By Bonnie Meyer, Guest Author
Between a global pandemic and the ensuing wave of mass screen fatigue that’s plagued online users, this has been an especially difficult time for nonprofit organizations to engage their donors. While your supporters may be passionate about your cause, being exposed to all-virtual engagement for so long has left many donors feeling drained.
Yet even when the pandemic eventually becomes a distant memory, it’s clear that virtual engagement has become a permanent part of the relationship between nonprofits and their donors. To navigate the upheaval caused by our current crisis and prepare for the future, you will need to start thinking of ways that you can further optimize the virtual engagement strategies that you rolled out in 2020.
From tried and true professional nonprofit marketing techniques to new digital methods, here are just a few of the different strategies to help you to recapture and retain the attention of your donors:
Revamp your marketing techniques.
Level up events with multimedia elements.
Seek out the help of a professional consultant.
As the nonprofit landscape continues to evolve, it’s more important than ever to come up with new initiatives to reengage your donors and tug them out of their digital burnout.
1. Revamp your marketing techniques.
The engagement techniques you implement before your virtual events and activities can be just as important as the events themselves. No matter how fun, insightful, or rewarding your virtual programs may be, they cannot succeed without an effective and engaging marketing campaign leading up to the event itself.
Let’s break down two major forms of nonprofit marketing and a few of the ways in which you could optimize these different communications.
Many nonprofits consider email to be the backbone of their donor communication strategies, and for good reason. Nonprofit fundraising studies show that email messaging has the highest return on investment of any other marketing channel, and knowing how to properly leverage this medium could make or break the success of your virtual events.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a tech expert to begin optimizing your email strategies! No matter the size of your nonprofit or the technical experience of your team, there are some basic email marketing practices that will help you to use this medium to drum up a groundswell of support for your virtual events:
Donor segmentation. Segmentation uses the data stored in your donor database to organize donors into smaller, more manageable groups, personalize your communications, and send out relevant event opportunities. Doubleknot’s donor segmentation cheat sheet provides some insight into the most effective ways you can group your donors to create targeted communications. Engagement history is a particularly important metric to pay attention to when considering what events you should share with your supporters.
Rewards and offers. Incentivize your supporters to attend your virtual events with exclusive opportunities and special offers. This will not only boost attendance and registration for those particular events, but it will allow you to direct donors towards other programs, services, and events based on what their rewards are meant to redeem.
Pre-event resources. Not every donor is a technical expert, and even supporters who are eager to attend your events may be confused on how to do so. Send guides, instructions, and technical support to help them figure out how your event will be hosted. Additionally, event and activity agendas shared beforehand could boost their excitement for the big day.
Across all of these different methods, pay attention to how donors respond to your messaging. Which emails they’ve left unopened, which embedded email links were followed, and whether or not their email server has rejected your messages are all critical points to track. This will show you how individual donors are responding to your event communications and how you can improve next time.
Direct mail marketing
If your donors are suffering from digital burnout, then engaging them with a traditional, hard copy medium will help to alleviate their exhaustion. Sending out direct mail fundraising invitations, event marketing materials, or post-event thank-you letters can be a refreshing change of pace for your donors.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind when creating your direct mail messages:
Personalize your invitations, appeals, and appreciation messages
Use nonprofit storytelling to engage your audience in your mission
Incorporate visuals, photos, and accompanying materials when appropriate to add a human touch to your communications
Many organizations put so much focus into their other, digital communication strategies that they neglect this tried and true medium. Direct mail is an intimate, memorable channel that gives your donors something more tangible than a digital message. Even something as simple as an event invitation can feel more personal when it’s able to be held in your supporters’ own hands.
To maximize the impact of your various outreach and marketing strategies, we would advise you to integrate your direct mail marketing with your digital strategies to create one, unified approach. Using both of these channels simultaneously could help you to supercharge your fundraising efforts, increase event attendance and involvement, and deepen your donor’s relationship with your organization.
2. Level up events with multimedia elements.
When some nonprofit professionals think of virtual or hybrid events, they imagine a host speaker desperately trying to engage their attendees over Zoom with little more than their voice. However, the reality is that there is a wealth of various interactive widgets, applications, and elements that can diversify and enrich your virtual event experience.
While the idea of engaging your audience through a screen may seem daunting to nonprofit leaders who are less technologically savvy, there are a few fairly simple tools that anyone can use to improve digital event engagement:
Polls and surveys. Many event applications come with a polling feature that allows attendees to give their feedback about event activities, offerings, and lessons in real-time.
Videos and animations. Videos are a highly engaging medium that can relate information to your event attendees in a fun and more creative way. Leverage the power of video content at your virtual events with animations, mini-lessons, demos, and even appreciation videos of your supporters.
Social media integration. Live stream your events and encourage supporters to actively post about their experiences, promoting your events on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms as the event unfolds. This will not only increase their engagement and sense of agency, but it will boost the exposure for the event.
Include breakout sessions. Most event or virtual meeting platforms come equipped with a “breakout room” feature. This allows participants to engage with each other on a more personal level, create tighter connections, and keep from feeling overwhelmed among the larger group of virtual attendees.
With the right event management software, even the most technologically challenged nonprofit event organizers can bridge the gap from in-person events to virtual engagements. While it may be impossible for your event planners and hosts to individually engage all of your attendees, these tools enable each attendee to voice their minds, enjoy unique experiences, and have a far more personalized experience overall.
3. Seek out the help of a professional consultant.
Even with the help of an intuitive event management software or a powerful donor database, your team may still be struggling to implement successful engagement strategies for your virtual programs.
Whether you’re still unsure of how to best use these systems or you want to seek out extra guidance on how to begin launching your engagement plans, there is no shame in seeking out some professional help. A professional fundraising, technology, or nonprofit marketing consultant can sit down with you to address your own specific organization’s needs and come up with actionable solutions.
For example, website optimization, fundraising event planning and management, user experience optimization, and data analytics are just a few of the many services that a dedicated consultant can provide. These aids can offer their expertise regarding every phase of your virtual events’ life cycle, from pre-planning and marketing to post-event communications. Check out the Meyer Partners guide to professional fundraising consultant firms to explore top providers and learn about some of the other ways that these professionals can help you to optimize your engagement strategies.
Regardless of however you may go about incorporating these strategies, we hope that these virtual and physical donor engagement tools enable you to make your nonprofit stick out amidst all of the white noise of the internet.
This has been an exhausting and unpredictable time for nonprofits and donors alike, but a robust and intuitive engagement strategy will allow you to build a stable connection with your supporters that will hopefully last for years to come.
Bonnie brings to her role at Meyer Partners more than 30 years of fundraising experience, with a special emphasis in multimedia approaches to new donor acquisition and development. Her expertise encompasses several facets of direct response fundraising, including copy writing and creative direction, market research, strategic planning, and comprehensive results analysis.