healthcare organizations, and smaller colleges who are hoping to reach close to 1,000 donors and at least $100,000 during an event – you’re going to want to do most of the same things the small nonprofits do, but on a larger scale. To grab the bigger donor and dollar numbers, you’ll need a more thought out strategy, more well-produced content to share on social media, a bigger and more engaged group of online ambassadors, and more involvement from you major gift program. Between content production, a mail piece, and strategic planning, expect to spend between $25,000 and $50,000 if you’re looking for six figure dollar results and/or four figure donor results.
  • For the giants – think large colleges and universities, large healthcare organizations, international aid organizations, animal welfare groups, and environmental NPOs who look at anything under seven figures as failure – real investment is needed. Without naming names, the university behind one of the most successful higher education giving days in history invested north of $300,000 in technology, outside strategic counsel, and other related costs. And they raised nearly $7 million from approximately 5,000 donors.

High retention happens when you are stuck in the minds of your donors throughout the year.

When your organization’s work is burned into the psyche of your donors, they are ready and willing to act on appeals as they arrive in their inbox or their mailbox. And for a growing majority of Americans, one of the best ways to remain stuck in their minds is through good social media strategy. (Yes, the majority of Americans are now active on social media)

Easier said than done? Not necessarily, as long as you’re willing to invest in good content strategy and production.

To do content marketing well requires at least one full time position dedicated to the planning and production of content. If your digital strategy is a larger, more sophisticated effort, this content producer should be part of a team and under a more senior director-level position tasked with managing the overall digital strategy. So, for smaller organizations, think $50,ooo/year with an additional $5,000 to $10,000 for equipment the first year. If yours is a larger organization and you’re not spending at least $100,000 on digital content marketing, you’re probably losing several times that amount in easy-to-grab fundraising opportunities.

Major gift donors are online and at shockingly high rates.

But don’t take my word for it. Instead, check out this 2011 Fidelity Investments study that tells us 85 percent of millionaires use social media with the median age of those social media users set at 56. We’ve written about tactics to engage your highest capacity donors online. Read a couple of those posts here and here.

But for the sake of this post, how much should you invest for digital engagement of major gift donors? First, make sure you have a strategy in place. Typically that involves an outside firm (like BWF_social) and runs from about $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the work done. As part of that strategy, you’ll want to be sure your gift officers are properly trained on using digital media, you’ll need good content to share with your major donor community, and you’ll want to appropriately leverage the online communities of willing major donors. (In other words, you’ll want to build a major donor online ambassador program). Many organizations can do this within the aforementioned $15,000 to $50,000 while some of the larger more sophisticated nonprofits will want to invest six figures+ on a digital strategy for major donors. Of course, since it is for major gift work, it shouldn’t take long for your organization to enjoy a significant return on any smart investment in digital strategy.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients build digital media strategies for fundraising success.

HOW TO Add Digital to Your Major Gift Strategy

Major donors often make decisions about where to give based on what they see online.

Major donors often make decisions about where to give based on what they see online.

Should you use social media to engage your major gift prospects and donors? Absolutely!

During Washington State University’s recent #CougsGive125 36-hour online campaign (WSU is a BWF_social client), 42 donors made gifts between $1,000 and $25,000. And with research showing that wealthy individuals are active on social media platforms like Facebook, it’s important to consider that audience in your online engagement strategies.

Below is a short video with 3 ways your organization can integrate digital with your major gift strategy:

Want to learn more? Connect with BWF_social’s Justin Ware by visiting BWFsocial.com.

Online Ambassadors and the “Death of Organic Reach” on Facebook

Facebook_LogoFacebook’s ever changing algorithm now means that, unless you have a paid ad strategy driving content, the vast majority of your followers will never see the posts you share from your organization’s Facebook page(s).

The “Death of Organic Reach,” as some call it, is detailed in this post from SocialToaster’s Brian Razzaque. In the post, Razzaque highlights just how low your Facebook reach can go, while also offering some tips on how to combat the decline in eyeballs on your posts.

So is Facebook worth the effort if you’re not laying down enormous ad buys every month? Yes, but it depends on your strategy.

First, there are the basics of good content marketing – be valuable to your audience, not overly promotional, and connect with current events and other issues the Internet is talking about at the point in time when you’re publishing. That approach still helps, but truth be told, good content isn’t enough for Facebook anymore. Just take a look at your page’s posts over the past two years. On average, Bentz Whaley Flessner’s page sees roughly 10 percent the organic reach of content shared just one year ago.

But there is one other option if you still want to avoid Facebook Ads — and it will help drive reach and engagement on all your digital and social media channels, not just on Facebook alone. When people like, comment on, and/or share your posts, Facebook rewards those posts with a higher ranking value on your followers’ Newsfeeds. In other words, more of your fans will see the content you post when you post it if some of your fans are sharing that content. Which means, online ambassadors are the option B for anyone who wants to avoid Ad spends.

If you want to beat Facebook’s tightening Newsfeed algorithms without big ad spends, find ambassadors and work with them to share your content. That requires more than simply asking your online ambassadors to like and share content. For the best results, find out what your ambassadors want from you and what they like to share. Always be analyzing this data to inform your content marketing strategy. If you ask ambassadors to share content that matters to them, they will share enthusiastically and your organization will enjoy much greater reach on Facebook. (Plus, you’ll have more effective content for email and other social networks like Twitter and Instagram)

As effective as ambassadors can be at driving content, laying ads on top of the content ambassadors share does significantly increase reach and engagement. BWF_social client Santa Clara University began social media marketing with ambassadors in late 2012. They quickly discovered ambassador-led Facebook posts typically brought in about three times the engagement as those posts in which ambassadors were not leveraged. However, when Facebook Ads + ambassadors were deployed to share content, the reach was often as much as 40 times higher than average and engagement was 10 times higher than average. Staggering numbers that might be even more severe in 2015 as they were in 2014 when those numbers were recorded.

So yes, Facebook is still valuable. There are simply too many active users on the network to ignore Facebook if you’re truly interested in a multi-channel communication strategy (and you should be). To make your investment in Facebook and Facebook Ads worthwhile, be sure you have a healthy group of online ambassadors ready to help your content reach the masses like it did in 2012.

Justin Ware is the director of interactive communication at BWF_social where he helps nonprofit clients produce online and social media communication and fundraising strategies.

Top 5 Stories of 2014

It’s that time of year! …when bloggers seize the opportunity to be lazy and write a post that is nothing more than a list of the first five items on the analytics report.

Of course, posts make a top five list for a reason – readers just like you see value in the posts and often share those posts with their communities. So, in case you missed some of these items, here are the top five posts you and your colleagues read the most from 2014 on the Social Side of Giving blog:

  1. 10 of the Best Higher Ed Online Giving Days – An overview of 10 of the most successful giving days in higher education with notes and descriptions for many of the events.
  2. ASU Raises more than $3 Million During 2-day Online Campaign – A more detailed look at one of those leading online giving days.
  3. How to Have a $1 Million+ Giving Day at Your School – Are you sensing a theme here? Yes, giving days are a big deal. Not just because of the new dollars and donors earned through the effort, but also because online giving days are very public celebrations of philanthropy for you institution. In fact, an argument could be made that there is no better communication tool for your development program than a giving day.
  4. Colgate Raises $5.1 Million in 24 Hours with Online (Radio) – The Colgate case might be the best example of what can happen when major gift donors are included in a giving day.
  5. 3 Thoughts on the Ice Bucket Challenge and Slacktivism – Hey, a non higher ed story! Which makes sense, because the Ice Bucket Challenge was probably the biggest New Year Calendarstory in all of fundraising during 2014.

The success of 2014 in online fundraising has generated a TON of excitement here at BWF_social. It’s invigorating working in an industry where most of our clients and potential clients have barely scratched the surface on what is possible using digital to engage, cultivate, and steward donors at all levels. If you’ve not yet invested significantly in online development at your organization, great news – it’s a new year and you can still make up for lost time! So make 2015 the year where you transform your operation into a modern shop that enjoys immediate and significant success. And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need a little help along the way.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at BWF_social where he helps clients develop online and social media strategies that lead to real fundraising success.

Creating Targeted Direct (Digital) Marketing for Major Gift Donors

According to Google, 57 percent of those who watch a video go on to make a gift to the org featured in that video. Imagine if you had one tool that could guarantee half your major gift prospects would make a gift?

Imagine if you had one tool that could guarantee half your major gift prospects would make a gift?

Direct response is key for donors at all levels. That notion was recently reinforced in this blog post that suggests you keep your biggest givers in the mass marketing program unless they specifically ask to be removed.

But that doesn’t mean your major gift donors and prospects should be receiving the same email and print pieces your annual fund donors receive. Major gift donors deserve the resources necessary for highly targeted direct marketing based on how they support your organization and which components of your work matter most to them.

Fortunately, this targeted approach is easier than ever to accomplish, thanks both to better technology and a better understanding of how to deliver personalized stewardship and solicitation experiences to our donors. As you embark on a more targeted content marketing strategy for your biggest donors, here are a few things to consider:

  • First, know your audience. Create content profiles. A content profile is a donor file that is focused on what content the donor shares and interacts with online. It’s a record of the emails they responded to, the Facebook posts they liked, the blog posts they shared — anything that helps you understand what matters to them. As a development operation, you can either track this manually by recording data as you come across it, or work with any number of software programs, such as EverTrue, that capture and organize information from social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. But all the data doesn’t have to come from technology, either. Like most things, the best content profiles are combination of new tech and traditional development work. A content profile can also be informed by the gift officer’s knowledge based on their relationship with the donor. In the end, a content profile is just a richer set of attributes recorded in your donor database.
  • Next, dedicate resources to creating beautiful content. 57 percent of people who watch a video eventually go on to make a gift to the nonprofit featured in that video (click here for more stats and the study). Let’s read that again: MORE THAN HALF OF THE PEOPLE WHO WATCH YOUR NONPROFIT’S VIDEO WILL MAKE A GIFT TO YOUR NONPROFIT. Based on that statistic from the very reputable Google, it might make sense that you drop all other expenses until you’ve adequately resourced a video content program. Especially for your major gift donors and prospects. Just imagine, what if you had one tool that would likely lead to half of them making a gift? Video appears to be that tool. Whether thanking, asking, or showing impact, great content is important at all levels of the fundraising game. But especially for your major gift program where one donor can change everything for your organization.
  • Train your MGOs to use social media! For a major gift officer, not being active on at least LinkedIn and Twitter is no longer excusable. From Bill Gates, to Elon Musk, to your average millionaire down the street, the more money a person has, the more likely it is they are active on social media. And that trend is only gaining steam. If you’re a major gift officer, ignoring social media is like ignoring the telephone …maybe worse.

It seems that just about every new year in the past half decade has ushered in a new trend in online fundraising. Ambassador programs, online giving days, crowdfunding …in 2015, let’s make it the year nonprofits started using digital communication — and specifically direct marketing through great, targeted content — to engage, cultivate, and steward major gift donors and prospects.

Justin Ware is the Director of Interactive Communication at Bentz Whaley Flessner’s BWF_social practice where he helps clients build online and social media strategies for fundraising.

 

BWF_social’s 2014 Higher Education Giving Day Survey Results

  • Columbia’s Giving Days raised $6.8 million from 4,940 donors in 2012, $7.8 million from nearly 9,700 donors in 2013, and $11 million+ from 10,400 donors in 2014.
  • The University of Sydney’s September 2014 “Pave the Way” Campaign raised $932,000 from more than 1,000 donors.
  • Santa Clara University’s April 2014 “Power of One Day” raised $795,000 from almost 3,000 donors.

The numbers are clear—when planned well, online giving days can be enormous fundraising tools. In higher education, colleges and universities are leveraging giving days to acquire new donors, meet fundraising goals, and engage major gift supporters. But you don’t have to take our word for it…

BWF_social recently concluded a survey of 45 higher education institutions. The respondents included schools of all size and scope—from public universities to liberal arts colleges. Much like the schools, the scale of the giving days varied, but the numbers are clear—giving days equal big fundraising for nearly every school that put resources toward the effort.

To view a summary of the survey’s highlights, click on the infographic below. For the full results of the survey, click here. Wanna join the list of institutions that have conducted leading giving days? Click here to learn more about how BWF_social can help ensure a big online fundraising event for your school.

2014 BWF_social Online Giving Day Survey