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On Beyond Social: Inbound Marketing for Fundraisers

Resource Center - Foundation

Shaun LynchWouldn’t it be nice if donor prospects simply came to you?  That’s the premise behind Inbound Marketing where you draw donors in with content that relates to your organization’s specific mission while also having a broader appeal to a larger internet audience.  AFP had a chance recently to chat with Shaun Lynch about Inbound Marketing, the topic of his upcoming webinar on March 7, and also about being a polar bear.

Click here to see a special message from Shaun himself about the webinar!

Q: In layman’s terms, what is inbound marketing?

A: This is the new kid on the marketing communications block. It consists of a suite of communication tactics designed to encourage constituents to identify themselves to your organization. The idea is to use social networking resources like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to draw viewers to a landing page on your website, where they are offered an incentive of some sort in return for registering to receive direct email communications. The key to success is the regular transmission of content, both on social media and to the email list, that viewers will want to share with their friends and acquaintances.

Q: What are some of the basic things you’ll need in place before you start an inbound marketing program?

A: It really doesn’t require much more than an existing organizational website that can easily be built upon and edited (a fairly basic WordPress site can do the trick), and at least one social networking account (I generally push Facebook). It’s also a good idea to set up an account with an email & customer relationship management tool to manage the registration of subscribers and the regular sending of emails to them. A basic MailChimp account is free for managing lists of 2,000 or fewer subscribers, and the interface is sufficiently intuitive to be relatively easily managed by the less technically-inclined. 

Q: What’s an example of using inbound marketing to actually secure a gift compared to just generating leads and prospects?

A: Inbound marketing is specifically intended to facilitate prospect self-identification and cultivation. It can, however, position an organization well for making introductory solicitations that will turn prospects into low-end donors.

For instance, it can work well in the context of a mass-participation, peer-to-peer solicitation event, like the Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge, in which foolhardy individuals jump into lakes or rivers in mid-winter after obtaining pledges from their acquaintances. (I’ve actually done this, running into the St. Lawrence River in Montréal in March… it hurts). As long as the amounts requested are relatively small and the donation process is very quick and easy, cultivated prospects could be receptive. 

But the key word is CULTIVATED. It’s essential that interesting and informative content be emailed to recipients on a regular (ideally at least weekly) basis, and that solicitations be the exception rather than the rule.

Q: What are the bare essentials for Inbound Marketing success?

A: The real key to success is content generation. And it doesn’t all have to be created in-house! You can get away with doing just one original piece of content every couple of weeks, with the rest of your content consisting of curated material that you find from other sources. 

I don’t tend to find Twitter particularly useful as a communications tool for smaller organizations — the content scrolls off too quickly, so it needs to be constantly updated. But Twitter is GREAT as a source of content to share. Just follow a few dozen organizations and individuals with interests or missions similar to yours, and scroll through your feed every day to find material that would interest your constituents.

Q: You also recommend the use of video content – tell us about that. 

A: Video has an unmatched ability to get viewers’ attention, especially on Facebook where video content plays automatically (albeit silently) in the newsfeed. And reasonable quality video is so easy to produce these days that anyone with a decent cellphone can be a videographer in a matter of minutes!

At a recent event where one of my clients, a Catholic church built in the 18th century, was celebrating the release of a documentary about extensive preservation efforts, I shot a minute of video with my cellphone of a couple of musicians in performing in period costumes. I didn’t even do any post-production on it; I just uploaded it to the parish’s Facebook page with an introductory note saying what was happening and identifying the performers ( The quality is far from stellar, but it was available online the day after the event when it was most likely to attract attention.

To find out more about incorporating Inbound Marketing into your fundraising join us for Shaun’s webinar on March 7, 2016 at 1:00 PM Eastern, “On Beyond Social:  Inbound Marketing for Fundraisers”. 

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