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Reaching Donors – The Integrated Approach

(July 26, 2011) Having many ways to reach people can be a blessing or a curse. You can end up with redundancy and confusion among your traditional direct mail, email, social media, and online communications—or you can develop an integrated approach in order to raise more and spend less.

A report from Convio defines integrated marketing as something that is “constituent-centric,” meaning you communicate in a way that aligns with a donor or prospect’s preferences, needs and interests. Integrated marketing incorporates multiple channels in a combination that works best for the message. The message is consistent across channels and is seamless for the recipient.

In other words, you make the most of the many tools you have to reach people.

“You should have a cohesive message and strategy, and have metrics in place so that you can justify using different channels,” says Molly Brooksbank, product marketing manager at Convio. “Done effectively, organizations gain more by using all channels in conjunction with one another.”

The report examined the marketing and communication approaches of 123 nonprofit organizations that have raised more than $1 million per year via direct response channels. It offers a snapshot of what nonprofits are doing to integrate their messaging. What they found was that organizations vary widely in how much they have integrated their communications.

Cross-Channel Messaging

An important part of integrated multi-channel marketing is to use different channels in coordination with one another. Doing so requires that you have not just someone’s email address, but their mailing address. If you mail to them, do you ask for their email? Finally, do you ever ask how they prefer to be reached? What about by phone?

The report by Convio found that just over half of survey participants collect physical mailing addresses for online acquired prospects, such as newsletter subscribers. A similar portion send direct mail appeals to online acquired names to supplement email appeals.

Less than one third of nonprofit organizations coordinate the sending of mail solicitations with emails and phone calls. Just 25 percent of groups filter their online prospect file before they mail or call based on how recently or how much they donated.

Is your organization following some of these suggested best practices in cross-channel messaging?

Reaching Prospective Donors

The following lists some examples of suggested best practices in reaching prospective donors and the percentage of organizations that always follow the given practice.

  • Collect mailing addresses for online acquired prospects (e.g. newsletter subscribers) – 52 percent
  • Send direct mail acquisition appeals to online acquired prospects to supplement email appeals – 47 percent
  • Coordinate sending mail solicitations and/or phone calls with email appeals – 32 percent
  • Filter online prospects who get called or mailed based on criteria like recency and/or value of online actions – 25 percent
  • Telemarket to online acquired prospects, either straight away or after first trying direct mail and email – 11 percent
  • Filter online prospects who get called or mailed by assessing who has donated to another charity – 7 percent


Here are some examples identified by Convio of ways to reach donors for renewal, and the percentage of organizations surveyed that always followed the given practice.

  • Include a URL in direct mail as a way to respond online – 74 percent
  • Track mail recipients who donate online in response to a mailing – 51 percent
  • Create a reference about the appeal on your home page, so if they land on your site, they will be directed toward a campaign landing page – 41 percent
  • Supplement renewal mail messages with email appeals (for those with email addresses) – 36 percent
  • Create a custom landing page with associated campaign content as a way to respond online (for those who receive renewal information via mail) – 31 percent
  • Use follow-up email communications as a last resort capture mechanism (for those who decline to renew by phone) – 22 percent

Hopefully these options will spark your own creativity for ways to harness different communication channels in order to both save money and raise more revenue overall. The message from this report: test different approaches to find what works best for your constituents.

As for social media, the more advanced organizations are successfully integrating these channels, but the best advice is to become pros at online-offline integration before you invest heavily in new media channels.

The report Integrated Multi-Channel Marketing was commissioned by Convio and conducted by Edge Research. The full report is available at

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